A holiday snap taken just after the close of World War II, probably about 1946. It shows my mother, Gladys Burnett, along with my brother, Roger. I can’t be certain as to which seaside sands are featured in this photograph: it could be Bridlington or it could be New Brighton – both were popular seaside resorts for our family.
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week could be made to measure for the two photos I am going to share. Although I chose the theme image, its connection to two old photographs I took some 52 years ago didn’t occur to me until the other day when I was trawling through my collection of old colour slides looking for an image to post. The theme image comes from the Flickr Commons collection of the Belgian organisation Liberas, which is devoted to preserving and managing the heritage of liberal organisations in that country. The actual image features a canal barge in the Belgian town of Ghent in 1897.
Jump forward 71 years and move north-east by fifty kilometres and you will get to Bruges in the summer of 1968. My photograph features my niece, Diana, two of my friends, Dave Hebblethwaite and Darrel Oldfield, on my brothers barge, Brookfoot, which was moored on a canal in the beautiful city of Bruges. If 1967 was the Summer of Love, then 1968 was the famous Summer of Discontent, People throughout Europe were protesting on the streets and calling for a new solidarity between workers and students, friendship between all European people, and the creation of a new society. Darrel, Dave and myself had left our native West Yorkshire, and, carrying a banner proclaiming that “Workers Unity Wins”, we had started hitchhiking around Europe, seeing the sites, meeting up with other groups of students, and luxuriating in our youthful freedom.
My brother, his wife and daughter, were on a different European mission. They had recently sailed their flat-bottomed Yorkshire barge across the English Channel, and had embarked on a tour of the canal system of Northern Europe. Our paths crossed in Bruges, and we stayed on the barge for a couple of nights. Following the meeting which is preserved in these two old photographs, Darrel, Dave and myself continued our journey around Belgium and Holland and then returned home to go our separate ways to University, and to whatever life had in store for us. My brother and his family continued sailing through the canals of Europe and then swapped canal boats for sailing boats and headed for the Caribbean. We are all still waiting a new society, and – on this day when the UK officially leaves the European Union – I fear that it might be further away than ever.
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.
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.
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows three men posing on a beach in California. My submission is one very young man posing on a beach in Yorkshire. The young man in question is my brother, the artist and sculptor, Roger Burnett. The date must have been sometime I’m the mid to late 1940s, and the place was probably Bridlington on the East Coast. The pose is rather familiar, I have a photograph of my brother and myself taken in February this year where he is striking a similar pose some seventy years on. The beaches he walks these days are in the Caribbean rather than East Yorkshire, but a sandy beach on a warm summers’ day is a fine location, wherever it is situated.
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1910 photograph of a wine merchant’s shop in France. I have to admit, there was a temptation to follow an alcoholic theme, but this is the morning after the night before at the pub, so I will stay clear of all alcoholic references and go to France instead. Rather than go back 100 years, I am going back just over fifty, to the summer of 1962, and a great family adventure when we headed abroad for the first time for a camping holiday in France.
My main photograph shows my parents – Albert and Gladys – trying to cool off in the shade of a palm tree. I still cannot work out why they decided to go to France, it was a most un-Albertish thing to do (my Father would consider a trip to Dewsbury as being akin to a wild adventure). To go to a country where they didn’t speak Yorkshire, to eat foreign food, and – worst of all – to drive on the wrong side of the road, was behaviour which was most out of character.
I was about fourteen at the time and I still remember the trip well. When we eventually arrived in the South of France, my poor father ventured out into the sun and finished up with severe sunburn, and he had to spend the rest of the holiday in the shade. My mother was slightly more careful. limiting herself to the occasional paddle in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
Looking back at these photographs now, and taking into account that fifty years separates the theme image from my photos, and the same period separates my photos from today: what is fascinating is the warping of time. The old French wine merchant’s shop seems like history: a different world, long, long ago. My photos from the south of France seem like only yesterday. Is this to do with Einstein’s theory of light and time – or is it simply that I am getting old?
My photograph features the unmistakable features of Frank Fieldhouse (“Uncle Frank”), and thanks to his obsessive caption-writing, I can tell you that he is pictured in front of the Stratosphere Rocket ride at the Kursaal Amusement Park in Southend in August 1938. The Kursaal (a German word meaning “place of healthy amusement”) is famous for being the first purpose-built amusement park in the world, and from the late nineteenth century until the 1980s it provided a series of attractions for visitors: from ghost trains to motorcycle riders, from roller coasters to rock concerts.
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1959 photograph from the National Library of Ireland, which shows a group of railway workers repairing a line after an accident. Although it is a relatively late photograph (in Sepia Saturday terms), there is something slightly old-fashioned about it. By contrast, my 1938 photograph looks forward to an age when you could flag down a rocket ship and whizz through the stratosphere to Southend.