Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Basin Street Blues

A determination to catch the last of the late summer sun took me to Brighouse Canal Basin yesterday, and a determination to scan my way through all my old photographs also took me to the same place - albeit fifty-three years earlier.

The canal basin was looking glorious in the sunshine. A few late flowers added to the colour provided by the moored barges, whilst the leaves on the trees were taking their cue from the stone-browns of the old mills and warehouses. Old fools such as me, spend too much of our lives complaining about all that has been lost, without acknowledging the positive aspects of planning and architectural developments over the last half century.  The Brighouse Basin of my youth was a sad and forgotten place, as lacking in colour as the monochrome prints of it that survive.

By chance, one such print worked its way to the top of my scanning pile yesterday. I think the photograph was taken in the basin, and I think I was the photographer, and I suspect that it may have been sometime around 1967. My brother - who is pictured along with my father woking on the conversion to his boat Brookfoot - will no doubt read this post on his far-off Caribbean island and correct me on the dates and locations as necessary. He won't be able to correct the description because it is written on the back of the print in his own hand, and it reads as follows:  "Fixing the longitudinal members in position with "Gripfast". My father is also shown in this photograph lending a hand". It seems that the photograph may have been submitted for publication as part of an article my brother was writing on his conversion of the old Yorkshire Keel barge. If that was the case, and if it was my photograph, I am obviously due some royalties, even after this lengthy period of time. You know where to send the money to, Roger!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Two, Four, Six, Eight


I took this photograph - looking towards Waterhouse Street from Orange Street, Halifax - one dark, rainy night over half a century ago. In some ways, not a lot has changed over those five and a half decades - the bowling alley on the left is now a hotel, the roundabout is gone, and the Odeon cinema has become a Mecca Bingo Hall - but many of the buildings remain the same. In other ways, so much has changed, for this is the Halifax of my childhood and youth. The Odeon cinema, in particular, is a pantheon of memories. As a child, I would attend the Saturday morning Cinema Club there - two, four, six. eight, who do we appreciate, O D E O N, Odeon! - when you would get a cartoon, and educational documentary, and a main feature for something like sixpence. As a youth, I dated, for a time, one of the cinema usherettes; and could often be found on the back row, having a kiss, a cuddle and a Mivvi ice-cream. Far better memories than any bingo prize.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Harry Moore, Sammy Davis Junior, And Me


I'm a great believer in pointlessness. To have the luxury of allowing your mind to wander down thought paths with the freedom and irrelevance of a distracted fruit fly is one of the great joys of life. It may have curtailed my academic achievements as a youth, but it enriches my old age. The other day I was pointlessly scanning some old 35mm colour slides - photographs I took in the 1960s - when I came across this photograph of my Uncle Harry. I have written about Uncle Harry in his youth before - don't ask me where, pointlessness is a soul mate of chaos - but this is a photograph of Harry Moore in his sixties. In his youth, Harry had, for a time, been a professional entertainer, touring the country with a seaside entertainment group, the Silhouette Concert Party, like a character out of a J B Priestley novel. In his thirties, he had settled down, married my fathers' sister, and taken a job as a clerk in a coal merchant's office in Bradford.

Entertainment was in his soul, however, and he continued to play in the pubs and clubs of West Yorkshire on a part-time basis. For a long period, in the 1960s, he was part of the resident backing group at the Engineers Club in Bradford: Harry and Jeff - Harry on the piano, and Jeff on drums.

That was the start of my pointless meanderings and before too long I was searching through the archives of The Stage (newspaper archives are a Mecca for pointless people), looking for references to him. I tracked him down eventually in a copy of The Stage from the 7th September 1961. There he is listed under "Calls For Next Week" as appearing at the Bradford Engineers Club. He shares the page with the likes of Harry Seacombe, Sammy Davis Jr, Anthony Newley, Charlie Drake and Bruce Forsyth (all of whom, it has to be admitted, were not lucky enough to make it to the Bradford Engineers).

So far, so good; but this is where pointlessness steps in again, because once you have downloaded a sixty year old copy of The Stage, it would be criminal not to wander off down its columns, reading this, that, and the other. Did you know, for example, the Australian stage version of Suzie Wong lost £32,000 in the first nine months of 1961 alone? Can you believe that Elvis Presley had turned down £89,000 for a 40 minute performance at the Earlswood Jazz Festival?

The list goes on ... there are 20 pages in this one issue of the newspaper. If I am supposed to be meeting you later on today, or even sometime this weekend, forget it. I am distracted. I am lost in my own pointlessness.

Footfall Replacing Fishermen

During the early 1980s, I would occasionally go to meetings in Hull, and, determined to make the best of my visits, I would explore the city which was, quite literally, at the end of the line from where I was living in Sheffield. At that time, the docks still crept into the city centre like reminders of a vibrant seafaring past. Soon they would be filled with shiny shopping centres - footfall replacing fishermen - which were more colourful but spoiled some of the views of the fine buildings of the city.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Halifax As It Was



Looking back at this photograph I must have taken sometime around 1968, it has a staged feeling to it, as though it has been carefully posed as an album cover for a Champion Jack Dupree LP. It wasn't staged, however, nor were the colour tampered with. This was Halifax as it was, caught midway between old railway lines and new flyovers, cooling towers and leisure centres, scrapyards and supermarkets.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bowling Along Through Halifax

The ability of old photographs to spark memories never ceases to amaze me. I tracked down this old colour slide yesterday after someone, quite rightly, pointed out that what was set on top of the bowling alley in Broad Street, Halifax in the 1960s, was not a bowl, as I had stated, but a bowling pin. In my defence, I have to say that it was not my memory, but my nomenclature that was at fault. I knew I had taken a photograph of the building along with its pin at some stage in the 1960s, and I eventually tracked it down. 

When I looked closely at the photograph, however, it was the bus stop that really set my brain synapses firing. I’d forgotten all about that bus stop. It was the stop that I would run to if I arrived at the bus station (just out of picture on the left) as my bus was leaving. If you were swift – and back then I was swift – you could make it to the next stop in Broad Street before the bus did. If, once again, you were a little too late, you could always try for the near-impossible and sprint on to North Bridge to see if you could catch the bus up there. Whether you made it or not, it was better exercise that a half hour on the bowling lanes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Commercial Adventures In Halifax

When I was young, and adventurous, and rust-free, I could never resist the opportunities provided by a rainy night when it came to photographic patterns and reflections. I suspect that this is a fairly early photograph of mine, taken in the mid 1960s. I am fairly certain that it was taken in Commercial Street, Halifax from somewhere just outside the Post Office, looking towards Ward’s End. If I am right that is the illuminated sign of the old ABC Cinema towards the left of the picture and the sign of Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery in the centre background. The brewery was demolished in 1968, so my photograph obviously pre-dates that. As for the rest of it, you can spend an entertaining minute or so trying to pick out some of the other familiar sights from the darkness: now that I am old and rust-coated, that’s my idea of adventure.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Time After Time


My negatives are cut into strips of six, and, over the years, the individual strips have been moved so many times, they no longer have a logical sequence. Whilst each shot within the six is, obviously, related in time and place to those adjacent, the same cannot be said for the 700 or so individual strips. A few months ago, I scanned a strip of negatives that started with a photograph of Halifax Town Hall been stone-cleaned. The time on the Town Hall clock on that photograph was five minutes top eight. Today, I came across another strip of negatives, the last of which, is another photograph of the town hall being stone cleaned. This time, the time of the town hall clock is six minutes to eight. We have a sequence!

Anglo Works (But Not Like It Used To)


Another foggy, snow-covered day in Sheffield in the early 1980s (did I only ever venture out with my camera when there was Snow on the ground?). Even I don't need help with the location of this particular photograph: whilst there have been so many changes to this part of the city, the buildings shown on both sides of Trippet Lane still exist today (although their functions have inevitably changed). I am not sure why people seem to be wandering around all over the place: maybe it is the ice on the roads, maybe it was one of the things we did back in the 80s.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

A Sign Of The Times



Los Angeles has its iconic HOLLYWOOD sign, and for many years, Halifax had its equally iconic CRAWFORD-SWIFT sign painted on the side of its factory up on the hill at Claremount and overlooking the town. It might not have been celebrated on postcards or t-shirts, but it was part of the culture of a town which was proud of its industrial mix: from carpets to toffees and from machine tools to mortgages. My photograph is a comparatively late one for me, only about thirty years old, but it shows Crawford Swifts framed by the voluptuous concrete curves of Burdock Way.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Donkey Hill, Halifax


This cobbled way which runs from Old Lane up to Woodside in Halifax, is popularly known as Donkey Hill, although you will probably have difficulty finding that name used on any official map. Countless generations of Halifax folk have memories of sledging down the steep hill as children in winters, and early morning walks to work as adults. It still exists, although now it is heavily overgrown and rubbish-strewn. I took these two photographs back in the late 1960s - or possibly early 70s - when the mills were still weaving and the barren Beacon Hill still cast a shadow over the monochrome town.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Great Wall Of Northowram


This is another of my photographs taken in Howes Lane, Northowram around fifty years or so ago. This time it is looking towards the head of Shibden Valley, in the direction of Ambler Thorn. The photograph captures one of the great walls of Northowram, a huge stone structure built to enclose a raised field. No doubt there are sound historical reasons for someone having built this monumental edifice: the ancient burial tombs of the legendary Pharaohs of Northowram and Shelf, perhaps!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Repetitive Overspill


As I trawl through my old photographs I frequently discover the same scene captured again and again - at different times, in different seasons and different years. Often this is not a conscious thing: at the time I can't remember having taking the same photograph before - it is only half a century later I discover the repetitive nature of my photography. This scene of Halifax and the Shibden Valley taken from the top of Howes Lane in Northowram, is one such photo. It appears that I could never resist the sight of industrial Halifax ready to spill out of the lip of its cauldron into Shibden's green valley without taking a photograph. This is from the 1960s, before St Thomas lost its spire.

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...