Sunday, 17 April 2016

107-Year-Old Sad Note Postcard

A postcard from my own collection this time. Cliftonville is an area of Margate in Kent. We stayed in a hotel on the seafront several times when I was around 14-17 and I remember it well if only for the rather lovely memory of being 15 and a girl rushing up to me in the street and flinging her arms round me and planting a smacker of a kiss on my cheek. I'm easily pleased like that...

This is not a rare card. On searching online for information about the Newgate Capway, all I managed to find were adverts for similar postcards. They were variously dated from 1905 onwards. Searching for Newgate Gap led to a little more information. The gap was a cutting through the cliffs, made by farmers who collected seaweed off the beach for rotting down as fertiliser. The bridge dates from 1861 and had a framework of iron with wooden decking. It was replaced in 1907 by one with steel and concrete with sides encased in decorative marble. This in turn was refurbished in 2005 with the marble smashed off and replaced with bricks and concrete - very classy...

The message side of the card is a trifle hard to read... Even the postal franking is a bit hit and miss. You can make out "10AM OC 1 09" so I would hazard that it was posted in October either on the first or between the 10-19th in 1909. Hence it showed a bridge no longer in existence at the time of posting! The written message has fared even less well, having faded just about to nothing. Most of the address though is readable: It was sent to a ship - SS Dartmoor or perhaps Dartmouth (?) care of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company at Victoria Dock, Canning Town.

The cargo ship SS Dartmoor was built at South Shields in 1892 and was sunk during the First World War by U-Boat UC50 en-route from Gibralter to Garston (Liverpool) with a cargo of ore. A search for SS Dartmouth failed to turn up any relevant information - possibly exacerbated by the fact that the town of Dartmouth has a lot to do with ships...

To try to read the message I used Adobe Photoshop to play with brightness and contrast, hue and density of colour, until most of the message could be deciphered. I'm missing the name of the person it refers to I'm afraid, but this was no "Wish You Were Here" message. It says:

"D.16 (or 46). P----- had an accident, call if able." It is signed I (or J) with a long surname beginning with H - Hunnisford, Houseman - it could almost be anything. The card raises more questions than it answers. Which is part of the appeal of postcard collecting. The photos are interesting, particularly those from the beginning of the 20th century, but just on a very few occasions, the message gives a brief, but not always complete, glimpse of events that affected the people involved. And without asking to plough through any old documents of ship departures from Victoria Dock (it would have been the Royal Victoria Dock by this date) this is where we must leave the unfortunate P-----.

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