It would have been my fathers’ birthday today – he would have been 107 years old! This photograph must have been taken in the late 1920s in Bradford, Yorkshire when, as a teenager, he would have been looking forward to what life would bring him. It brought him a long and happy life and a family that remembers him still. Happy birthday Albert.
This photograph of Amy and Wilf Sykes must have been taken in the mid 1930s. Amy Beanland was born in August 1904 in Keighley, Yorkshire, the eldest daughter of Albert and Kate Beanland (my mother Gladys was Amy’s younger sister). Wilf was born in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, the son of a local policeman. His family later moved to Bradford and Wilf trained to become a wool-sorter and easily found work in what was then the wool capital of the world. Amy, the daughter of a mill mechanic, also worked in the mill and met and – in 1929 – married Wilf and settled down to a settled life in a Bradford suburb.
In 1939 (according to the 1939 Register) they were living at 1, Yarwood Grove in Great Horton, Bradford in a smart new semi. It was a house I was familiar with as we would often visit it for family parties when I was a young boy. The settled nature of their future came apart in 1963 when Wilf – still in his 50s – died. It would be easy to imagine that Amy would settle into the life of a lonely widow, but she would have none of it – she was to marry twice more before eventually passing away aged 98 in 2001.
In tracing the long and romantically active life of Amy through the various public records, what I was really surprised to discover was how that 1939 Register was continuously updated, decades after it had been first introduced to organise wartime ration-books and conscription. Careful handwritten amendments have been added to the original records to update her details following her marriage to Leslie Hanby in 1969 and Joseph Barker in 1974.
I have always found old photographs to be the best stimulus for rekindling memories. This is a photograph of my grandfather, Albert Beanland (1875-1948) which must have been taken in the 1930s or 1940s when he was living along with his wife, Catherine, in Bradford. Albert died in the same year I was born, so I never got to know him – but that smile, those features, that solid Yorkshire stance is very familiar to me.
Whilst reviewing the various on-line records about Albert, I took a look at his entry in the 1939 Register – the special register which was taken just before the outbreak of World War II. By then he was 64 years old and of little interest as far as military conscription was concerned, but he was still working as a textile mechanic and living at 12, Lawrence Street, Princeville, Bradford.
I was vaguely aware that my mother grew up in the Princeville area of Bradford, and this meant that my grandfather had probably spent the last thirty or so years of his life in the same house in Lawrence Street – and that was probably the house that can be seen in the photograph above.
I managed to find Lawrence Street on an old OS map of Bradford which dates from about the time he moved there from his home town of Keighley. And it was then, that I started to realise that maps can be just as good a stimulus to memories as old photographs. To the best of my knowledge, I have never been to Princeville, but looking at the old map was like a conducted tour of names and places that were handed down to me by generations long gone. Horton Dye Works, Legrams Mill, Bradford Beck, Lidget Green : all are names that resonate. My mother spoke this language as did that generation of my Bradford family. It’s the language of the mill and the stone terraced house.
This photograph was taken on the occasion of the retirement of Abraham Moore, which – according to the date stamped on the back of the print – was in January 1947. Abraham was the father of my uncle, Harry Moore, and it would appear that he was 73 years old when he retired. All I can assume is that Abraham was happy to continue working after the normal retirement age during the course of the war.
The question arises, of course: what was he retiring from? The only information I have is from the various census returns which are all thirty years before this retirement photograph was taken, but throughout his life he seems to have worked as a “piece taker-in”. He lived in Bradford and therefore this job title must have been connected to cloth pieces in the textile industry, but I have not been able to discover exactly what the job entailed. Every time I do a Google search for the term, I finish up with endless lists of the best set piece takers in football. And somehow, I just can’t envisage Abraham as some kind of Wayne Rooney of the 1920s.
ALBERT BURNETT (1916/17)
This is a scan of a tiny old photograph (only 3cm wide) of my father, Albert Burnett. At a guess I would say that he was about five or six years old when this photograph was taken which would make it either 1916 or 1917. The clothes are more than a century old, but that smile has travelled down the generations.
This photograph of my uncle, John Arthur Burnett (left), must have been taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. By that time, John had served in the Great War in France, been taken prisoner by the Germans, been married and divorced. The vehicle looks like it might have belonged to a coal merchant. Such coal wagons were regular features along Yorkshire streets in the first half of the twentieth century, delivering the coal that kept the home fires burning.