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.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Picturesque Halifax


This picture postcard dates from 1918 and is entitled "Picturesque Halifax" although I am not convinced the five photographs live up to that billing. Maybe it is the sepia patina, maybe it is changing perceptions of what is "picturesque", I find it difficult, however, to get excited by Cote Hill or Ogden Reservoir. To celebrate Yorkshire Day, I have tried to update the card to feature my five illustrations of picturesque Halifax. Here is the final version, along with the five individual views.

Way Back When


This was taken way back when - when industry still clung to the hillsides of Halifax, when machine tools, along with carpets and toffees provided employment for the town, when the hillsides were treeless, and when washing was optimistically hung out to dry in the smokey breeze.

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...