I was around 15 when I came across this very special item, the first “special branches treasure” if you like. It was in the late 1980s and this medal was found at the back of a cupboard in a house in south Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
It was awarded to John D D Young, Stage 6A, Newcastle on Tyne “local prize for success in art awarded by the Department of Science and Art”. I could feel the history and it fascinated me. I wanted to keep it safe so it was taken home and stored in a box until the advent of the internet, when things got really interesting and I could find out who John D D Young was.
Initial research was slow, John Douglas Downing Young was born in 1841 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of John & Barbara Young. The 1861 census, taken two years after the award of his medal, tells us that John Young was an architect, living with his parents in St Andrew, Newcastle on Tyne. I did manage to trace some descendants, however, back then with limited information available online, progress was slow and grinded to an eventual holt.
I had the opportunity to take the medal to the Antiques Roadshow when the TV show was filming in Leeds, in the late 1990s I believe, asking them if they would televise it in the hope that John Young’s family could be found but it wasn’t something they usually did.
Then in 2013, I struck gold. Having seen some research online, I made contact with a lovely gentleman in New Zealand who, it appeared, may know of the family. I was delighted when he told me that he did indeed know of the family and put me in touch with no less than John Young’s great-great grand-daughter who was living in Manchester, UK. We were both excited to exchange our stories with John’s great-great grand-daughter providing the family background whilst I provided its more recent history. It really was magical to think that after decades of searching and messages sent across the globe, that John Young’s medal was finally going ‘home’.