When you add colour to an old photograph – or rather when some artificial intelligence source sat high in cyberspace adds colour to an old photograph – you tend to notice things more. This is an old photo of my mother and my grandfather which must date from either the 1930s or the 1940s – but which? The addition of colour makes her dress quite distinctive, and potentially more useful in dating the photograph. My wife – who knows about such things – tells me it is 1950s, but that can’t be the case, unless the same artificial intelligence has brought my grandfather back from the dead. Before seeing the colourised version of the photo, I had assumed that it was the early 1930s, but now I am beginning to think that was too early. The logical conclusion is the period around World War 2, but I tend to think of the clothing of that period as somewhat drab and uncolourful. Could the photographer – possibly my father – have captured a moment towards the end of the decade when the colours were about to go out all over Europe?
The boar’s head in hand bear I
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary
And I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio
For 130 years it has looked down on Southgate, Halifax from above where the Boars Head Hotel used to be. I remember it smiling down from above the then Berni Inn: stone features set like well roasted crackling. These days it greets folk coming to mobile phone shops and greeting card emporiums – or it did until the lockdown came. Who knows what it has made of the quiet streets and the masked pedestrians, but next week it can begin to welcome people back to shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Slowly at first, just a few, outside and fully masked: but before too long, as many as are in the feast.
We took a walk down by Elland Bridge yesterday and saw the strangest thing. The old Halifax Zoo used to be just up the hill from here, and stories abound of escaped animals wandering through Elland Woods. We all know of the famous meandering bear …. but a dinosaur!!
Well, there you go – doesn’t three months go quickly when you have nothing better to do than produce your own daily calendar. When I started the project, I thought it might last a week or two – a month at the most, but now I am surrounded by calendar pages, and I have posted one to my blog every day since the beginning of the year. But now the sky is blue, the lockdown is easing and life pops its head around the corner to remind you its there. I will keep on producing the daily calendars, for the next week or two at least, but I will abandon the daily posts and get a life.
My room is packed from floor to ceiling with boxes full of old photos, old newspapers, old writings and old memories. Occasionally I randomly dip into a box and scan what emerges. Today it is a copy of the New Penny Magazine from – as far as I can make out – about 1898. It contains an article entitled “Little Housewives” which could form the basis of a PhD thesis on gender stereotyping at the turn of the twentieth century. Here is but a short extract:-
LITTLE HOUSEWIVES : A Visit To A Housewifery Centre. The frying-pan rules the world, or rather those who wield that powerful weapon do so; or to put it in a more matter-of-fact way, the happiness of man depends in great part upon the skill or otherwise of those who manage the household; or to come really to the point, a good housewife is a boon and a blessing to the man who is lucky enough to win her for his mate.
Bearing this weighty fact in mind, I turned my steps one afternoon towards Walworth, S.E. or, to be precise, I went down there by train, and found myself first in Beresford Street, then in a school-yard, full of merry maidens of immature age, who looked on me, I have no doubt, as a strange thing strayed from another world, for what business had a man there? Before me stood a small house, at whose door I timidly knocked, I entered to find myself in a neat kitchen, on the left I saw an equally neat scullery, on the right a cool-looking tidy sitting room. I was in the “housewifery centre”, which I had come to see, where I had heard that girls were initiated into the mysteries of house-keeping.
COOKERY AND DOMESTIC ECONOMYLESSON IX : Theory – (a) Eggs; their chief constituents. (b) How to test and preserve them. Demonstration – Poaching an egg. Custard pudding. Boiled batter pudding. Class Practice – In above and boiling an egg. Principle Taught – Dietary value of eggs, various methods of using and cooking them.
DOMESTIC ECONOMY AND LAUNRY WORKLESSON IV : Theory – The process of washing, rinsing and blueing clothes. Blue and whence obtained. Demonstration – Washing “fine things”, rinsing and blueing.
It will form a suitable calendar photo for today, and perhaps remind me, not only how to boil an egg, but of the importance of social change.
I have always had a fondness for old photographs, and I am lucky to have lived long enough for my new photos to have become, themselves, examples of the genre. The emergence of Facebook local history groups has changed the nature of pictorial history, moving it from the arena of relatively obscure printed books and pamphlets into a far more public realm. As with all changes, there are good and bad consequences, the enumeration of which is best reserved for a quiet night over a pint or two in a local pub. Two definite advantages, however, are the increase in the number of old photographs of local interest being published and shared, and the improvements in tracking down forgotten locations. My featured photograph today was taken over fifty years ago. From the adjacent shots on the negative strip, I know I must have taken it somewhere in the Brighouse area, but where? I will post it today on a couple of the local Brighouse history groups and, no doubt, by the end of the day I will have a precise location, the name of the chap crossing the road, and the ownership of the washing hanging on the line.
The Theakston family have a long tradition of brewing in the North Yorkshire town of Masham, the original brewery having been founded getting on for two hundred years ago. I have a long tradition of taking photographs of pubs and breweries, these photographs of the Masham brewery and the nearby White Bear Hotel, were taken getting on for fifty years ago. You can’t beat tradition.
This image of Queensbury, a village high on the hills between Bradford and Halifax, was the result of a whisky-fuelled Photoshop accident. Somehow, it has captured the very essence of the place. Based on the evidence of the well-drained bottle on my desk this morning, the whisky concerned was Cardhu Gold Reserve. I would like to compliment it on its artistic powers.
In the midst of busy family photographs, you sometimes find a special moment: a look, a touch, a smile that can scream down the generations and remind you that the great thing about common humanity is that it is common to all.
This photograph was taken shortly after my brother, Roger, was born in 1943. He was the first of a new generation in the family and his arrival provided an opportunity for all the grandparents and uncles and aunts to gather together. I won’t name them all, they are of limited interest to those outside the family,
Focus, however on the lady with her arm in a sling – it is my grandmother, Harriet-Ellen Burnett. And focus, in particular, on that look – a look almost dangerously overloaded with pride and hope. I know the look well – I saw my grandchildren this morning.