Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Blue Balls At Fixby

The "Beast From The East" has finally arrived, after more media fanfare and frenzy than preceded the threatened entry of Hannibal's elephants into Rome.  It must be said that the forecasters have got it right; there is snow on the ground and it is a little chilly out of doors. Whether this "extreme" weather justifies the hour upon frosty hour of news coverage it has received in recent days, is quite another question. 

On our walk this morning, LucyDog, found the conditions entertaining enough, mistaking the layer of fresh snow for icing sugar. 

Huddersfield Golf Course is just down the road and I was intrigued to find a newspaper report from 1909 which told of a similar blizzard back in 1909. The golfers of those times were obviously a hardy breed, and a little snow didn't keep them in the clubhouse. 

"The snow was thick on the links, and sleet was falling, as the players drove from the first tee. The wet snow caked in lumps and clung to the boots of the players. This led to an unexpected incident at the seventh hole in the match of Ray and Hayles against Beck and Cassidy. The caddie of the last named player was wearing heavy wooden clogs, and the snow caked on the soles to the thickness of three or four inches.  At the seventh hole, the ball played by Cassidy and Beck, which was painted blue, could not be found. The spectators, players and caddies wandered about in search of the lost ball for some minutes, and eventually the caddie with the clogs, kicked the gathered snow off, and the lost ball was discovered firmly embedded in the snow, which was clung to his clogs. The hole, of course, was lost through this extraordinary incident".

Just in case you are tempted to take comfort from the fact that these century-old incidents took place in January, and we must now be seeing the last throws of the winter, I also came across this headline from 1911.  It would seem that the "Beast From The East" has visited these parts before.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Busy Beaches Of Blackpool

There are some old photographs which just capture your interest, pull you into them, make you marvel at them. They don't need to be technically good - these two old prints from the camera of my Uncle Frank are anything but - they just need to be dripping with social history. Most people will recognise the location - it is, of course, Blackpool. But when was the sea so full, when were the beaches so crowded?

As it is one of Uncle Frank's photos, I am able to give a definitive answer, because Frank Fieldhouse was a great captioner. The photographs were taken on Bank Holiday Monday in 1940. August 1940 was, of course, right at the height of the Battle of Britain, when British cities were being bombed and the war was at its most critical phase. Thousands, however, obviously found the need to flock to the Lancashire seaside in order to indulge in the age-old British pleasure of paddling in the sea.

The second of the two small prints concentrates on the beach - a beach upon which it would have been impossible to swing even a skinny cat.  When you survey all these people enjoying a rare day out, you can't help but wonder what dangers they were bound to face in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Whilst the newspapers of the day were full of dire warnings of the dangers from the air, from invasion, and from shortages caused by the sinking of British shipping, sadly it was a far more prosaic danger which was to face a dozen of these trippers to Blackpool on this particular Bank Holiday Monday. As the Lancashire Daily Post reported the next day, twelve people died in a coach crash as they made their way home from a Bank Holiday trip to Blackpool.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Winnie In The Garden With Marigolds

Normally the lover of old and unknown photographs is beset by a shortage of information, but this little print comes with an essay pencilled on the reverse. To quote it in full: -

"Winnie in doorway of hut, flowers in front, and marigolds - new variety. August 1926"

There is nothing further to be said.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dating Pineapples In Greece

Scanning old colour negatives always seems to give results that don't carry the same weight of history as you get with monochrome negatives. We are so used to dividing photographic images into two mutually exclusive categories: the fist five decades were black and white decades, the last five were in colour. We therefore "see" colour images as more modern than photographs that may have been taken on the same day but were shot in black and white.

This sequence of negatives were taken in Athens and Piraeus over thirty years ago, but you need to dig down to find the dating clues. Cars are always a useful standby, as - to a lesser extent - are clothes and hair styles. The fact that I have a full head of curly brown hair on the second shot in the sequence below, suggests a date which must be almost pre-historical.

There is also a shot which was taken outside what I think was (is) the National Historical Museum, which shows the museum attendant quietly nodding off on a chair near the entrance. This, of course, was the era before security guards, bag scanning and closed-circuit TV.

We can, perhaps, turn to the price of pineapples in the first picture to get a more definitive guide to the date, but a lot has changed since the 1980s. So perhaps it is best to stick with my memories of the holiday, which - I guess - must have been in about 1985.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Taylors Here, Taylors There, Taylors Everywhere.

The world of Victorian photographic studios is full of Taylors. Taylors here, Taylors there, and in the 1880s and 1890s, Taylors every bloody where. The most notable Taylors was established by Andrew and George Taylor (A & G Taylor) in London in the 1860s, and within forty years it developed into the largest photographic studio chain in Britain, with branches in most large towns and cities. They also claimed to be "Photographers To The Queen", and later went on to establish branches in the United States. It is unclear whether this is the same firm as the one responsible for this carte de visite - Taylor & Son of Doncaster. It would appear that A&G did have a branch in Doncaster, but I can see no reason why they should use the different title there than anywhere else. "Photographer to the Royal Family" might seem to confirm the link between the two, but during the 1880s any Tom, Dick and Photographic Harry worth his salt claimed to have a Royal or aristocratic warrant of some sort or another. 

What is needed, of course, is an authoritative directory of Victorian and Edwardian photographic studios. A Google search has not provided any clear advice on how to tell one Taylor from another, but I live in hope that someone has penned a definitive monologue on the subject.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Grazed Knee And An Open Sea (Sepia Saturday 406)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a group of people in swimming costumes; sitting around, standing around, and hanging around. The pool and the beach have always been prime locations for "family snaps", and there was an album-full of potential images for me to choose from.

I have chosen a picture from, I suspect, 1950 which shows my brother Roger and myself standing around and crouching around on the beach in either New Brighton or Bridlington. No doubt Roger will be able to tell us if this was West Coast or East Coast. That is a rather lame test of his memory, so he gets a bonus point if he can remember why he has a rather large plaster on his left knee!

You can see more Sepia Saturday submissions by going to the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and following the links.

History Preserved, Like A Moth In An Encyclopaedia

The great thing about messing about with old photos is the sense of discovery; the ability to find a nugget of history sparkling in the sands of the commonplace. This is a tiny print which must date back to the 1940s and shows half a dozen young men who look like they are ready for a night out. Before hitting the town they gather in the back yard for a photograph to be taken. These days it would  flash around the world on Facebook or Instagram and then be forgotten forever. However,  seventy years ago history was pressed and preserved like a moth in an encyclopaedia. Just looking at it, you can almost imagine yourself there, ready to hit the dance halls, ready to face the future.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kate And The John Noble Half Guinea Costume Company

A few weeks ago I shared a photograph of my grandmother, Kate Kellam, which must have dated from the very beginning of the twentieth century. This date was based on the location of the studio, Keighley, and the fact that Kate didn't move there until late 1901 or early 1902. However, the dress she is wearing looks much earlier than that, and if I had been looking at the Cabinet Card as an "unknown photograph", I would have probably dated it at least ten or twenty years earlier.

I was therefore fascinated to discover the other day, an advertisement in a 1898 copy of Pearson's Weekly Newspaper for John Noble's Half Guinea Costumes, which features dresses that have the same shape and style as the one my grandmother was wearing. Given that it would probably take two or three years for the latest fashions to transcend the Pennines from the bright lights of Manchester to the smokey streets of Keighley, the dates fit rather nicely.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Words And Pictures In Edinburgh And Ballarat

We spent a few delightful days in Edinburgh last week where we were blessed with cold bright skies, warm bright company, and peaty bright malt whisky. I came back south on the train on Saturday with a suitcase full of memories and a bag full of books. One of my best discoveries was made in the bookshop of the Scottish National Gallery where I found several of the publications of the Scottish Society for the History of Photography, which, I must confess, I had not come across before. As time goes by I become more and more fascinated by old photographs and the beautifully produced and illustrated biannual journal of the Society - Studies in Photography - was a delight to behold. I bought the full range of available copies from the Gallery shop and immediately joined the Society on my return home.

A couple of other books I bought in Edinburgh also reflect my passion for images - A History of Photography, which is a guide to the George Eastman House Collection of historical photographs; and Slightly Out Of Focus,  the World War II memoirs of Robert Capa, one of the finest photographers of all time.

My final book in this quartet was waiting for me when we returned from Edinburgh and that is  a splendid volume entitled Yorkshire to Ballarat Goldfields Part 1 which had been sent to me all the way from Australia by the author Graham Beanland. My mother's family were Beanlands and I made contact last year with Graham, who has researched and written about the Beanland family in Australia. I look forward to discovering more about my families' adventures in the Ballarat goldfields.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Torn To Pieces

Someone has treated this lady very badly. She was originally part of a grand Victorian Cabinet Card, one of what must have been a couple. She was looking at her unknown partner with eyes that stood out due to a little additional inking from the photographic studio. But then something happened, a split took place and the Cabinet Card was torn into pieces and those eyes were left to stare into nothingness.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Dietary Advice To The Working Man

"Good healthy specimens of men and women can only be built up out of good building material ... The working man's sixpence sensibly expended, will do him as much good as the rich man's five pound note, more often than not, does the latter harm"

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...