The delightful thing about Sepia Saturday prompts is that they spark visual links that defy language. I cannot really explain in words why this weeks prompt image sent me off in search of a particular photograph of my mother, Gladys Burnett, but it did. It may be something about the shape of the lips, quite possibly it is the chin: but with images, explanations are unnecessary. Quite literally, you can see what I mean.
In fact, it is not a photograph in its own right but a detail from a larger photograph that features Gladys Beanland (as she then was) and her older sister Amy. Gladys was born in 1911 and I suspect that she was about eight or nine when this photograph was taken, which dates it as about 1919 or 1920.
Can I see my mother – the Gladys of some thirty years later – in this photograph? It’s difficult to say. It’s not the face, certainly it isn’t the hair. But there may be something about the shape of the lips and the chin. I can see what I mean.
These two photographs are central to the story of my family because they feature my paternal grandfather, Enoch Burnett. Enoch died a few months after I was born in 1948, and therefore I never knew him, other than by the store of stories and anecdotes that have flowed down the family tree like some rich and thick syrup.
Born in Bradford in 1878, Enoch was the third of five children of John Burnett, a weaving overlooker in the Bradford woollen mills, and his wife Phoebe. Whilst the daughters, Ruth-Annie and Miriam, followed their father into the mills, the three sons seem to have had a different life journey planned for them. Israel, the eldest son, became an apprentice butcher and later owned a butchers shop in Bradford. The youngest son, Albert, became a carriage builder and involved in the early years of the motor trade. Enoch seemed to take a different path, one less planned, one less certain. The family story suggests that when he was in his early teens he ran away from home and joined a travelling fair. By the latter half of 1898, we know he is back in Bradford and working as a general labourer, and about to marry the local girl he has got pregnant, Harriet Ellen Maxfield. His first child, John Arthur, was born six months later.
According to the 1901 census he was recorded as a “mason’s labourer”, but with a growing family – his daughters Miriam and Annie-Elizabeth were born in 1901 and 1903 – he decided to branch out into business on his own account as a window cleaning contractor. For this he had a donkey and cart, and I am delighted that I have not one, but two, photographs from this period in his life where he poses proudly next to his donkey.
I think the first of the two photographs is the earlier one, and whilst the donkey is probably the same, the cart is more basic and without the extra bit of sign writing that provides an address – 50 Town End Great Horton, Bradford. According to the 1911 census he was then living at 28 Town End, so this first photograph probably dates from some time between 1906 (when the sign on the later cart claims the business was established) and 1917, when we know for certain that he had moved to 50 Town End.
The additional sign writing on the cart in the second photograph was probably added at the time he changed his address, and therefore this second photograph probably dates from just before or during the first part of the Great War. I have pictures of him taken in 1918 when he was on leave from the trenches of Flanders, and by then he had physically aged. These two photographs represent a golden period in Enoch’s life, when he ran his own business and tried to keep the local windows free from the soot and grime of industrial Bradford.
This is a photograph of a young girl carrying a basket. It is my attempt to match this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt image – which is a photograph of a young girl carrying a basket. The prompt photograph dates from the early years of the twentieth century, and my little photograph is of a similar vintage. We know that the prompt image was taken somewhere in Mexico, and with a similar degree of certainty, we know my photograph was taken in Yorkshire.
I am not sure exactly who the girl in my photograph is, but if it was possible to extract DNA from a photograph, I would think there is a good chance you could match it with mine. It is a tiny photograph – about one inch square – that was stuck in the back of the postcard album kept by my mother’s uncle, Fowler Beanland. It might be my mother or her sister Amy, or it might be an earlier generation of Beanland girls. When I ask my Lightroom facial recognition for suggestions, it suggests my niece, which is obviously inaccurate in terms of date, but accurate in terms of DNA.
Whoever it turns out to be, it is a charming little photo and a rather good Sepia Saturday match.
This tiny photograph was pasted onto the back page of the postcard album of my mother’s uncle, Fowler Beanland. It was only when the print was scanned and cleaned up that I begun to fully appreciate it for the charming portrait that it was: a picture of a little girl with an awfully big hat. Given that it had pride of place in Fowler’s album, the chances were that it was a family member – but which one? Fowler never married and had no children of his own, but there were a good many nieces who could potentially fit the bill. I have never been very good with faces, but even to me there seemed something vaguely familiar about that slightly quizzical look.
Luckily, these days, most photographic programmes come with some form of facial recognition software, and therefore I was able to submit the girl with the awfully big hat to Adobe Lightroom for a considered judgement, and Lightroom quickly came up with a very definite suggestion. The young girl is Amy Beanland, my mother’s sister, and favourite niece of Fowler Beanland.
Amy was very much a woman of the twentieth century. She was born in Keighley in 1904 – which means this photograph must have been taken in about 1909 – and eventually died in 2001 in Scarborough. Between these two dates she managed three husbands and a lifetime of experience. The girl with an awfully big hat had an awfully full life.
It is my birthday today, so it is a perfect excuse for a birthday selfie. This photograph – and no, it is not a selfie – must have been taken almost sixty years ago, and I am pictured on the brow of the appropriately named Lunevale, which was the ferry that ran from Fleetwood to Knott End. it was all a very long time ago.
This rather chubby baby was the first photograph in one of my parent’s photograph albums. Theoretically it should be either me or my brother, but it looks nothing like Roger, and I have never been that fat. I tried facial recognition: Lightroom suggested it was my son, whilst Google suggested that it was Princess Alix of Hesse, the wife of Tsar Nicholas II (both suggestions highlight the limitations of facial recognition technology). I asked my wife who it might be: she simply smiled and said “I would recognise your fat little tummy anywhere!“.
This picture of my brother, Roger, and myself was taken in Maidstone Market in September 1969. I was about to go off to university and my brother was about to go off sailing around the canals of Europe. He funded his excursion by selling his drawings and paintings – he also had a side-line in sea urchin shells. I funded mine with a student grant! Those, indeed, were the days.