Historian, author, politician Vodden leaves Blyth for London
BY DENNY SCOTT
Last Wednesday, Blyth and its surrounding communities bid farewell to local historian, author and politician Brock Vodden, who moved from Blyth to London.
Vodden has been an integral part of local initiatives designed to focus on the history of Blyth, which makes sense given that he and his late wife Janis created and maintained the Blyth Repository of History, which is now located at the offices of The Citizen. Aside from curating decades of knowledge about the history of the community, the Voddens also helped people, both those local to the area and those from afar, track their heritage through the village and its surrounding communities.
The Voddens shared their knowledge with anyone interested, holding special seminars and events whenever it was requested as well as physically meeting or taking people to important sites of their family history. In the past, Brock could often be found taking visitors to the community around on foot to show them not only what was important in his family history but also to show just how unique a place Blyth is.
Vodden and his wife were also intricately involved in the creation of Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company’s Founder Series, each of which is tied to an event in the annals of Blyth history.
Blyth Bike Tours, originally opened by Reece Sparling, focused on the history of the village with help from Vodden. The historian helped the young entrepreneur uncover information about the village to share on his tours.
The historical plaques on buildings in the village are also thanks, in part, to the efforts of the Voddens. The Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) project, which was co-funded by Regional Tourism Organization 4, saw the plaques installed. Each features little-known or long-forgotten facts about the buildings and businesses of the community, going back years.
Vodden also helped with the creation of plays with local ties that graced the stage of the Blyth Festival. He and his wife were interviewed extensively for plays like Wing Night at the Boot, Beyond The Farm Show, Pearl Gidley and Innocence Lost: A play about Steven Truscott, all of which focus on Blyth and the surrounding communities.
Vodden penned two books in the past several years, most recently putting together Blyth Schools And Then There Were None, detailing the history of education in Blyth from the earliest history of the village to when Blyth Public School closed its doors for the final time in 2012. Prior to that, he released a historical view of the community of Blyth called Blyth Through the Lens.
Vodden grew up in the village, where his father first ran a bakery and then, after losing his vision, became a television repairman. Janis also lived in Blyth, and shared not only Brock’s love of local history, but sharing her own stories.
Vodden was a North Huron Township Councillor for two terms: he was appointed to fill an empty seat mid-way through the 2007-2011 term of council, then was elected for the 2012-2016 term of council.
As a council member, Vodden tackled a number of high profile issues including homelessness, recreation centre planning and the future of the North Huron museum.
He was a vocal opponent of the closure of Blyth Public School, both as a councillor and as a citizen, fighting the closure through various avenues over the course of several years.