Friday, February 26, 2016

Sharing A Can Of Lager With A Ghost In An Elland Churchyard

I was wandering around Elland churchyard on a lovely bright February day, looking at the gravestones and exchanging greetings with the couple of chaps enjoying an early can of Fosters Lager - the way one does. Churchyards are such special places - all that history beneath your feet. Every step takes you to a new family, every glance highlights a new life and a new death. I paused at the grave of the Lowly family, who came from the same part of the valley as I do. I said "hello" to John Lowly - who departed this life of the 30th day of October 1800 - and then passed on - the way one does.

HERE lieth interred the body of John the son of William Lowly of upper Coate, Shepherd at Fixby, who departed this life on the 21st day of May 1775 in the 15th year of his Age. HERE also was interred the Body of Rachel, Wife of the above mentioned William Lowly; who departed this Life on the 22nd Day of April 17?? in the 65th year of her Age. HERE also was interred the Body above mentioned William Lowly of Fixby, who departed his Life on the 15th Day of June 1788 bin the 65th Year of his Age. HERE also lieth interred the Body of Newyear Lowly of Elland, the Son of the above said William and Rachel Lowly who departed this life on the 7th Day of June 1799 in the 34th Year of his Age. ALSO was interred the Remains of John the Son of the above mentioned Newyear Lowly who departed this Life on the 30th Day of Oct 1800, Aged 20 Years. ALSO William Lowly who died September 5th 1812 in the 29th Year of his Age. 

An old newspaper blows across an old graveyard - history at its best.

"Recent letters from Mr Jackson, chaplain to the Colony in New South Wales, state its condition to be most promising; grain of all kinds, but more especially barley, was abundant; and some hop-feed, which about three years since was sent from England, had thriven on such a manner, that several plantations had been formed, and porter of the best quality brewed with it."

"Lord Nelson is supposed to be on board one of the packets from Hamburgh now at sea, with one of the Mails so long due, and anxiously expected. Lady Nelson is said to be waiting his arrival in town.”

John Lowly - the son of the aforementioned Newyear Lowly - departed this life on Thursday the 30th October 1800. On that day Britain was still at war with Spain and France. Whilst the newspapers were claiming that Lord Nelson was being anxiously awaited by Lady Nelson, it was, by now, Emma Hamilton who anxiously awaited him. In Australia the beginnings of the brewing industry that would eventually take us to that can of Fosters Lager were being established. And if you wanted to take a fast coach from Exeter to London you could just about make the journey in 24 hours.

Picture The Decade

Two photographs that shared the same envelope - foundlings of the imagination, children of an eBay auction. They have decades of the twentieth century indelibly stamped on them : the first flat capped nineteen fifties, the second, cocktail dress sixties. In each case the eye is instantly drawn to one face. For me, in both cases, it is the odd one out: the woman behind the cabin, the man sat at the bar.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Carpets, Caramels And Casualties

A photograph taken back in nineteen seventy something of the view over Halifax from Southowram Bank. Looking back at the photograph from the perspective of forty years I realise that it encompasses a career history of the Burnett family. At one time I worked at the carpet mill in the foreground of the picture.  My father spent much of his working life at the toffee mill complex at the centre of the picture, And my wife spent years working at the hospital which, if you scraped away the mist, you would be able to see in the background of the photograph. A family career - carpets, caramels and casualties.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

All That I Ask Is Love .... And A Cure For The Common Cold

To: Miss B E Snook, 
Mount Street,
Barford St Martin
Salisbury, Wilts
Nov 26th 1916

Dear Sister,
Just a few lines to you in answer to your letter. Sorry to have kept you waiting so long but I have had such a rotten influenza cold. I want to tell you not to write till I write again as we are going to move to Cosham tomorrow and I will send on the address as soon as possible. From your ever loving brother, Percy xxxxxxx

With a name like Percy Snook you would think it would be comparatively easy to find details of his life in the various genealogical databases. But Percy proved elusive so I cannot tell you whether he got over his man-flu.

A Yorkshire Trinity

There was a sacred trinity that united many a West Yorkshire town - that of chapel, pub and bank. These were the buildings that sat at the heart of the community, both physically and spiritually. But whilst the names that adorned the chapel foundation stones and the list of directors of the local savings bank were so often the same - these were the names that shunned the public houses, and campaigned against the "demon drink". 

My photograph was taken on a sunny February day in Elland and shows the old bank premises at the corner of Northgate and Westgate. Just around the corner stands an old pub, the Rose and Crown, now sadly boarded up. At the bottom of the street stands a Chapel - the old Wesleyan Chapel - now being used as a stage school. And the old Halifax Joint Stock Bank premises featured in my photograph is now a bar and restaurant. Perhaps as you engage on a little contemplation over the meaning of life over a pint in the old bank premises you may just have discovered the West Yorkshire version of the three-in-one.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Rolling Image Gathers Bits Of Sticky History

The wonderful thing about old photographs is that, unlike rolling stones, they gather a moss-like patina of information. Bits of history stick to them - memories of people and places - as the circulate from hand to hand or computer to computer.

Take for example the old photograph of a group of munition workers dating back to the First World War which was part of the collection of my Great Uncle Fowler Beanland. On the reverse of the photograph he had written "Munition workers at Mssrs Longbottom and Farrars, Alice Street, Keighley, 1918, during the Great War where I was in charge."

Back in April 2008, I featured the image in a blog post and there it sat for another seven years, awaiting a stray memory to stick to it - which eventually it did late last year.

Then I received an email from the grandson of Herbert Longbottom who was a partner in the firm of Longbottom and Farrar. He was intrigued by the photograph and I sent him a high resolution scan of the original image along with what little information I had about it. He asked whether I would agree to share the image with readers of the Keighley News and I was delighted to agree. And so, at the beginning of this month, it was featured in the newspaper and almost immediately brought a response from the daughter of one of the women who was featured in the original photograph - Olive Driver who is sitting second from the left in the middle row of the first photograph. She also had a photograph of her own of a similar grouping of munitions workers from around the same time which she has shared with us.

So as this new image is passed from one lover of old photographs to the next, perhaps it too will attract the kind of memories that are the very moss of history.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sepia Saturday 318 : They Can't Take That Away From Me

I thought I would try something a little different for Sepia Saturday 318. Our theme image features a fine old photograph of that greatest of jazz singers, Billie Holiday. 

Us lovers of old photographs are hooked on memories and history - things which can never be taken away from us whilst the old photographs survive.

So what better way to celebrate old family photographs than to combine them with the inimitable Billie singing "They Can't Take That Away From Me"

To see what other Sepians are doing with our theme this week, take a trip to the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sepia Saturday 317 : A Trio Of Golfers And A Good Blog Spoiled

The theme image for Sepia Saturday 317 features a quartet of golfers. Golfers have always been in short supply in my family (until the current younger generation at least - but pictures of The Lad swinging his club would hardly fit in with the sepia demographics required for our meme). I have managed to stretch the concept of "family" to the very limits of its elasticity and discovered some old photos from the collection of the first husband of a cousin of Isobel's. Even then, I am one short of the required quartet but golfing beggars cannot be choosers. I have no idea who the people in the photographs are other than the fact that the first one has a caption which seems to say "My Grandad White". But no further words are necessary - you know what Mark Twain nearly said: "Too much talk about golf is a good blog spoiled".

"My Grandad White"
Unknown Woman
Unknown Man
I suspect that the two men have been photographed on the same municipal putting green. The picture of the female golfer is, however, in another league, both in antiquity and the seriousness of the approach to the game. She looks as though she might just have hit a long drive and is wondering how far the ball may have gone. Whilst she makes her way down the fairway to find it, you might want to pass some time by going over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and seeing what everyone else is coming up with for Sepia Saturday 317.

Friday, February 12, 2016

An Exercise In Puppy Socialisation And Comparative Psychogeography

Commercial Street, Brighouse
Two things happened yesterday which came together over a period of forty or fifty years (it would make for a better story if it was exactly fifty years but I wallow in impreciseness and enjoy it). In the morning I scanned a strip of old 35mm black and white negatives I must have shot forty or fifty years ago. They were street shots taken in Brighouse, West Yorkshire: shots that provide a documentary record of how the town looked at the time.
Briggate, Brighouse
In the afternoon it had been decided - by She Who Has Read The Puppy Book - that we needed to socialise Lucy (she is still not allowed to walk around in public until after her next lot of injections); and socialisation seemed to involve carrying the puppy around and pointing out things like where the Bus Station is and where the best pubs are.

The Prince of Wales / Old Ship Inn, Bethel Street, Brighouse

And so we found ourselves in the very same Brighouse and the most natural thing in the world seemed to be to quickly visit the same streets and see what had changed over the intervening years. It was an interesting experience which highlighted both change and continuity in equal municipal measures. 

Thornton Square and Briggate, Brighouse

As an exercise in comparative psychogeography it might not cause many gravitational waves. But, for a few minutes, it got me out of carrying Lucy around Brighouse saying to her: "This is a bus, B .. U .. S, now say it after me ...."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Outshot By A Dog, A Lump Of Metal, And My DDIL

North Bay, Scarborough by Alan's iPhone and Google Assistant
What with the weather, my man-flu, and the dreaded Lucydog, I don't seem to have been able to get out and take photographs recently. It is weeks since I have added any new photographs to my collection other than endless photos of Lucy doing cute and annoying things.  Not that it matters, because I have reached the point where I am having to consider whether I am still needed as a meaningful part of the photographic process!

Selfie by LucyDog
I have been forced to ask this question by two recent events. In the first place I came into my room the other morning to discover that Lucydog had managed to pull my camera off the settee in an attempt to take a selfie. I am well aware that the "selfie-craze" has swept through humanity (I even attempted to jump on the bandwagon by announcing to my dearest and nearest that I wanted a selfie-stick for Christmas but was told by one-and-all "don't be silly"), but I was unaware that the craze had spread to the animal kingdom (or what I prefer to think of as the animal republican democracy).  Sadly, Lucy's first attempt didn't work out as she had forgotten to take the lens-cap off - which of us photographers have not been there wearing the tee shirt! - but she had success with her second attempt with just a little human intervention.

The second event was perhaps even more scary as it was down to artificial intelligence rather than canine cunning. The other week we were in Scarborough and I must have taken my phone out to check something as we walked along Blenheim Terrace. The phone decided that what it was seeing was rather pleasant and thus took a photograph. A day later I got a message from my Google Photo App to say that the "Google Assistant" had done some work on one of my photos and I might be rather pleased with the results. The result was the picture of Scarborough's North Bay reproduced above (with permission from my iPhone and Google Assistant).

The one bit of real photographic work I have managed recently was to take some photographs at the Jazz At The Keys gig in Huddersfield, and on that occasion I took my DDIL (delightful daughter-in-law) along with me to lend a hand. She took far better photographs of the evening than I did - and that didn't help at all.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Lost in Some Fine Music And A Far From Common Cold.

I woke up this morning to find myself lost in what the Good Lady Wife has diagnosed as a common cold, but what I am reasonably sure is  accute rhinovirus with sinusitis, bronchitis and gastrointestinal canine distemper (I blame Lucy for the latter). Before it struck I was able to enjoy a fine night out on Saturday at a new Huddersfield jazz venue - Jazz at the Keys. The gigs are being organised by my good mate, Ben Crosland, and the opening gig featured guests Dave O'Higgins and Steve Waterman along with Ben and his trio.

Ben had asked myself and my daughter-in-law, Heather, to take photos of the session which it was a delight to do. We finished up taking about 150 during the gig - the one above was one of Heather's, and the one below was one of mine.

The Keys Restaurant is situated in the stone vaults of Huddersfield Parish Church and makes a wonderful venue for jazz. If Saturday was anything to go by, it will go from strength to strength over the coming months.

Friday, February 05, 2016

On A Charabanc Trip To Obscurity

This is another of Rock Tavern Jack's photographs which we have both examined in great detail in order to find a clue as to its location - but with no success. It is obviously a loaded charabanc about to set off an an outing to the seaside or a race meeting or some such venue. The date is probably the first two - or at a push three - decades of the twentieth century. It is almost certainly a pub trip, and that is the pub just behind the "chara" : but the pub signage is too indistinct to read. The chances are that the pub will have been somewhere in the Halifax area as that is where Jack's family come from.

I am reproducing the image here for a couple of reasons. First of all it might be that somebody can possibly identify the scene. I have checked through Stephen Gee's excellent two volume history of Halifax Pubs to see if I can recognise the building but I can't. The last time I featured one of Jack's photos, Stephen was able to provide background information and we may be lucky again.

The second reason is just that it is a magnificent photograph. Look at that line of Yorkshire faces - as iconic and as memorable as anything you would find on Mount Rushmore. And look at that charabanc - the Suffolk Punch of motorised transport. It is eighty or ninety years since charabancs were seen on English roads. Their demise is rather sad: the modern-day hen-night stretch limo could not hold candle to these magnificent motorised beasts. It would appear that their journey to obscurity has reached the terminus - in 2011 Collins Dictionary finally removed "charabanc" from its lists.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Half Time Scores : Still Open And Serving 2, Closed And Forgotten 2

I am still in the pub - but a different pub in a different place at a different time. I was scanning some old negatives today - as one does on a cold rainy day - and I came across this strip of five monochrome negatives I must have shot in the mid 1970s (1975 is my best guess).  Our friend Jane had just moved to Eynsham in Oxfordshire and we were visiting for the weekend and the first thing to do on visiting a new village is to walk around taking pictures of all the pubs (40 years and I have not changed at all). I suspect that there is a companion strip of negatives to this somewhere as there were more than five pubs in the village - but the five represented here provide a good overview of what has happened to village pubs over the last forty years.

As far as I can discover, the Jolly Sportsman and the Swan are still going strong - providing real ale and decent food for villagers and visitors alike. The Evenlode is still open but now it is a restaurant and carvery that mainly caters for the passing trade. The Railway Inn closed shortly after this photograph was taken - the victim of a bad fire caused by a hay wagon that caught fire. The Star is also gone, converted into a housing redevelopment six years ago.

So the score so far is two all (we will ignore the Evenlode for the moment - to the half serious drinker, restaurants don't count) as far as open and closed is concerned. We will call in a half-time score in case I find the second negative strip which records the other pubs of the village.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Tale Of Ripe Beer And A Neighbourly Alderman

The Shibden Mill Inn is a delightful pub, set in glorious West Yorkshire countryside. It is a place where you can get a splendid meal, but it is also somewhere where they are just as happy to serve you a pint of real ale and a bag of peanuts. Most hours of the day and night, 365 days a year, rain or shine, you will find a welcome at the foot of Blake Hill. And so it has been for over three hundred years.....

Click Image To Enlarge
This intriguing story comes from the local Halifax Courier and Guardian of 77 years ago and illustrates how the laws on drinking have changed over the last half century. It is a report of a police prosecution of the landlord of the Shibden Mill Inn, Jonathan Whitworth, for serving alcohol outside licensing hours, and of a customer, Harry Rawson, for consuming a glass of beer a few minutes after closing time on Christmas Eve 1938.

You can read the story and marvel at the degree of fuss which is made about such a minor incident. You can ponder on the motives of the two policemen who obviously had nothing better to do than to stand in a pub yard at quarter to midnight on Christmas Eve in the hope of trapping some recalcitrant imbiber with beer froth stuck to his upper lip. You can marvel at the evidence - presented with all the seriousness of a murder trial - whether the handle of the beer glass was turned in the direction of the customer or the landlord, and whether the ripeness of the beer was the cause of the lasting head. You can sit back and enjoy the defence put forward by Harry Rawson: the fact that he had witnesses prepared to swear  that he had not touched the demon drink for months and his wonderful doctors' note saying that he "was not to touch beer at certain times of the year".

Ridiculous as the case undoubtedly was, I was glad to see the outcome of the trial that was heard in front of Alderman Leach and Alderman Stirk. They dismissed both cases with Alderman Leach commenting - no doubt with a twinkle in his eye - that he thought it was foolish of the Landlord to leave glasses lying around.  When I was young, the same Alderman Leach lived next door but one to me. By then he was very old, but he was a splendid chap who retained that very same twinkle in his eye.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Sweet Caress Of A Buffalo Chewing Puppy Dog

It's always the same with January: in like a lion of good intentions and out like a lamb of distractions. From the giddy heights of the first day of 2016,  I surveyed a carefully crafted campaign of meaningful blogposts - as regimented as a Brigade of Guards and as regular as a packet of Pomfret Cakes. And within a few short weeks, I find myself once again having to pen an apology for blogging absence. On this occasion the culprit is obvious - it is a small chocolate-coloured bouncy parcel that is beginning to answer to the name of Lucy.

She operates according to a remarkably manic timetable, dashing around the world at high speed, driven by an obsession to chew at anything that crosses her path. And then, without any real warning she will crash into a deep sleep, that offers you, her guardian, the hope of grabbing a few moments of normality - the chance to make a pot of tea, put your trousers on or plan a blog post - before all such hopes are buried under a renewed mountain of puppy-chews, half-digested copies of the Guardian, and other things too gruesome to relate.

On the few occasions I have managed to find a puppy-free moment I have been lost in a good book,  which - ever since the onset of the digital age when you have an almost unlimited supply of literature at your downloadable finger-tips - seems to be an increasingly rare pleasure (there is an inverse square law waiting to be written here).

The book in question is the wonderful "Sweet Caress" by William Boyd which relates the life of a fictional twentieth century photographer called Amory Clay. Interspersed with a excellent story-line are both photographs that supposedly come from her camera, and descriptions of the nature of the photographic process that will resonate with anyone who has ever picked up a half-serious camera. 

Any book that can overpower the demands of an eight week old puppy must be a compelling read - Sweet Caress is a book I can heartily recommend.

That might sound like an advertisement, but it is not. This, however, is. Lucy is not fed on Spratt's Dog Cake - in line with any self-respecting twenty-first century mollycoddled pooch she is fed a scientific-formulated, veterinary-planned,  vitamin and mineral enriched kibble. I am tempted, however, to see if I can still acquire a bag of Spratt's, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century always claimed that it was produced with the extract of American Buffalo meat. 

I have managed to occupy the few minutes that Lucy has been asleep by reading a brief history of Spratt's Dog Foods, and whilst not quite of Boydian dimensions, it is a fascinating story. Did you know, for example, that they were the fist company to erect a billboard in London, or that during the course of World War 1 they produced 1,256,976,708 dog biscuits for the British Army?

But the Lusitania now stirs, demanding exercise, distraction, play and something to chew on. Do you fancy a little bit of baked buffalo meat Lucy?

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...