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."

Friday, 30 November 2012

Late Edition

This week's Sepia Saturday photo prompt has a bridge at its centre. There are people rowing under it and others standing upon it. I'm not following a theme for this week's Sepia Saturday submission. Instead, I want to take the opportunity to honour the memory of one of its stars. My Dad, who provided so many stories for my blog, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. Although I'm sad that he is no longer in my life, I have a store of wonderful memories, some of which I have still to share with you. He had his 91st birthday in July and two days later he and Mum celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary; both of these were remarkable achievements by anybody's standards. Mum will miss him of course, but she knows that he is now at peace and this brings her some contentment. They worshipped at our local church for over fifty years and shared a strong belief that they would one day be together again.

Those who have got to know Dad through my blog will remember him as the engaging teenager in Boy on a Bicycle, in his Boys' Brigade uniform in Something For The Boys, the window-breaking footballer in Let's Play a Game, Mum's tennis partner in Love All, her eager suitor in The Reel Thing, a swimwear model in Not Burt and Deborah, an incurable romantic in Not Rhett and Scarlett, the football fan in Goalpost, the proud forage cap wearer in Side Orders and more. Listing them all here reminds me of the many facets of Dad's character, and that's without mentioning that he was a talented amateur artist, he had beautiful 'copperplate' handwriting and was a wonderful ballroom dancer. He was a hard-working breadwinner for his family, and in retirement he gave time to supporting charities, even standing on street corners in his eighties collecting for 'Leukemia Research' whilst the winter winds whistled around him. He had his faults of course; he could be grumpy, at times even belligerent, he was quite fearful of some things and occasionally too trusting of the wrong people and he could be terribly stubborn. He had a habit of saying 'the wrong thing' occasionally and sometimes upset people without meaning to.

Dad was many things to many people, loved by his family and a good and loyal friend, but to me he was simply My Dad. One of my earliest memories is of him sitting on my bed stroking my brow until my eyelids grew heavy, whilst he made up stories of 'Freddie and Flossie Frog'; I was still eagerly listening to his stories until just a few months ago. I would call him and Mum and tell them what I was writing about for that week's Sepia Saturday post and ask them for their memories.

When Dad had his 90th birthday last year I made a special book for him to celebrate his life, and in it was a poem I wrote using old photographs of us together as prompts. Very appropriate for Sepia Saturday. I hope you'll indulge me whilst I share those pages with you now.

©Marilyn Brindley

For more stories and pictures from the past cross the bridge into Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors have made of the interesting photo prompt.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Eyes of Margaret

"When morning comes to me
I see the eyes of Margaret"
The Rankin Family 

Our photo prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday is two little girls from Texas, with very sad-looking faces. A frantic thumbing of my family album turned up this picture of a little girl with one of the saddest expressions I have ever seen. I find her eyes quite haunting and her little downturned mouth really pulls at the heartstrings. Who is she and why is she so sad? I've had this picture for a few years, and, until today, it was the only photograph my husband possessed of his maternal grandfather George. The little girl was called Margaret and we can only assume she was his sister. George was born in 1886 in Aston-under-Lyne, Lancashire. He looks about seven or eight in the picture so I am placing it around 1893-4. Margaret looks about four years old. My husband called his older brother in North Wales yesterday, explaining that I was in need of some facts, and lo and behold several 'new' photographs and documents landed in our inbox! We now know a wee bit more about George, but Margaret remains a mystery.

Another photograph of George and Margaret also came to light. Here she doesn't look quite so terrified of the photographer, in fact she is adopting a rather relaxed pose. George seems to be about thirteen or fourteen and Margaret about ten years of age. They are dressed in their 'Sunday Best'; just look at George's bowler hat! In later years he seems to have favoured the 'flat cap' but still cut a dashing figure.

George grew up to be a rather good-looking young man who, according to his 1915 National Registration card became the Company Secretary of Cotton Spinning Mill 38. Lancashire was the centre of the cotton industry at that time. He was also a keen golfer, cricketer and bowls player. Among the photographs sent by my brother-in-law, are pictures of George with his fellow members of the Werneth Low Golf Club and here (front row, bottom right) at the Ashton Cricket Ground Gala Day on 4th August 1923.

The picture below is titled 'First Visit of the In-Laws 1933' so was presumably taken by my husband's father shortly after his marriage to Mary. It shows George with his first wife, my husband's grandmother, Alice. Sadly Alice died only five years after this picture was taken. We do know that George married again later in life. My husband's memories of his grandfather are very hazy as he was very young when George died in 1958.

We still know no more about Margaret, but there is one further picture of her in February 1918.

Once again we have that sad, faraway look. She was a fine-looking woman with a slight dimple in her chin and those luminous eyes, but we know nothing else about her. All the people we could have asked have long since passed away. We hope to rectify this in the future by delving into census returns, but in the meantime she must be our mystery woman.

The song, 'The Eyes of Margaret' can be found on You Tube here.

For more faces showing a range of emotions visit this week's Sepia Saturday and find what others have made of the prompt below.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Unknown Soldier

As this Sunday is Remembrance Sunday I wanted to complete my tributes to my great uncles who died in WW1. I wrote about the eldest, Edward, in The Last Hundred Days and the middle one, George, in Dulce Et Decorum Est. Now it's the turn of Arthur, the youngest of the three but the first to lose his life in April 1916 at the age of twenty-one. Tragically, George was to die only five months later on the Somme in September of that year, two days after his twenty-third birthday. The family's relief that Edward had survived the war was shortlived, as he succumbed to pneumonia following Spanish Influenza, whilst still in France, in February 1919. The only boy left was little Charlie. In between were my Gran, Edith, the eldest girl, and four other older sisters; Ethel, Ellen, Mary and Mildred. Louisa, the baby of the family, was born in 1914. As you can imagine it really was a case of 'Charlie is my Darling' for the one remaining boy.When my grandparents produced Billy, the first grandchild, just four months after Edward's death, there would have been much family rejoicing.

I've called Arthur the unknown soldier, simply because the family knows so very little about him. In my previous posts I described how my Gran would talk about her beloved older brothers, but as I was a child myself I didn't retain any information about them as individuals. If you read the other two posts you'll recall that many years ago, whilst stationed with the RAF in Germany, we visited the WW1 battlefields. At that time I tried to find out as much as I could without the benefit of modern sources available on the internet. All my enquiries were made the old-fashioned way, writing many letters and waiting patiently for replies. Arthur remains something of a mystery as we have so far not been able to add much more to what I gleaned then. He is listed in the 1911 census but there is no other information. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, writing to me in March 1984, confirmed that:

 "Private Arthur Brandon, 17373, 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, died on 19th April 1916. After the war his grave was among those The Army Graves Service were unable to trace and he is therefore commemorated, by name, on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.The names of the men of the Bedfordshire Regiment are carved on Panels 31 and 33. We also have the additional information that he was born, enlisted. whilst living at the time in Watford, Hertfordshire."

The Imperial War Museum in London wrote to confirm that Arthur's name was in the offical publication: 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and kindly photocopied a few pages for me of a brief unpublished typescript, the War Diary of 8th (Service) Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, 21st August 1915-16th February 1918, outlining operations on which the battalion was involved.

"As you see the diary reports no soldiers killed in action on 19 April, and it should be noted that inaccuries or delays in reporting men killed or missing were not uncommon. 8 Battalion was serving with 16 Brigade, 6 Division at the time of Brandon's death."

The Imperial War Museum told me that 8 Division was serving with 16 Brigade, 6 Division at the time of Arthur's death and recommended 'A Short History of the 6th Division' by T.O.Marden (1920). I was unable to obtain this in 1984, but now, thanks to the wonderful Project Gutenberg, I found it immediately. In his preface Marden stated that the reason for the book's publication was all who served with the Division would have a record to show that they belonged to a Division which played no inconspicuous part in the Great War. Every copy sold was to help provide battlefield memorials in France and Flanders. Here is the passage which adds a little more detail to war diaries above.

"....operations near Turco Farm and Morteldje Estaminet on 19th-22nd April 1916. Certain trenches, D20 and 21 and Willow Walk, were much overlooked by High  Command Redoubt, some 150 yards away. The Germans throughout the 19th April heavily bombarded these trenches, and succeeded in seizing them at night. One company 8th Bedfords and two companies Y. and L*. delivered a counter-attack in the early hours of 20th April, but could not retake the position. The Brigadier-General therefore decided to bombard them steadily throughout the 21st, and recapture them on the night 21st/22nd April with three companies of the K.S.L.I., then in Brigade Reserve. This was brilliantly accomplished in spite of the very heavy going, and the line firmly re-established, but with the loss of Lt.-Col. Luard, commanding K.S.L.I.,** who died of wounds. It was found that the enemy had dug good new trenches in several places, and equipped them with steel loop-hole plates, and these were occupied thankfully by our men. The general state of the trenches, commanded as they were by the enemy's positions, in the water-logged Ypres Salient during the winter of 1915-1916 defies description, and all praise must be given to the regimental officers and men for their hard work and cheerfulness under most depressing conditions.

*  York and Lancaster
** The King's Shropshire Light Infantry

Was Arthur the one OR (Other Rank) killed on the 18th or was he one of the two wounded on the 19th and subsequently died of his wounds. Perhaps he was one of the 32 who died in the early hours of the 20th or of the 97 'missing, believed killed' which usually meant they were blown to pieces and there were no identifiable mortal remains. It was a day of significant losses. After heavy bombardment the Germans attacked and gained a footing in three of the trenches. The following day these were re-taken and consolidated, which highlights the utter pointlessness of trench warfare. Throughout the war this was repeated on a much larger scale where small advances would be made at unimaginable cost to human life, only to be lost again within weeks, sometimes days.

Our visit to Ypres was memorable in many ways but the highlight was locating Arthur's name on the Menin Gate war memorial. That evening we stood in silent and respectful contemplation as the traffic along the Menin Road came to a halt and the Last Post was sounded by members of the local voluntary Fire Service. This takes place every evening at 8.00 p.m. and is extremely moving. Many examples of the ceremony can be viewed on YouTube.

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun, or feel the rain,
Without remembering they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent 
Their all for us, loved too the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings -
But we, how shall we turn to little things,
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

Wilfred Gibson, 'Lament'

For more stories and pictures from the past go to Sepia Saturday

Thursday, 1 November 2012

If The Cap Fits

Two pictures taken  approximately thirty years apart and yet very similar. Who are they? The first is my mother with her brother Billy, taken in about 1924.

The second is me with my brother, in the grounds of Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire in about 1954.

Apart from the siblings as subject matter, the other similarities are the poses, seated on the grass of a park, and the two boys' caps. Mum and her brother were close to each other in age, with just seventeen months between them. They were also close childhood companions and Mum was devastated when he died in a freak accident aged fifteen. You can see them together again in this post, where they are a little older.

I'm not sure where Mum and Billy are sitting but it could be the Victoria Embankment at Trent Bridge, Nottingham where they lived. There was a park with a walkway by the river where families could spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Billy is wearing a smart little cap, but it's not part of a uniform as he was not a member of the Cubs. My brother's cap is probably part of his school uniform, which was deemed the thing to wear on a Sunday outing to Wollaton Hall, a stately home which housed a natural history museum. When I was a child it contained glass cases full of very frightening stuffed animals.

Here's my brother when he was a little younger, proudly wearing his new school uniform complete with cap. Note that the blazer had plenty of room for growth!

If we step back two generations we find another little boy in a cap. This one is part of a cub's uniform and the wearer is my great uncle Charlie aged eight, at his big sister's wedding. It was my grandparents' wedding, which some of you will remember from Wedding Day Delay, where everyone had to get dressed up again the next day to pose for photos. This could account for the grumpy demeanour.

This splendid photo of the Irish Revolutionary leader, Michael Collins, showing him talking to the Kilkenny Hurling team at Croke Park in Dublin in 1921, was Sepia Saturday's photo prompt this week. It has lots of men wearing caps, many of them with a peak. So, of all the possible themes suggested, I plumped for that one. Why not visit and 'doff your cap' at the many and varied interpretations of the prompt from the creative Sepia Saturday contributors.