Friday, October 07, 2011

Sepia Saturday 95 : Whatever Happened To Monkey Matthews


This is one of those rare pictures with an inscription on the reverse. The inscription must be authentic because it is in my rather childish handwriting - "Them Were The Days - At Camp : Left to Right - Grandad Burnett. Monkey Matthews, Auntie Miriam, Dad". So we thus have the dramatis personae, we have a location, which is probably a West Yorkshire field, and we have a date which must have been the late 1920s. By then, Enoch "Grandad" Burnett would have been around 50 years old, Miriam would have been in her late 20s and Albert, my father, would have been in his late teens. As for Monkey Matthews, I have no idea!

Like all old images it is full of scratches, thumbprints, blotches and tears. And like all old images it is full of questions. Who on earth was Monkey Matthews? Why has my father got what looks like a fairly serious bandage around his head? What is that strange triangular shaped object just in front of the tree on the left of the picture? Why was Auntie Miriam, in her sensible shoes and no-nonsense hat, part of this somewhat muddy group?

My mind plays with the idea of Auntie Miriam eloping with Monkey Matthews who takes her to live in a tent in a field (complete with hot and cold running bucket). Enoch, accompanied by my father, goes in search of the love-lost pair, riding through the rural streets of West Yorkshire in his window cleaners' donkey and cart. Once found my father challenges Monkey Matthews to a fight in defense of his sisters' honour, but cuts his head when he trips over a guy rope. Things get worse when the donkey drops dead and the back wheels fall off Enoch's cart. But Miriam makes everyone a cup of tea and they all line up for a celebratory snapshot. Mystery solved. Questions answered.

But who took the photograph? And whatever happened to Monkey Matthews?

You will find many other questions based on many other old images by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

24 comments:

  1. Alan, I believe the triangular object in front of the tree is a roof over some sort of underground structure; I suspect it's either a spring or a root cellar.

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  2. Are you sure that isn't you?

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  3. I have to say this is generally a very peculiar photograph. And Monkey Matthews just adds to the oddness!

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  4. Whoever he was, I love his name!

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  5. I love having to "re-construct" history from limited knowledge of old photographs!

    "Monkey Matthews." I love it! I'm glad you could deliver a post that lived up to the promise of your title.

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  6. I think we can all see why he was called Monkey Matthews, and I note that it sure isn't a four-perosn tent.

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  7. I love this photo and all the questions it raises. I especially love that your father looks like one of the Gumbies (MY BRAIN HURTS!) from Monty Python.

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  8. Brilliant post, Alan. Mysterious, humorous and so very 'Sepia Saturday'. By the way, my grandfather had a school pal called Monkey Mitchinson. Does anyone get called 'Monkey' these days?

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  9. I wanna know who Monkey is now too! First thing I thought of when I saw him in the photo was the character on Sat Nite Live "Mr. Peepers" the Man Monkey played by Chris Katan.

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  10. They're not the Famous Four, are they?

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  11. I love the tiny tent and the wooden tent pegs! Camping has changed a bit over the years :)

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  12. Oh wonderful!!!! I can sense a story coming up about Monkey Matthews and it must be unleashed!

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  13. Oops! I forgot to add, I like Postcardy's comment, but no way I don't believe you could be the real Monkey Matthews! Could you?!

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  14. Well, I'm afraid I have nothing at all to help solve any mystery. I don't believe that's a bandage on your father's head though - he looks far too happy.

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  15. Who had the catch phrase, 'Right, Monkey'? Or am I showing my age by asking?
    The bandage looks interesting especially the way his hair stands up.

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  16. I don't know which I like better, the photo or the solved mystery!

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  17. What's shorter than a short story? A tall tale. Some memories are better preserved by adding a sprinkle of invention.

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  18. I've noticed that the two middle people have their arms crossed and the outer two have their hands in their pockets.....was there a reason for this???

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  19. Alan ... too funny and a great story from a perfect picture prompt! That is most certainly what must have happened.

    Lol,

    Kathy M.

    P.S. - Maybe Monkey Matthews is related to my husband somehow? They sure do not look alike, however.

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  20. 'Monkey' is A Wonderful nickname! Yes, it makes you wonder how he got it?
    Whatever the story, they look a happy crew!

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  21. Delightful post, Alan! You raise some intriguing questions. You'll have to let us know if you ever discover anything more about dear old Monkey.

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  22. Bob Scotney.

    It was that well-known Northern Comedian of yesteryear - Al Read.

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  23. How does one get the nickname Monkey anyway? Great story:)

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  24. from elopement to brain surgery to a dead donkey...
    never a boring moment in your neck of the wood, eh?!?
    :D~
    HUGZ

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