Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sepia Saturday 192 : Flying Free In Imaginary Braces

When Sepia Saturday started four years ago we didn't have themes: participants merely posted an old picture of their choice and said something about it. Over the years, the idea of weekly themes emerged, but the themes were not words or subjects, they were images. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, it can also give rise to a multiplicity of themes - and that, I believe, is what has kept Sepia Saturday going strong week after week, year after year.

Which brings me to braces. Or suspenders if you are a follower of American English. Our theme image this week shows the bandleader Stan Kenton plus a couple of band members all wearing braces. It was easy enough to find pictures of men wearing braces in my collection of family photographs : braces were the elastic scaffold from which most self-respecting northern working class men hung their clothes. And so I chose a picture of my Uncle John and Auntie Doris, sat on the doorstep of their Bradford terraced house with two children. I have no idea who the children are: they didn't have children so they must have been borrowed for the occasion.

But when I examined the photograph, what struck me about it was not the children, nor was it the braces. It was something about the look on the face of Auntie Doris. There was a certain determination etched into her face and for some reason or another it reminded me of that most powerful photograph by Dorothea Lang of Florence Owens Thompson which is called "Migrant Mother". I suppose I could write a few paragraphs about the similarity of the images and a few more paragraphs about the photographer and the subject. But the connection defies words, it is a visual bond, as fleeting as a momentary glance.

You might look at the two photographs and see no connection, in which case that is fine. Images are not like sentences : you don't have to read them in the right order, you don't have to accept rules of punctuation. You can fly free, allowing you mind to be held up by nothing more than a pair of imaginary braces.

You can see how other people interpreted this weeks' theme image by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Saga Of Sam And Me And The Rock Tavern Quiz

I have been busy all day setting the questions for this week's Rock Tavern Pub Quiz. As regular readers will know, setting the questions is normally the prize for winning the previous quiz, and I would love to stand before you today - well actually sit before you because I have a touch of sciatica - and proclaim that I won last Friday. But I didn't. The team that won didn't fancy setting the quiz, so I grovelled around and offered to do it for them. As they agreed, it is the only way I will ever get the opportunity to set the questions. I am, I fear, not one of life's winners.

I managed to get through childhood and youth without winning anything, although I once got a school prize for turning up. I remember when I was lecturing going out and buying an elaborate trophy to be presented to the College Chess Champion, confident in the knowledge that I had never seen anyone else play chess in the building. To be on the safe side I scheduled the competition during the long summer break when there would be neither students nor staff within checking distance of the place. Just as I was about to award the trophy to myself, the Caretaker turned up, sad down, and mated me in less moves than it took him to open the boiler house door. He still has the trophy to this day.

However, this is not one of my normal self-pitying rants, as I am pleased to announce that I have just been awarded a degree of recognition by being listed as one of the Top 50 Over 50s Bloggers in the latest issue of Saga Magazine. I share this honour with the likes of Ricky Gervais, Jon Snow, and Samuel Pepys (Good gracious, are you really over 50 Sam?). Can I just say thank you to the kind people at Saga Magazine for listing me and ask whether it would be possible for them to send me a little trophy for my desk-top. Nothing elaborate. A little plastic thing would do. I will even pay for it myself, get it made and send it to them, so they can send it back to me. But with my luck they will probably send it to Samuel Pepys.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lost Pubs Of Brighouse : 4. The Albion Inn

At one time or another there have been over 100 pubs, inns, beerhouses and taverns in the streets around Brighouse and Rastrick. Today, only a handful are left. Before time is called on too many more, I decided to go on a historical pub-crawl in search of the lost pubs of Brighouse.

No 4. The Albion Inn, Lane Head, Brighouse

We often think of our towns and villages growing organically, like some garden bloom, starting with a bud and then slowly expanding around the edges to become the finely crafted communities that we know today. But it didn't happen like that, it never does. Towns grow in fits and starts, first this way and then that. They consume the surrounding fields and meadows, spurred on by bridges, roads and industry. A visitor to the Brighouse area at the start of the nineteenth century would have found a one sided town, weighted towards the ancient parish of Rastrick to the south of the river and as sparsely populated as a Lancastrian nunnery to the north of the River. And then came the Turnpike Trusts, tarmacadam tendrils linking Brighouse to Huddersfield, Bradford, Halifax and Keighley and opening up the way to the development of the north of the town.

The Brighouse to Denholmegate Turnpike was opened in 1826, climbing out of the centre of the town, through Lane Head to Hove Edge, Hipperholme and beyond. And where roads went, houses soon followed. And where there were houses, there were pubs. The Albion Inn was built at the junction of Halifax Road and Waterloo Road in 1853, directly opposite the old Toll House. The area was on the up, a trend accelerated by the installation of new-fangled gas street lighting in 1861 and by the abolition of toll charges on the Turnpike in the following year. The expanding grid of terraced streets brought a boom in trade for the Albion and the many other pubs and beerhouses which were also established in this part of North Brighouse.

Over the years, the Albion saw its fair share of local life. Like many local pubs, it was often used as a venue for inquests, and many an unfortunate resident has had their final hours investigated by the visiting coroner in its upstairs lounge. In 1876 it was the landlady of the Inn itself, Elizabeth Shackleton, who nearly met an unfortunate end when she was assaulted by one of her clients, one Frederick Rayner, who was fined £5 plus costs for the assault and a further £5 for refusing to leave the pub when requested.

In the twentieth century its' publicans included Albert "Alty" Farrar, a professional sportsman of some repute. He not only played first class cricket for Yorkshire but he also turned out for the Rochdale Hornets Rugby League team : a sporting success story in charge of a pub that was equally successful. And so the pub moved forward into the twenty-first century, no doubt believing that it was as fixed a part of the local scene as the road that still made its way up the hill and towards romantic places such as Shelf, Queensbury and Denholme. But the change in habits, in tastes, in culture, all meant that by 2007, success was no longer been measured in the volume of pints pulled or bottles uncorked. The pub closed down and reopened as a Chinese Restaurant. Appropriately named, "Success".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Picture Post 1124 : A Moment Of Contemplation

On Sunday we went for a walk around Hollingworth Lake. On the way we passed an old man, bent over, sat by the edge of the water. There was something about the shape of his back that recorded a lifetime of work. He deserved his moment of contemplation.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sepia Saturday 191 : Defaulting To The Uncomplicated

Things are a bit hectic this weekend as we are celebrating our 40th Wedding Anniversary. So this will be a short Sepia Saturday post. Marilyn was looking after the prompt for Sepia Saturday 191 and her first suggested match for the theme photograph was "man with two wives".  On such a weekend as this I would never dare to go with such a theme and therefore I have defaulted to an uncomplicated "group of three". But looking again at that photograph - which features the celebrated Auntie Miriam and was taken in St Annes in 1941 - it certainly features a penetrating gaze. And who is the other woman? Could Uncle Frank have had two wives? All I can say, after forty years of marriage, is ... silly man.

Please call in at the Sepia Saturday Blog to view the other interpretations of the photographic prompt for Sepia Saturday 191.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Picture Post 1123 : Thornhill Briggs WMC

I was having some problems with my camera on Friday, and believing that I had fixed it (note to self : take off the bloody lens hood) I took a few test shots. At the time I was down in Brighouse and close to the area called Thornhill Briggs. One of the shots was of Thornhill Briggs Working Men's Club which was taken for no other reason than to test whether the shutter was working properly. Experience from the photographs I took forty or so years ago suggests that it is such throw-away shots that are the most fascinating to look back on a few decades later. They provide a record of reality, a picture of normality.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sepia Saturday 190 : The Anaglypta Of Photography

It is wrong to look back to your youth and identify your mistakes with the highlighting pen of regret. What is done is done. As the divine Edith Piaf sang "Non, je ne regrette rien" I can stand here, face the world, and shout out loud : "I regret nothing"  ..... except perhaps that bulk order of stipple photographic paper. Let me explain.

I went looking for an old photograph of a picnic: searching through my archives, flicking through my prints, holding strip after strip of negatives up to the August sunlight. You would think that there would be loads. Picnics have all the ingredients of fine photographic fayre : people, pleasure, summer days, and aluminium teapots. But us Burnett's are a miserable lot : we spend smiles as if they were currency. The best I could come up with was an old print of my parents, Albert and Gladys, in a state of near exhaustion after attempting to enjoy a picnic. I checked to see if I still had the negative but all the squinting in the world revealed nothing. No problem, I popped the print in the scanner and pressed the magic button. 

Moments later I shouted out "Sodding Stipple" with a vehemence that brought my Good Lady Wife rushing in from her afternoon nap. When I was but a lad, I bought a bulk supply of stipple photographic paper which, for a year or two, I used for all the home printing of my photographs. It was cheap, and as long as you looked at it from a distance, it was reasonably acceptable if you weren't too concerned with detail. It was the Anaglypta of photography, the Artex of imaging. The problem with it is, that when you attempt to scan a stipple photograph you get something that looks as if it has been baked on a cellophane bag. Everything - skin, seas, fields and aluminium teapots - is transformed into little ridges of deflected light. Everything is robbed of detail. 

My Sepia Saturday post this week is therefore living proof that the mistakes of one's youth will eventually come back to haunt you. If you would like to see some clearer photographs of picnics, you can go to the Sepia Saturday Website and follow all the links you will find there.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Picture Post 1122 : This Corner Of Paradise

Ravenscar, North Yorkshire - August 2013 
Just back from a few days away on the North Yorkshire coast. Beautiful weather, jigsaw-puzzle clouds and sea as blue as a Muddy Waters song. I took this photograph at Ravenscar on Tuesday morning. Even the sheep are clean in this corner of paradise.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Time Travel Around Halifax

Because of the construction work, it is possible to date this photograph reasonably precisely. I must have taken it sometime in 1970 although it has lain dormant in my negative files until I scanned it yesterday. If you know Halifax, you can click on the image to enlarge it and then take a tour around the town of forty years ago. If you don't know Halifax, you can find an account of the construction of the road - known as Burdock Way - on the splendidly nerdish CBRD Website.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Sepia Saturday 189 : A Fine Sepia Contraption

Our Sepia Saturday theme prompt this week shows an early motor car and is entitled "what an amazing contraption". And it sent me off searching through my various archives for a matching amazing contraption. I eventually found one in a strip of colour negatives I shot back in the early 1980s. But having scanned it and printed it, I was left with the question - what on earth is it? I looked at it one way, and then looked at it another. I rotated it, flipped it, bent it, and squinted at it. And then I slowly began to understand it. The more I concentrated, the more all the individual elements of this most extraordinary contraption became clear in my mind. It might not be high-tech, it might not be digitised and miniaturised - but it contained all you needed to create a weekend of interest and enjoyment. What I had photographed all those years ago - without knowing it at the time - was a Sepia Saturday machine. All you require is a little explanation as to the component parts and you will instantly see all the beauty of this fine sepia contraption.

Clicking the image should make it a bit bigger. My apologies to all those Sepians who I have missed from my listing - but as with all machines, some of the most important bits are hidden from view. You can see the machine at work by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Lost Pubs Of Brighouse : 3. The Vulcan Inn

At one time or another there have been over 100 pubs, inns, beerhouses and taverns in the streets around Brighouse and Rastrick. Today, only a handful are left. Before time is called on too many more, I decided to go on a historical pub-crawl in search of the lost pubs of Brighouse.

No 3. The Vulcan Inn, Foundry Street, Off Birds Royd Lane, Brighouse

Few people wander around the Birds Royd Lane area of Brighouse these days unless they work in one of the industrial units or unless they took a wrong turning whilst searching for somewhere better. There are a few houses left, but not many. One or two old stone-built mills and warehouses appear to have been forgotten in the push towards sterile modern industrial units with over-sized car parks and under-sized architectural ambitions. But just one or two. The rest is corrugated steel and breezeblock. It is easy to forget that this part of Brighouse was once a place where factories, mills, foundries, dye-works and breweries fought for space with row upon row of smoke-encrusted back-to-back houses. And where there were houses and work and life, there were, of course, pubs. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century you could have called for a pint in the Dyers' Arms, or the Sportsman, or the Woodman, or the Railway Hotel, .....or the Vulcan Inn.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Sportsman and the Dyers had gone and by the end of the twentieth century the rest had followed. One of the buildings, however, remains in place, although it ceased to be a pub in 1926 and that is - that was - the Vulcan Inn on the corner of Foundry Street and Vulcan Street. It now provides a home for a sewing and knitting shop and a music rehearsal room, but you can still make out the shape of the pub that was, and you can still see the carved initials "B&B 1869" on the stone pediment. This, no doubt, will be the initials of the brewers, Brook and Booth, whose brewery stood across the street.

The Red Cross Brewery was a grand affair, perhaps the foremost of the band of Brighouse breweries. The brewery was based around a large courtyard within which all the usual departments of the brewing industry could be found. The main fermenting room was located in a six storey tower, and there were cool cellars capable of holding 1,000 barrels. During the last half of the nineteenth century, the brewery passed through a variety of owners and in the twentieth century it was acquired by the Halifax brewer, Samuel Webster. Brewing ceased on the site not too long after the Vulcan stopped serving pints, although the brewery was not as successful in leaving a physical footprint on the land - all trace of it is now long gone.

One of the occupational hazards of writing about times gone by is the danger of sanitised nostalgia. In areas such as this, the nineteenth century was a hard and cruel era. The following article in the Huddersfield Chronicle in October 1876 illustrates the point perfectly.

"CHILD KILLED - On Monday morning Edward Moore, aged three or four years, son of Mr Moore, brewer at Messrs. Booth and Ogden's Brewery, Birds Royd, Rastrick, was running across the road to his home near the brewery, when he went too close to the wheels of a cart conveying coals to the brewery, and was knocked down, one of the wheels passed over the child's head and crushed out its brains so it died on the spot. The body was carried to Mr Moore's house, and Dr Brown was sent for to certify the cause of death for it was impossible to do more. On Tuesday morning an inquest was held on the remains at the Railway Hotel, before Mr Wm Barstow, coroner, when the facts reported were given in evidence and the juru returned a verdict of "Accidental death" no blame attaching to any one"

Perhaps there is something to be said for those modern industrial estates built far away from the people's houses.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Picture Post 1121 : As Long As Your Thirst

It was a lovely day. In Castletown in the Isle Of Man. The sky was the kind of blue you normally can only find in a Photoshop palette. We had walked around the town, taking in the sights. We walked back to the railway station and next to the station was the kind of pub that only normally exists in your imagination. White walls. Hanging baskets of blossom. Inside there were shady rooms and a row of hand-pulled real ales as long as your thirst. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Where's Wally : Imagination and Historical Research

I have just acquired this "Real Photograph" postcard of Greenhead Park in Huddersfield. I was attracted to it because it is a local scene - I know Greenhead Park well, it's one of my favourite spots - but, as so often is the case, it was the message on the back of the card that was the most intriguing. The card was sent in either July 1913 or July 1915 : it is difficult to tell, one postmark looks like 13 and the other looks like 15. It is addressed to Alice Knapp of 29 Holden Street, Lavender Hill, London and was written by "Bert". The message is as follows:

Dear Alice, We arrived here safe and I have received your letter, many thanks for same. I am sorry to hear that you have been queer again and also Wallie. I hope you are feeling better. The weather is very cold up here. Yours, Bert.

The 1911 Census shows Herbert and Alice Knapp living at Holden Street, so we can assume that the sender of the card - Bert - was Alice's husband. He was a soldier / musician and his 1905 marriage certificate lists him as being in the Grenadier Guards. So it seems fair to assume that Bert was travelling around the country with the band and, quite possibly, they had given a concert at Greenhead Park itself.

I have not been able to discover what happened to Bert and Alice - or indeed poor Wallie. The date of the card could be critical. If it was sent in 1913, then it is not too difficult to imagine what perils faced by an active soldier in the following years. If it was 1915, the very fact that Herbert was in Huddersfield rather than on the Western Front might suggest that he wasn't fit for active service. I have not been able to find any service records for Bert, so where he went and what he did remains a pleasing mystery. It would be a sad day when imagination was successfully surgically removed from historical research.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Picture Post 1120 : Reflections Of Thomas

The Isle of Man still has a steam railway. It is not a pretend heritage line run by well-meaning volunteers, but a proper, functioning, steam-spurting, iron-clunking, brass-polishing railway line run by the Island's Transport Department. As we travelled from Douglas to Port Erin, the sun was shining, the skies were blue, there were rabbits hopping in the fields and a some children enjoying a picnic waved to the engine driver. It was like a cross between Thomas The Tank Engine and an Enid Blyton novel.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Sepia Saturday 188 : Barques And Bytes

Ionic Ferry : Circa 1965

HSC Manannan
As we were returning from the Isle of Man on Wednesday aboard the High Speed Catamaran "Manannan" operated by the delightfully Victorian sounding Isle Of Man Steam Package Company I was thinking what to do for this week's Sepia Saturday entry. Our visual prompt showed an old sea clipper (*) being towed into Littlehampton Harbour and therefore boats of one type or another seemed an obvious choice. Searching through a box of old colour slides, I found this one of the Ionic Ferry which I must have taken in the mid 1960s. I am not 100% sure where we were ferrying from and to fifty years ago, but looking at the history of the ship and the history of my travels as a youth, I suspect it might have been from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland.

Sea travel has certainly improved in the 50 or so years between my two photographs. Now fast catamarans slice through the waves of the Irish Sea and airline type service allows you to watch a movie or enjoy a complimentary coffee. Perhaps some of the charm has been bleached out of the undertaking as the barnacle-clad , iron-bolted superstructure has given way to jet-propelled, wind-tunnel sculpted panels, but, on the whole, I prefer my pictures old and my boats new. 

You can now sail over in style and view the rest of this week's posts by following the links at the

(*)  I know that I am going to have several comments pointing out that it was not a clipper but a barque or a galleon or a three-masted schooner, but as far as I am concerned schooners are for putting drinks in and barques are for dogs - so clipper it is.

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...