Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Saturday, 15 August 2015

To Dorothy, with love from Maude

The message was inscribed on this photograph. Also written on the back is “16th August 1915”, tomorrow’s date, exactly one hundred years ago. 



The photo is tiny and cut from a postcard, which probably had several more of the same image to give to friends and family as mementos. It’s my Great-aunt Maud, who would have been almost twenty-two when this official studio portrait was taken, and working as a Lace Hand. Two years later, In 1917, the Labour Corps Offices opened in Nottingham and Maud became one of 1,400 clerks dealing with army records. I told this part of Maud’s story in Another Day at The Office.

I can just make out the words, written on the back, very faintly in pencil, and this time she had added the final ‘e’. We have both ‘Maud’ and ‘Maude’ on various documents in the family. The 16th August 1915 was a Monday, so it was probably exchanged with her friend when she arrived for work that morning. How it came back into our possession we can only guess. There is no Dorothy in the family.

This is the only photograph we have of Maud at this age and I like to think she would also have given a copy to each of her brothers. Maud was the only girl of three children born to my great grandfather, William, and his wife Mary, and she was just nine years old when their mother died, leaving Maud, Sydney, my grandfather, who was four, and their brother, Albert, aged seven. They were brought up by their father and his sister, their beloved Aunt Lizzie, until their father re-married in 1912.

Great-uncle Albert 
The boys had both joined the army at the beginning of the War when my grandfather was only sixteen, and Albert just a couple of years older. Maud must have been very worried about them. Great-uncle Albert joined the South Notts Hussars and later the Royal Flying Corps and his story was told in The Two Alberts Memorial.

Sydney, my grandfather, had joined the Robin Hoods Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and earlier that year they had transferred to Luton, and then Dunstable, for further training.  In August of 1915, my grandfather and his pals undertook a two-day march to Watford and the final preparation with 178 Brigade for front line duties. In fact his first experience of fighting did not come until a few months later, just after his eighteenth birthday, when in 1916 the battalion was dispatched to Dublin to suppress the Easter Rebellion.


The photographs below, which have recently come into my possession, show Syd, probably in his new uniform, issued in August 1915, just a few months past his 17th birthday, when he thought he was off to the Front Line. He looks so young, and very different from his portrait at the end of the War, after his experiences in Dublin and France. 

























The Robin Hoods were still in Dunstable the weekend before Maud signed her photo, and the Nottingham Evening Post for Saturday 14th August shows a picture on its front page of  “The Men Who Help to Feed the Robin Hoods - a photograph of the men who do the work of cooks for our men in Dunstable”.

The newspaper clippings can be viewed in my Flickr Album

So, now that I have a few facts, photos and newspaper clippings, I can let my imagination have free rein. It’s exactly one hundred years ago, and my Great-grandfather was going home from his job as a lathe turner that Saturday, with a copy of the Evening Post, and pointing out to his wife Gertie, and to Maud, the picture of the Dunstable cooks. Perhaps there were a few words about Syd at least being well-fed. He would certainly have been very much in their thoughts. They probably wondered how Albert was getting on as well - wherever he was.

Also in that edition of the Evening Post was a notice about the first National Register, due to take place next day. Unlike the census this was the responsibility of every member of the household between the ages of 15 and 65 years to complete individually. Gertie and Maud would have had white forms and William a blue form. Perhaps those forms were sitting next to the clock on the mantelpiece, as a reminder of the job to be done next day. I wonder if Maud filled hers in before church in the morning, or before Sunday School, where she taught in the afternoon, or when she came home on her one ‘day of rest’. William would take the dog for his weekly bath in the River Trent in the morning and then have a pint in the local pub, whilst Gertie got the Sunday dinner ready. Perhaps they all sat round the dining table after dinner and filled the forms in together.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom; in those days Nottingham had several cinemas and then, as now, was famous for its theatres. Perhaps Maude and Dorothy went that Saturday, with other work friends, to the Royal Hippodrome to see, ‘A Daylight Robbery’ or to the Empire, where for as little as 3d they could watch a variety show. A Charlie Chaplin film was showing at the Picture Palace, Goldsmith Street, with five performances that Saturday. Nearer to home, at the Pavilion Gardens,Trent Bridge, the Pastoral Players were giving their last two performances.The Tea Balcony was open from 4.30 to 7 which may have made that the more appealing option. Perhaps William, Gertie and Maud went there together as a reward for working hard all week, to lift their spirits and to take their minds off the boys for a while.

On their return Maude may have written to her brothers and enclosed one of the small photos she had collected that day, probably from Gales on Clumber Street. My Great-grandfather, who loved to read, would have been quite happy with his pipe and a good book, after he’d finished the crossword in the Evening Post. He may have taken the dog for a last stroll. Tomorrow was another day and there were those forms to fill in. My grandfather would have wound up the Mantel clock and checked it against his pocket watch before retiring. 

Good Night everyone.

For more imaginative tales and sepia photographs, join us at Sepia Saturday.


22 comments:

  1. Your first image, if it's a strip cut from a postcard, is almost certainly a type of coupon print, which I wrote about a few months ago:
    http://photo-sleuth.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/sepia-saturday-284-panel-prints-and.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There you go. I knew you’d know. I see I commented on your post that I had an example or two and you said you’d like to see accurately dated ones. I think I can safely say that this is the date!

      Delete
  2. A lovely photograph of your great aunt Maud/Maude that she was no doubt happy to give away to friends and family, but did Dorothy give it back to her, so that you now have it? A great word picture of what may have taken place that day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jo. Dorothy returning the picture is a possibility, or perhaps she never got chance to give it to her, because Dorothy a) had moved to another department b) was sick c) had died. There goes my imagination again.

      Delete
  3. I'm still amazed that you know so much, I know nearly nothing about my great-grandparents. And I'm curious whether it is Maud or Maude. And that chair is huge, it takes the attention away from Maud(e) and her (to me) rather peculiar dress. Still a great photo, she looks very determined.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s Maud, but when I see her birth certificate I’ll know for sure. The dress was probably her ‘Sunday best’ worn with a blouse under, and I bet that’s a Nottinghm Lace collar, as she worked in the industry and Nottingham is famed for its lace.

      Delete
    2. I didn't know that, Nottingham was once the centre of the world's lace industry, impressive.

      Delete
  4. You've written a terrific story to go along with your photos. I like how you've imagined daily life with a photo that includes a specific date. Like Rob, I noticed the photographer's studio prop too. It is what I would call a bishop's chair, suitable for any size person and it adds more dimension to the flat backdrop. Maud wears what looks like a small medal next to her locket. I wonder if it has a connection to the war effort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Mike - taken a leaf out of your book! AT the time of the photo she was still in the Lace industry. I think it’s more than likely something to do with the church. Perhaps the locket had pictures of her two brothers.

      Delete
  5. Your imagined tale of life that day seems very probable and not so unlike life these days what with the worry of terrorists and small countries constantly at war with each other. Some things never seem to change & what's worse, probably never will. But there is still much to be glad for and enjoy in this world so most of us try to look on the bright side of things as much and as often as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have never seen a coupon print postcard. I wonder whether they had them in the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wonderful research based on this photo. Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Bravo on all the excellent research, and your thoughts of the day. Your great aunt Maud was pretty and her dress, is a beautiful design.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And just look at that chair!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Strange, but I never noticed the size of the chair as my eyes were on Maud.

      Delete
  10. What a wonderful way to make your relatives come alive. I've been stringing together the facts of my father's WW1 service and I'm going to follow your lead and try to make a story out of them. My nieces and nephews would be far more likely to read it in that form. Imitation, they say, is the highest form of compliment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you’ll enjoy it Helen. Mike Brubaker is a past master at this too.

      Delete
  11. And of course you can;t read about a Maude without starting to sing "Come into the garden, Maude..." A most interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A well-researched and informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You have taken us all to a certain time and place. Excellent! I envy the good fortune to stumble upon a specific date at the right time for a post -- I usually spy a date too late or too early to remember to use it later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s a rare piece of good fortune Wendy. I couldn’t believe my next piece of luck, being able to pinpoint my grandfather’s movements, and then, finally that newspaper picture!

      Delete
  14. What I thought when I read the headline was, "I wonder when the names Dorothy and Maud" will come back into fashion" I think it's usually about 100 years isn't it? Although "Agnes" hasn't really made it yet.

    ReplyDelete