Before digital time stamps were invented, you had to rely on more indirect means to date photographs. Thanks to a newspaper headline about the launch of the Serious Fraud Office, I can confidently say that this photograph of me was taken in April 1988. I seem rather relaxed, sat in one of my parent’s over-floral chairs, pipe in mouth, FT in hand, and, no doubt, my mother busy making me a mug of tea in the kitchen. This was eighteen months before the birth of Alexander: my hair has yet to turn grey and the biggest problem seems to be the state of the British economy. I was forty years old, living in Sheffield, working in Doncaster. Although my hearing had started to decline, I could still manage with a hearing aid (it will have been in my, hidden, right ear). The photograph was taken in Oaklands Avenue, Northowram – the house I grew up in. At some stage, I had captioned this image: “AB with FT” – it seems quite appropriate.
Category Archives: Family Photographs
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!
Once you become addicted to colourising your old family photographs it is difficult to know when to stop. Here are a selection of my old family photographs that have been through the colourising machine this week.
One of my favourite photographs of the Liverpool Usher sisters. The one on the right is my late mother-in-law, Edith; as for the rest, perm any three from five – Winnie, Ruth, Ada, Rhoda, or Mary. The photograph dates from the mid to late 1930s.
My Uncle John (Burnett) and his second wife, Doris. This is a fairly standard “seaside snap” and will have probably been taken at one of the Yorkshire seaside towns (possibly Bridlington, more likely, Scarborough). The date will be the early 1950s.
My grandmother, Harriet Ellen Burnett, standing at the door of her house at 11, Arctic Parade, Great Horton, Bradford. This photograph must have been taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s, when she would have been in her late 60s. I can just about remember her, when she was in her 80s – a little old lady sat in the corner of the room.
These days, cars can drive themselves down motorways, computers can land aeroplanes, and algorithms can determine future accademic success…. and nifty little smartphone apps can add colour to your dead grandmothers’ face. The technology is there, but should we use it just because it is available? I must confess, I can’t decide: in some ways it is nice to see my grandmother Kate Beanland with a bit of colour in her cheeks, but maybe by adding colour we subtract history.
You know what it’s like. It’s late. You’ve been scanning some old family photographs. You’re tired, but not quite ready for bed just yet. And anyway, there are a still a couple of millimetres of that 10 year old Laphroaig left in the glass. It would be a shame to rush it. It’s important to have some alcohol gel on the inside, as well as the outside, in these difficult times. So you start messing. There is that photo of your mother, father and brother in all its sepia dullness. Why don’t we give my mother a nice coloured coat? And wouldn’t my father look good in a red check shirt? And as for little Roger, bless him, why not a yellow raincoat?
In the cold light of the following morning, you know that the original is more authentic, you know that some of the colours look a bit silly. But, what the hell! It’s about time that someone put some colour into the family tree. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for my brother to email me to point out that the coat was green, not yellow!
The last two frames of the strip of negatives from the winter of 1964/65 reveal how I can be so sure of both the date and the place. They show the destination of my walk, which was to my brothers’ new house in East Street, Lightcliffe. I may be neither a rock, nor an island (thank you Paul and Art for accompanying me in my walk), but at least at the end of my walk I can have the pleasure of watching Roger dig up rocks from his back yard.
I can remember the project well: he was clearing the yard to make room for the boat he was about to build there. By the Spring of 1965, the boat was well on the way to completion, and later that year it was starting its journey around the canals of northern Britain.
It was replaced by further boats, each of increasing size and complexity, and they would eventually take my brother and his family to the other side of the world. He will probably be reading this post from his island home in the West Indies: with memories of all those years ago …. and trying hard to remember what on earth snow is.
The entrance to the Grand Pier at Weston-Super-Mare in England. The photo dates from the mid 1930s, and the couple standing in front of the “Mirth” sign are my Uncle and Aunt, Frank and Miriam Fieldhouse. The miserable chap who is the embodiment of anything but “Enjoyment” is, happily, unknown. From the posters on display, it appears that Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking car “Bluebird” was being exhibited on the pier at the time. There may be a distinct lack of mirth and enjoyment, but this little sepia print is certainly full of life.
Uncle Harry was the nearest you could get to a celebrity in our family. For a time in the early 1930s he “trod the boards“, being part of a concert party that did the rounds of the seaside pier halls of Britain. He was never top of the bill, his job was to provide piano accompaniment to true stars like Miss Dorothy Woodhill, “the charming soprano” and Will Kimber, “the well-known Yorkshire baritone“. His name just about lives on in the form of a brief review of the Silhouettes Concert Party in the Bognar Regis Observer of the 17th June 1931. You can find it on page 4, just next to the advert for grey flannel trousers at 14/11 a pair.
He was not understood in working class Bradford in the late 1920s and early 1930s for either his desire to become an entertainer, or, I suspect, for his sexuality. After a couple of years touring the minor concert halls of Britain, he was constrained into a job as a clerk in a coal merchant’s office, and marriage to my father’s sister, Annie-Elizabeth. If J.B. Priestley had been writing their story it would have no doubt finished with a jolly sing-song around a piano; but, in reality, it was more like an Alan Bennet Talking Heads monologue. Bennet would have made much play of that advert for grey flannel trousers, and Miss Dorothy Woodhall, the charming soprano.
My weekly instalment of a photograph from each year of my life is an appropriate one as, on Fathers’ Day, it features my father, Albert, and me. It is doubly appropriate because his birthday would have been next week – he was born on the 25th June 1911. Happy Birthday, Happy Fathers’ Day.