Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rock Of Ages

There is a famous photograph of my local pub which was taken in June 1911 on the occasion of celebrations to mark the coronation of King George V. It shows all the local residents lined up outside the pub, where later that day there was to be a sheep roast in celebration of the coronation. The poor victim of that feast can clearly be seen amongst the gathered crowd. The photograph has been published in a couple of local history books, but I have been trying to find an original copy so I could get a high-resolution scan of it. I put the word out, and last week I was able to borrow an original copy from a friend of ours whose father is one of the babes-in-arms in the crowd. 

Along with another friend, I am currently putting together a short history of the Rock which hopefully will feature the photograph as one of the illustrations. By 1911, the pub had been open for more than fifty years and the landlord was Harry Hodgson, a remarkable character in his own right. In addition to being employed as a "stone hewer" by day and running the pub at night, he managed to fit in the task of being a somewhat inappropriate conductor of the Brighouse and Rastrick Temperance Brass Band! You might think that carrying such a load would be too much for any man to manage; and sadly you would be right. Shortly after the coronation feast, Harry dropped dead at the pub, aged only 42 years old.

If you want to know more, you will just have to wait until our little pamphlet is published.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wilf Sykes and "La Maladie de Bradford"


Phrases such as "the dignity of work" occasionally slip too easily off the nib of a pen or the click of the computer keyboard: and I am as guilty as anyone in this respect. Standing around in today's photograph are Wilf and Amy Sykes, my uncle and aunt. Wilf was born in Pontefract in October 1903, the son of a police inspector. Following a lengthy period of training he became a woolsorter in, what at the time was the wool and worsted capital of the world, Bradford. As an apprentice-trained woolsorter, he was part of the aristocracy of labour - his skills were in demand and pay was good compared to the rest of the industry. Along with his fellow sorters he would be responsible for examining and grading the wool fleeces that came to Bradford from throughout the world. This would be done by touch and visual examination, and a skilled sorter could quickly determine which part of which fleece would be most suitable for high quality yarn or shoddy scrap. The job, quite literally, involved standing around and examining wool fleeces.

Although the job sounds as safe as the houses Amy and Wilf are standing outside, this was anything but true. During the nineteenth century it became apparent that wool sorters were falling victim to a disease that resulted in bronchitis, pneumonia, and a form of blood-poisoning which created open sores on the skin and a painful sudden decline in the victim. This rapidly became known as "Woolsorters' Disease" and "La Maladie de Bradford". Eventually it was discovered that these industrial diseases were, in fact, Anthrax - a deadly diseases contracted from contact with the spores of the bacterium "Bacillus anthracis" which were from infectious animal products. 

Wilf died in 1963, in his sixtieth year. Whether his death was directly related to the work he did, I am not sure, but it seems likely. If it was work that reduced this solid and strong-looking man to the invalid he became by the time of his death, there is nothing at all dignified in it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sepia Saturday 382 : Tempus Fugit And A Fish Supper

When you have been penning blogposts for more than ten years, you sometimes think that you are all "blogged-out". If you are capable of saying it, you suspect you have already said it. In the case of old images, if they are able to be found and digitised, you suspect you have already found them, scanned them and presented them to the world. When I saw this week's Sepia Saturday theme image, which featured a host of young people in a gymnasium showing off their graceful carriage, I immediately thought of an old family photograph which had been taken in a school hall which also featured graceful young people. 

I felt sure, however, that I must have featured it before on Sepia Saturday and blog-searched back until I found a post from September 2010, analysing the image in question. Although the analysis was  thorough and as incisive as anything I could write now, the strange thing was that the piece was illustrated by the wrong photograph. In place of the wall-remembered photograph of five children there was another photograph which had obviously been taken at the same time and in the same school hall.

Just how this mix-up happened, I have no idea, but it sent me off in search of the two photographs so that I could look at them again and possibly rescan them. This was, as always, a lengthy and complex business: sifting through boxes, folders, and albums; all of which I aspire to call the family archives. Eventually I found them and the effort involved justified their inclusion in my Sepia post this week. It is true that at least one of them has been featured in my blog before. It is true that I have no great revelation about their provenance to share with you. What I have come to realise, however, is that scanning and displaying old photographs is a little like fishing. It is the thrill of the chase which attracts you rather than the fish supper at the end of the day. You can spend a happy hour or two dangling your line into the pool of history and eventually fish out a couple of lovely old images. And then, just as happily, you can throw them back into the shoebox of time, so that you can enjoy the whole process again, seven years later.

To see what others have done with this week's prompt image, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Standing Around With The Dignity Of Work


I can't help looking at this old studio print of a worker without thinking of Robert Tressell's wonderful book, "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists". Tressell wrote his book just before the outbreak of the Great War, which is about the date of this print from the "Oxford Electric Studios" in Cardiff. I have no idea who it is, but that doesn't matter: he is a man standing around with the dignity of work

Rescan 12 : Frame-Up In Wade Street

From the same strip of negatives as yesterday's photograph, once again this shows the area around Wade Street and Winding Road during demolition work in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It also proves that, even back then, I couldn't resist a frame-up when I saw one.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rescan 11 : Wade Street, Halifax

This is a photograph I took forty years or more ago of the area below Market Street in Halifax during demolition work. The street you can see the back of was, I think, Wade Street, where the splendid Brewers' Tavern pub was located. The building in the centre was - and thank goodness still is - Halifax Town Hall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's That Child Again

It's that child again. Well, I think it's that child again, but I am not sure. It might be him or it might be his brother. "te ipsum" said the Romans; and the Greeks said the same thing even earlier (but their interpretation of the phrase is a character set too far), but how can you know thyself after a period of almost seventy years and a stone or two of living. It should be me. The child is laughing and I was always the one with an inane grin on my face. No doubt my brother will write in and say it is a photograph of him and not me. But I don't believe it - he was never as bonny as me.

Monday, August 21, 2017

LOL With Auntie Annie


For once I know who is standing and where she is standing, and, I suspect, I can make a fair guess as to the "when". It is Annie Moore - my Auntie Annie - and the photograph was taken in the back garden of her house in Carbottom Road, Bradford. I think they moved there in the mid to late 1930s and I suspect that the photograph was taken during that period.

Auntie Annie was a consummate storyteller - a skill that is so often under-estimated. She knew exactly how to "construct" a story - how much detail was needed, how to promote expectation, when to pause, when to let a gesture carry the story forward. One of her classic stories took place in that back garden, where the dustbin was kept. For some reason she had acquired half a bag of cement which she didn't want and which she threw away in the dustbin. Later it had rained heavily and the water mixed with the cement which mixed with whatever else was in there, resulting in a dustbin full of set concrete. Annie would tell the story of how she hid behind the lace curtain on the day the dustbins where due for emptying and watched successive dustmen attempt to heave the bin onto their backs to take it to the bin wagon parked in the street. Each groan and gesture would appear in that story building up to the point where four hefty bin-men manhandled the bin down the garden path. 

The acronym LOL (Lough Out Loud) had not been invented back in those days. It should have been, it perfectly describes Annie and her stories.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sepia Saturday 381 : Nuggets And Grains And Royal Enfields

Think of it as being a bit like a gold rush. When gold is first discovered it is a frantic, wild affair; everyone piles in and starts digging, and you pull out nuggets the size of turnips and you become blasé. And then you begin to work through your stake and the rewards are harder to come by and your focus switches from nuggets to grains. Nevertheless, once you have been panning away for a week in the rain and you find the smallest speck of pure gold, the thrill is just as great as when you plucked nuggets with alacrity. 

I knew that there were a fair few motorbike pictures in my family photographic collection. My father was a great motorbike enthusiast and I absorbed the names of the great British marques along with my bottles of post-war NHS orange juice: Ariel, Triumph, BSA and Royal Enfield. I sorted through my imaginary folder of motorbike images (I dream of being so organised, but it is nothing more than a dream) and most of the nuggets had been featured at some point before on Sepia Saturday, Motorbike Monday, Sidecar Sunday or the like.

My panning in the rain was eventually rewarded with this photograph which had obviously fallen through my sifting pan on previous occasions because it was small and easily overlooked. A quick scan and clean-up reveals it in all its glory, and it has immediately become my favourite photograph of my parents - Albert and Gladys. I think the house in the background will be their house on Cooper Lane, Bradford, and that will date the photograph at about 1936 or 1937, shortly after they got married. The star of the photograph is, of course, the Royal Enfield; but it is also the look of pride and joy in the faces of the riders.

To see more sepia nuggets go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Girl At Number 24


I am sure I know this girl. Bright, confident smile, a girl at home in her surroundings, framed by railings that owe more to design than function. It's the girl at Number 24.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Where's Ramsbottom?

I found this old business card stuck at the end of one of Uncle Frank's photo albums. At first I was attracted by the claim "Including - The Washing Up Machine which Sterilisers all Utensils after Use", which appears to be a somewhat bizarre tag-line for a restaurant. I was then intrigued by a couple couple of addresses for what I would guess are boarding houses in the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth. Finally, my attention was monopolised by the two signatures on the front of the card which appeared to be the work of Harry Korris and Robbie Vincent. Given two such names - which at some point were meaningful enough to get signed on a business card - who could resist the temptation to Google them and discover who they were.  Not me, that's for sure.

Harry Korris (1891-1971) was a British comedian and actor, best known for playing the part of Mr Lovejoy, the theatre manager in the long-running BBC comedy programme, Happidrome. The show was so popular, in 1943 it was turned into a film of the same name. Robbie Vincent (1895-1968) also starred in Happidrome, where he played the bellboy, Enoch. The third permanent member of the show was Cecil Fredericks (1903-1958) who played the stage manager, Ramsbottom. Together the three of them performed their most famous song We Three. You can see their performance on a classic clip available on YouTubeQuite where Cecil Fredericks was that night when Uncle Frank was dining in Del Monico Restaurant in Great Yarmouth is a mystery. Perhaps he was ill - fallen victim to a bug caught off a contaminated kitchen utensil.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Standing Around For 125 Years


I was out walking the other morning and I came across Lieutenant Colonel Edward Akroyd standing around outside All Soul's Church on Haley Hill, Halifax. Not that I am criticising him, he had every right to stand around outside the church; he built it after all. And he did deserve a rest: whilst you can probably count the number of Victorian manufacturers who positively benefited both the lives of their workers and their town on the bobbin-hooks of one power loom, Edward Akroyd would be amongst that number. He established two model villages for his workers, built a school for their children, created a bank to help them save - The Yorkshire Penny Bank which still exists today - and founded a Working Men's College (the first outside London). When he died in 1887, his fellow townspeople contributed to this fine statue with its four reliefs telling the story of his life. From such a spot he has been standing around for some 125 years.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Golden Age Of Gate Standing Photos


This old photograph seems to have acquired blobs of colour over the decades, like a velvet jacket picking up cat hairs. Leaving aside the brown blobs and the blue lines, you can focus on the family by the front gate: a mother and four children. My guess is that the photograph dates from either the very end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth - the golden age of gate-standing photos.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Sepia Saturday 379 : That Is A Lifetime

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a goat under the watchful eye of a chap with a funny hat. The connection with my featured image - a photograph of my brother and I on a beach under the watchful eye of Auntie Annie who seems to have some kind of turban on her head - is so obvious it needs no further explanation.

The location is, I believe, Bridlington - those buildings in the background have the look of Marine Drive on North Beach. The date will be the summer of 1950 when I was two years old. My mother will be somewhere around and my father was the one probably taking the photograph. There are sixty-seven years between that young child in the photograph and the oldish man posting it today. That is a lifetime.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Small Man, Small House, Big Cap


The man in this photograph seems slightly out of proportion to the cottage he is standing outside. Now it might be that the man is tall, but few of his generation were: disease and diet worked together to prevent mankind getting too big for their collective boots. It is more likely that the cottage was small. You can still occasionally see some of these eighteenth century cottages around and you wonder how on earth people fitted in them. The man is small, the cottage is small, but his cap could keep the rain off one of those colossal stone heads of Easter Island

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Fading Away


As some people have already commented, the houses in some of these old photographs are as attractive as the people standing around them. This print was badly faded and, originally, the house faded into what was probably a London smog. A little creative Photoshopping brings it back in all its finery.

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...