Friday, December 29, 2023

Love, Loss, Mundanity And Miss Marie Leonhard


Actors and Music Hall Stars of the late 19th and early 20th century were lucky enough to be famous during the great picture postcard boom of 1903-1914. Thus their images transcended normal geographic boundaries, travelling from street to street, and town to town, with messages of love, loss and mundanity. In this case, the delightful Miss Marie Leonhard prefaced a message to Lizzie Hadley from her friend Megg, telling her where to meet her tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Halifax Town Hall


This is an old picture postcard of Halifax Town Hall from my collection. It is the detail that is fascinating: Salmon & Glucksters tobacconist and walking stick dealer, Skue's Oriental Cafe, and that smoking mill chimney almost hidden by the magnificent town hall tower

Chimneys, Stacks And Towers


Most of my old photos of Halifax tend to be looking down onto the town from the surrounding hilltops, providing the kind of view that we get from Google Earth and the like. When I abandoned the hilltops the results were layer after layer of chimneys, stacks and towers.

Desktop Calendar : Harry's Cricket Cows

Harry Moore - my Uncle Harry - was born in Bradford in 1903 and, for a time in the early 1930s he was a professional entertainer with a travelling Concert Party, appearing in seaside pavilions and small town theatres throughout the land. After he married in 1933, he gave up touring and took a job as an office clerk, but continued to play the piano at weekends in Working Mens Clubs in the Bradford area. This photograph dates from around 1930 when he would be billed as "Harry Moore, Pianist and Tenor Vocalist".

Watched a cricket match yesterday in what must be one of the most scenic cricket grounds in Britain - Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The Lad was playing for a Western Park Hospital XI against another Sheffield team (that's The Lad keeping wicket in the photograph). It's only the second time I've ever seen him play cricket (to be fair, it's only about the 10th time he's ever played) - the previous occasion was at, I think, Siddal Working Men's Club ground in Halifax. That was 25 years ago - he's obviously on his way up!

Went for a walk up Norland this morning and once again I was provided with proof that we probably live in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I took this photograph looking over the Calder Valley and then checked the what3word location code. It turned out to be "votes.eating.wishes" the meaning of which I would be happy to discuss in a fine old Yorkshire pub over a pint or three of good beer, with anyone who cares to take up the offer.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

The Chorus Line


This group of young ladies, in what can only be described as eccentric dress, comes from a batch of photographs I bought several years ago which also contained some photographs of performances by the Brighouse Amateur Theatrical Society. We can therefore surmise that these fine ladies were the chorus from some Brighouse amateur theatrical production from the 1920s, but I would be loath to take a guess as to which one. The costumes are magnificent and look as though they were lovingly made from a set of Victorian dining-room curtains. As with so many old photographs, the individual faces are like chapters from a book yet to be written.

Desktop Calendar : Helsinki Burns Boats

According to my Lightroom Catalogue I have amassed some 93,606 photographs over my lifetime. Given my considerable age that works out at one photograph every seven hours, day and night, since the moment of my birth. I got a random number generator to pick just one of the 93,606 to illustrate today's calendar and it came up with this one from seven years ago.

This photograph of the MP John Burns is taken from an Edwardian picture postcard. During the great picture postcard boom of the first decade of the twentieth century every subject under the sun would be fair game to the postcard creators: religious quotations would sit next to music hall starlets in the postman’s sack, sober politicians would share space with saucy cartoons. Burns was a fascinating character, a working class trade union leader who was a Liberal MP and served in the cabinet as the President of the Local Government Board. He eventually resigned as an MP and from the Liberal Party over his opposition to Britain’s entry into World War 1 in 1914.

This group of rowing boats in a picture I took forty or more years ago now look like a group on an old people's outing. There's Jim and June and Ada and Ron. The only odd thing is how on earth the Duchess of Montrose got in there. Perhaps she is down on her luck and has had to join the pensioners' outing to the seaside.

Desktop Calendar : Summer View Rhapsody

Summer appeared yesterday out of the blue (or rather out of the murky grey that had been the norm for the last couple of months). Man, wife and dog went for a walk up Greetland and then stopped for refreshments at the recently re-opened Star Pub. What a grand day. There is even a suggestion that we might have summer again tomorrow.

Sometimes the views are just too wide. When you are there, you can move your head and take it all in, but you are going to have to use your imagination to sew these two parts of the photograph together. It was taken from that delightful spot on Upper Edge, Elland, known as the Wilderness. If you look carefully into the distance you can see Elland, West Vale, Halifax, Blackpool Tower, the Cliffs of Moher, and New York. You can even see Lucy the Dog.

One of the many "photos of unknown origin" that live in plastic boxes and threaten to crowd me out of my own office. When I look at these three women, I immediately expect them to start singing "Scaramouche, Scaramouche will you do the fandango", a la Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Is this just fantasy?

Monday, September 04, 2023

Yorkshire Grit

The background scenery fades into a pleasant impression: Yorkshire fields, Yorkshire hills. The foreground is, however, as sharp as a weavers knife: Yorkshire stone, Yorkshire grime, Yorkshire Grit.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Busy Line

I think I took this photograph from part way up Southowram Bank back in the 1960s. The image captures the almost sensual curve of the main railway line as it carves a way between mills and factories from Beacon Hill tunnel to Halifax Station. Square Church can be seen unsuccessfully competing for attention with the carpet mill factory chimney. The Parish Church (Halifax Minster) knows better than to try and keeps its head down and out of site. It's a busy scene, full of work and soot and life.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

On This Day : Cruising With The Dressed Dolls


If you put an advert in the papers today inviting people to a September cruise, no doubt they would turn up with suitcases packed and passports at the ready. Sixty-fives years ago, however, expectations were far less exotic. The 10th anniversary September Cruise was being held at the Alexandra Hall in Halifax, and rather than being rum punch cocktails served on the lido deck under the Caribbean stars, it was a mannequin parade, a bring and buy sale, and a doll dressing competition. The cabaret song and dance (produced by Madame Amie Ibbetson) would be the highlight of the day, and all told, it would be well worth the couple of bob it costs to go along.

The Two Ladies Of Vancouver


Most old photographs are enigmatic - providing far more questions than answers. Who are these two ladies, where were they out walking, when? If you are lucky, you might find a caption scrawled on the back of the photo, but even these can be unforthcoming. On this particularly photograph it says "This was taken in December on the street"

The photograph came from a batch which I had labelled "unknown family photographs". I could not recognise this rather stern pair of ladies, but the photograph had been passed to me by members of my family rather than acquired in some bulk purchase of unwanted old photographs. If it was met family, then the place was most likely West Yorkshire, but there was a "foreign" feel about the location - the names of the shops, the size of the billboards, the pricing of the goods. I tried searching for some of the shop names, but it wasn't until I got a match for "Millar and Coe" that things became interesting. I found online a 1930s photograph of a street of shops in which there is a Millar & Coe next door to a shop called Cordell - and it was in Vancouver in Canada.

Some of the questions are now answered - the place is the city of Vancouver - a place, to the best of my knowledge nobody in the family has ever visited - and the time is the 1930s. I am, however, left with the question as to who these two ladies of Vancouver are.

This is a Sepia Saturday post - more posts on this theme came be found by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Desktop Calendar : 29-31 August 2023


I'd like to say I can remember where I was when I took this photograph 33 or so years ago - but I can't. It looks vaguely familiar, but it should do: I was there after all. Did I have longer legs in those days or was I stood on a pier? Let's just call it - "on the sands".

One of the two massive ventilation shafts built for the Springwood railway tunnel in Huddersfield. This is the older of the two shafts and was built in 1848. Its purpose was more to let steam out rather than to let fresh air in.

It's 60 years since I took this photograph. It shows the village of Kinlochleven and its aluminium smelter and hydro-electric works. The aluminium works closed down 20+ years ago, but the hydro-electric plant is still working and producing electricity for the national grid. Kinlochleven was known as the "electric village" in the early 20th century, being the first village in the world to be entirely powered by electricity. 

1/1001 : St. Mary Overy's Wharf


The photograph is one of my own and dates from the mid 1970s. At the time, this part of London was still dominated by narrow streets and old warehouses. Within my lifetime, it has changed beyond recognition.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Headscarves And Unwashed Spuds


I took this photo 50+ years ago. I never printed it, it somehow didn’t seem worth the paper. From a technical point of view, it hasn’t improved with time, but it has become more resonant. It speaks of the past - of headscarves and unwashed spuds.

Desktop Calendar : 6 - 8 August 2023


It's quite rare for early photographs to feature people in their working clothes. Whilst working people had their photographs taken, visits to photographers' studios were occasions when you wore you "Sunday best". I don't know what the origin of this particular photograph was (other than it was taken in the Oxford Electric Studios in Cardiff) but it makes me think of that wonderful book by Robert Tresses, "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists".

Sometimes memories are like that: out of focus, lacking in detail in some respects, overcrowded in others. You might not remember where or when or even who, but you remember the bend of the body and the pragmatism of the lettering. You dodge the puddles as you walk back in time.

Halifax has more than its fair share of underpasses. These concrete arteries date from a time when roads were king and pedestrians were corralled down stairs and ramps so as not to get in the way of passing petrol donkeys. Many now are dark, intimidating places full of litter and odours you are better off not identifying. Some, however, are impromptu art galleries just waiting to be visited.

Halfway To Paradise

You’ve got to have a certain sense of humour to name a street “Paradise Street”. You might just get away with it with a row of mansions overlooking a sun-drenched beach in the Caribbean: but not a back street in Halifax. But who knows, a house to live in and a cobbled street to park your car on might just be halfway to paradise.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Halifax's Plastic Skittle

Memory is a great trickster. Ask me for one of my most endearing visual memories of Halifax in the 1960s and 70s and I will tell you about the 14 foot high plastic bowling pin that used to grace the top of the Halifax Bowl at the junction of Broad Street and Orange Street. I might even go on to eulogise the oversized ten-pin - or “plastic skittle” as it was affectionately known - as one of the lasting icons of the town, up there with Mr Wainhouse and his tower, or Mr Burdock and his way. But, I would be wrong: the plastic pin had only a fleeting existence and was in place for just one year, before being unceremoniously taken down and carried away to obscurity. During its short life, however, it managed to create a monumental storm. One local Councillor called it “a monstrosity, empty and shallow, representing everything that was not wanted for Halifax”. Thousands of Halifax people disagreed and signed a petition to save it, and even the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was called on to intervene.

Halifax Bowl was part of the ten-pin bowling boom of the early 1960s. The first ten-pin bowling alley came to Britain from America in 1960, and by 1964 there were over 100 gleaming new bowling alleys in towns across the country. Halifax’s contribution to this craze was opened in February 1964 by the Coronation Street actress Pat Phoenix, and boasted 28 bowling lanes in addition to its giant plastic bowling pin. Local councillors, concerned that such a “shabby totem of an exclamation mark” might cast a cultural shadow over their neighbouring council chamber, granted permission for it to remain in place for just six months, and at the end of that period refused to give it a stay of execution.

The bowling alley itself did survive the removal of its “plastic skittle”, but not by long. By the end of the 1960s, the building had become a supermarket and that was later swept away when the Broad Street Plaza was constructed. Little remains of the old Halifax Bowl other than a few faded photographs and some even more faded memories.

What A Difference An "E" Makes


A new batch of Victorian and Edwardian Carte de Visites dropped through my letterbox the other day and amongst them was this fabulous little photograph. Whilst most of such random purchases can only be captioned “unknown sitter”, this particular one had the addition of a pencilled name and date on the back. The date was 1903 and the name was Daisy Ling, age 15. The only element of doubt was whether there was a final “e” at the end of the surname - where we looking at Daisy Ling or Daisy Linge?

The name was relatively unusual and it was easy to calculate a year of birth. We also know that the studio was in London so we were able to have a good guess at the place of birth, and therefore the census records was the next stop.

Daisy Ling was easy enough to find, the daughter of a labourer living in the East End of London. By 1911 she was living and working as a barmaid at the Boleyn Tavern on Barking Road, East Ham. At that point I got diverted down a side street which was the history of this magnificent pub which is still standing to this day. It appears that both Gandhi and Charlie Chaplin were regulars at the pub and it is just possible that Daisy Ling served both of them.

With that wonderful image in my mind I then decided to check whether there was a Daisy Linge who would fit the bill, and indeed there was. Both Daisy’s were born in London in the same year, but Daisy Linge with an “e” came from slightly better circumstances. Her father was a police constable and she became an assistant teacher before marrying and emigrating to Canada. She did eventually return to England when she was in her 60s and died in October 1964 back in London.

Two Daisy’s, two very different lives. What a difference an “e” makes.

Desktop Calendar : 3 - 5 August 2023


You can never be sure with found photographs. The only thing we can be sure about with this old photograph is that it comes from the photographic studio of Alfred Joslin of Bank Street, Carlisle. Joslin was active around the time of the First World War, and the clothing of this young lady suggests that she might have been a factory worker. There were a large number of important munition factories in the area around Carlisle in the early part of the twentieth century. So this young lady might have been a munitions worker. You can never be sure with found photos - but you can have a good guess.

The original photograph was taken back in the mid 1980s on a visit to Cleethorpes. It was a monochrome photograph which fitted well into what was a monochrome decade for me. On the original image, there was a large sky that was doing nothing, so last night I added a new sky. I also added a touch of colour, which fits well into a colourful time of my life.

An Edwardian studio portrait bought for a few pence off a market stall. There's a name on the back which is either Daisy Ling or Daisy Linge (it's unclear) along with a date 1903 and an age (15). If it's Daisy Ling, the 1911 census tells us, she went on to become a barmaid at the Boleyn Tavern in the East End of London. If it is Linge with an "e" she went on to become a schoolteacher and emigrated to Canada. Which do you think it is?

Thursday, August 03, 2023

The Wandering Lion Of Stoke

I must have taken this photograph fifty-odd years ago when I was living near Stoke-on-Trent. Even then I couldn’t resist passing a pub without taking a photograph, just in case it wasn't there the next time. In the case of the Red Lion, Stoke, it wasn’t. It had been demolished brick by brick, only to be re-erected a couple of decades later at the Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire.

A Smooth And Symphonic Final Journey

These two cuttings come from a crumbling old copy of the Halifax Courier and Guardian dated the 4th February 1922 which I found in the attic. The big news of the day was not the economic and political crisis that Britain was going through, nor was it the developing Irish Civil War: it was the delivery of a new motor hearse to the Halifax undertakers, Messrs J Marsh & Co. And whilst you take an internal combustion powered trip to the great hereafter, you can enjoy “every word, every inflection, every tone and semi-tone with the exactness of the original performance” by listening to a Cliftophone gramophone available from Robinson & Co in George Square.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Is That You, Uncle Albert?

You’d think in this day and age, when we can transmit pictures of our breakfast to the entire world in nanoseconds and send a drone to look in your neighbours back garden, that it would be possible to determine whether this was a photograph of my great Uncle Albert. If artificial intelligence had more than a smidgen of good old fashioned common sense, surely it would be able to say if that is great Aunt Rose Ellen and little Ivy Miriam sitting with him. Don’t get me wrong, there are programmes that you can acquire, programmes that will measure the key distances between nose mouth and eyes and investigate the average diameter of each left nostril. And what did such programmes tell me? They suggested that the soldier was my Uncle Harry who only ever played a piano keyboard in anger, that the young girl is my granddaughter, Alethea, and - most bizarre of all - that the lady is my grandfather, Albert Beanland. I give up!

Desktop Calendar : 31 July - 2 August 2023


This somewhat bizarre photographs dates back to September 2012 when I was involved in a deep discussion about the contending vales of randomness and organisation on my News From Nowhere blog. It took me quite a time to remember that each line of the poem was based on the title of each of my blog posts that week (they are still on-line I think). The card index box represented the triumph of the organiser. All I can think of now, looking back at it, is to wonder whether I ever filed away the lessons of life at the end of the decade.

It's Yorkshire Day and my calendar image today features a real Yorkshire scene. There are old stone walls, cobbled streets and even a street sign that saves a bob or two by having as few letters as a bad Wordle guess. Best of all, it's a pub - so let's raise a glass to Yorkshire Day.

"By Every Test A Drop Of The Best" : I must admit I like the slogan and if my memory serves me right, I seem to recall that I was rather fond of Whitakers beers. It is, however, an awfully long time ago. What I can't remember is the glass depicted in the advert - it looks a bit posh, even a bit southern, to me. I always associate glasses with handles from my time living down in the South-East. Northerners, I thought, would always sup from a plain glass: no frills, no finery, no handles.

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...