Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Abe, The Set-Piece Taker

This photograph was taken on the occasion of the retirement of Abraham Moore, which - according to the date stamped on the back of the print - was in January 1947. Abraham was the father of my uncle, Harry Moore, and it would appear that he was 73 years old when he retired. All I can assume is that Abraham was happy to continue working after the normal retirement age during the course of the war.

The question arises, of course: what was he retiring from? The only information I have is from the various census returns which are all thirty years before this retirement photograph was taken, but throughout his life he seems to have worked as a "piece taker-in". He lived in Bradford and therefore this job title must have been connected to cloth pieces in the textile industry, but I have not been able to discover exactly what the job entailed. Every time I do a Google search for the term, I finish up with endless lists of the best set piece takers in football. And somehow, I just can't envisage Abraham as some kind of Wayne Rooney of the 1920s.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Faces In The Snake Pit

Looking at this old photograph - which is one of my lost and found collection of unknown and unwanted old photographs - I was initially fascinated by the obvious narrative. It is clearly a demonstration of the venom being removed from poisonous snakes in either Africa or India, and it would appear too date from the 1930s. Soon, however, my attention was captured, not by the snakes or their brave handlers, but by the watching crowd. Every photograph, no matter how old, or how forgotten, has an endless series of other photographs within it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Contours In The Snow

Outside, the snow is thick on the ground and the wind has the bite of a Rottweiler with a hang-over. Even Lucy the Dog refuses to set paw outside the door. The enforced incarceration means that I have to turn to that list of jobs I have been putting off - and in particular the massive challenge of tidying my room. I am an addict, a hopeless hoarder: the kind of compulsive collector whose life has been ruined by the mass production of plastic boxes. I keep things, I put them in plastic boxes, and then I put the plastic boxes in other plastic boxes. My room is a labyrinth of plastic: each box bursting at the Polyethylene Terephthalate seam with papers, photographs and books. When I eventually get around to trying to tidy things up, I get distracted by the first thing I come across. Which brings me on to "The Contour Road Book Of Scotland"

I have no idea where I acquired this small book from - it has been happily housed in one of the many plastic boxes for years. My tidying resolution caused me to examine it and to fall in love with what is a wonderful item of social history. Published in 1913, the book forms part of a series of small handbooks which were designed for the early motorist. It contains maps, descriptions of places of interest, a guide to common road signs (it appears there were only four in use at the time), and a detailed description of the gradients and conditions of all the roads in the land. These were the days when a hill might pose a challenge too far to early petrol engines.

A motorist setting out 105 years ago was setting out on an adventure. 

Description : Class II.  A narrow road like the most of the other Sutherland roads. Fair surface but long hill over to Rosehall; thereafter an undulating road, with surface inclining to be loose and gravelly according to season, almost the whole way to Lochinver. On the whole it is a very good road for this County. Care must be taken on the hill descending into Lochinver"

The challenges were not just in terms of the steep hills and the state of the roads - anxious moments could arise from meeting other motorists out on the road.

As the priority of position at Road junctions, Crossings, and Forks, is frequently the cause of anxious moments, it is suggested that the nautical rule be adhered to, and that all traffic should give place to that approaching on the right"

It all seems so very long ago. Then, however, I look out of the window and see the line of abandoned cars, set still in the snow and the ice, beaten into submission by the gradient of the road outside. Their drivers should have had a copy of the appropriate "Contour Road Book" in their glove compartment.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Strange And Oversized World Of Frank And Miriam (Sepia Saturday 409)

This week, I did have a perfect match for the Sepia Saturday theme image which shows an oversized loud speaker at some kind of sports event. There was a photograph from one of the albums of Frank Fieldhouse which had been taken at some kind of sporting event in the 1930s or 1940s, and which had a large public address speaker mounted on an old van. Sadly, however, the photograph has fallen through one of the many holes in my family archives, and - for the time being at least - must remain a kind of sepia memory of what was. I mentally reviewed the other suggested themes - oversized objects and strange objects - but nothing seemed to come to mind.

Motivated by my search for the lost loudspeaker, I decided to press ahead with my digital aspiration to scan, copiously file and selflessly preserve all my family photographs and chose, at random, the next print from the "to do" pile. And who should appear than the very same Frank Fieldhouse along with his then fiancĂ© and later wife, Miriam Burnett. The studio photograph, which is dated 1939, shows the couple all dressed up and ready for the ballroom.  It may be that they were seasoned performers on the dance floors of West Yorkshire, if that is the case no record has been handed down (and the one thing you can say about Uncle Frank is that if there was a record to be handed down, handed down it would be).

Therefore my contribution to Sepia Saturday this week may not be strange or oversized, but it is sure to be memorable. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Frank Fieldhouse and Miriam Burnett dancing the foxtrot.

For more strange and oversized objects go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Family Archives : John Arthur Burnett

This photograph of my uncle, John Arthur Burnett (left), must have been taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. By that time, John had served in the Great War in France, been taken prisoner by the Germans, been married and divorced. The vehicle looks like it might have belonged to a coal merchant. Such coal wagons were regular features along Yorkshire streets in the first half of the twentieth century, delivering the coal that kept the home fires burning.

Monday, March 05, 2018

An Effigy Of The Petrol Age

I am not sure at what point an old, faded photograph becomes something more; or if, indeed, it ever does. This is an old, faded image of I know not who. Three women stand in front of a sedan: relaxed, somewhat stately. The man is in front of a different kind of beast: raw, sporty, full of pent-up energy. Nothing is clear, nothing is sharp. It is a twentieth century icon, an effigy of the petrol age.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fowler And The Scowler (Sepia Saturday 408)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a group of golf caddies in Vancouver, Canada. My contributions does not feature a group, has nothing to do with golf, and was taken oceans away from Canada. Nevertheless, as I looked at the capped figure solidly sat in the centre of the group, I couldn't help thinking of my great Uncle Fowler Beanland.

I have several photographs of Fowler surrounded by crown green bowlers and cricket batters, most of which I have shared on Sepia Saturday before.  My photograph this week just shows Fowler and friend (that is Fowler B on the right), neither of whom seem to be brimming over with joy. Indeed, the prize-winning scowl of the friend is a collectors piece in itself. 

From the looks of the car in the background, I would guess that the photograph dates from the 1930s when Fowler would by in his early 60s. There is not enough of a background to identify a location, but there is a good chance that it was taken in Keighley - the West Yorkshire town where he was born and lived most of his life.

(You can see more Sepia Saturday contributions by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links)