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-----.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Around Wales in the 1950s

A couple of weeks ago I was celebrating the end of a long-running task - the scanning of some 700 postcards from the Hayley Easthope collection. Readers may well have been wondering when to expect to see them, but with so many postcards from so many different countries it was a daunting job trying to think of how to present them!

So here's the first instalment. Wales is the country most represented outside England so today's selection are all of Wales. There are around 80 postcards from Wales so to try to arrange them into suitably sized collections, today's postcards are all older monochrome shots. They were mostly published as black and white, but there are a couple of sepia treated examples.

Llangwyfan Old Church, (The Church In The Sea) Aberffraw, nr. Rhosneigr. This tiny 13th century church of St Cwyfan stands on the south west coast of Anglesey. The land on which it stands was once part of the island of Anglesey itself, but erosion of the land by the sea sometime after 1770 caused the land around the church to be cut off at high tide, forming an island known as Cribinau. By the early 1900s the erosion was encroaching on the churchyard and some graves were lost to the sea, at which point a wall was built around the remains of the island to protect it.

In the latter half of the 18th century a very strange thing occurred. In 1766 Dr Thomas Bowles, an ageing English priest, was appointed to St Cwyfan's church. The congregation numbered 500 and of those, 99% spoke Welsh but no English. Dr Bowles spoke English but no Welsh... Not surprisingly the locals demanded he be replaced. A court in 1773 found that he should not have been appointed to a Welsh-speaking parish, but now that he had been - and legally - he could not be removed. In the event, he stayed for another ten months before he passed away, leaving the way open for his replacement by a Welsh-speaking priest.

Wrexham, The Yale Tomb & Sundial. Specifically this is the tomb of the exotically named Elihu Yale, born in 1649 in Boston, Massachusetts. He worked for the British East India Company and whilst in their employ became Governor of Fort St George in Madras. He made himself extremely rich mostly by flaunting the rules of the company and entering into secret deals. After five years he was removed by the East India Company and returned to live at Plas Grono, the family mansion near Wrexham in Wales, where he proceeded to enjoy spending his accumulated wealth. Part of it was spent in response to a request for help from the Collegiate School of Connecticut. Yale sent them some books, a portrait of King George I and some goods which were sold for the very considerable sum (at the time) of £800. A new building was erected and called Yale in gratitude and later Yale became the name of the entire institution.

The seaside resort of Tenby is one of Britain's most westerly towns, but still manages to have a seafront facing east on the south coast of Wales. This gives it a sheltered harbour and it was an early trading post between Wales and the Norsemen in the 9th century. There are remains of 13th century town walls. Castle Hill, seen in the top left segment of the postcard, started off as a hill fort and the stone castle was built following the Norman Conquest by the Earls of Pembroke. Meg and Ern sent this postcard to an address in Wellington, Shropshire in July 1959. They had attended a wedding on the previous Saturday and had then journeyed by train to reach Tenby that night. Perhaps they were the two who got married? The message finishes with a somewhat breathless "See you sometime - don't know when!"

The Promenade, Colwyn Bay, North Wales. Colwyn Bay is a resort roughly halfway along the north coast of Wales in the county of Denbighshire, facing onto the Irish Sea. It enjoys a mild climate thanks to the wind passing over the mountains of Snowdonia to the south which then dry out and get warmer as they descend towards Colwyn Bay. A lovely row of old-style motor cars along the Promenade with a half-cab single deck bus approaching in the distance. The card was sent back to Wellington, Shropshire on 11 July 1956 during which week "A heat wave decided to come too!"

Erddig Hall, Wrexham. Erddig Hall is a National Trust stately home (voted the UK's "favourite historic house" by Britain's Best). It was built by the High Sheriff of Denbighshire, Joshua Edisbury, in 1684-87. It was sold to John Mellor, Master of Chancery, in 1714 and on his death in 1733 passed to the Yorke family who owned it through several generations through 240 years until it was given to the National Trust in 1973.

Several years earlier a shaft from Bersham Colliery had collapsed underneath the house, causing a subsidence of five feet, requiring a substantial sum of money to save the house. Compensation paid for the necessary structural underpinning, but 63 acres of parkland had to be sold to finance the restoration of the house.

Writing on 21 July 1954, in a hand that turns each of the capital letters F, S and T to a J, the cursive lower-case is thankfully easier to read. "Just to let you know we are having a nice time and lovely weather. We are getting out somewhere each day. Hope Rex hasn't been fretting. We shall stay until the last train on Friday but don't wait for us if that is too late for you. All are well here and your Dad and I are feeling better for the change. Love to both, Mum."

Wrexham, The Cup and Saucer, Erddig Park. Three years later, Mum makes the return journey but obviously alone, for she writes: "Just to let you know I am having a nice time and a good rest. Could manage a month like this, shall be home Friday. Love to both, Mum."

The Cup and Saucer, situated close to Erddig Hall was a pool or font, filled with water by a hydraulic ram which forced water uphill from the nearby river.

The Gateway, Acton Hall. Another once-stately home near to Wrexham, Acton Hall was demolished in 1954 having become badly dilapidated. It had once been owned by the Jeffreys family - they who included the infamous Judge Jeffreys, the Hanging Judge, in the 17th century.

The card was sent again in 1954 back to the same address as the Erddig Hall postcard, by the same Mum and Dad. The postmark is missing the exact date but presumably this was from a different visit as although there is the same hope that "Rex is ok" (what was the matter with that dog / cat / guinea pig / goldfish / milkman?), on this occasion the absent parents are due to arrive on the "last train on Wednesday." Perhaps this time because the "weather is very wet."

Harbour and Beach, Saundersfoot. Saundersfoot is a hop, skip and jump up the coast from Tenby. The harbour dates only from Parliament granting permission in 1829, though coal from the many mines around the village had been loaded onto boats from the beach for centuries. Another card with a line of cars of the 1950s. This time a more modern light-coloured box saloon can be seen third from the right. This card has also gone back to Wellington, Shropshire but was sent by Meg (due to be half of the couple Meg and Ern who we met earlier) on 12 June 1957. She writes: "Having a lovely time here at Tenby. Weather perfect, been in for a swim once or twice every day. It has a beautiful stretch of sandy beach."

The Two Bridges, Menai Strait. The Menai Strait separates the island of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. Cross from the Welsh mainland to Anglesey and turn left and you come to the village whose name trips so easily from the tongue: Llanfairpwillgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch... As the old joke goes: I asked the guy behind the cafe counter to say the name of the place really slowly. He said "B-u-r-g-e-r K-i-n-g...". This time another branch of the family is roaming Wales and writing back to Shropshire. On the 1st of July 1954 the message went "Thursday. Shall be pleased to see you at the usual time on Sunday. Order a fine sunny day. Love Aunty P, Uncle E."

Horse Shoe Falls, Llangollen. This is a 460-feet (140m) long weir, stocking a pool from which water can be released into the Llangollen Canal. It dates from 1908. This card is unused and therefore cannot be dated.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Creeping Bentgrass Party Time

Last night Creeping Bentgrass headed out to Darwen to play at a 60th birthday party. It was quite cold in the room to begin with and my strings were not eager to stay in tune until we had played for an hour or so and enough people had come in to warm the place up a bit!

We had (rather rashly perhaps) agreed to sing Let It Go from the Disney film Frozen for a couple of little girls who were going to be there. This was the first time I've ever sung the line "...and it looks like I'm the Queen"... A voice killer, but it went down an absolute storm (sorry!) and earned us a standing ovation after the entire room erupted with singing! A whole new career beckons...

Back on more familiar ground, every gig features a couple or more songs where I ditch the guitar in favour of playing the keyboard live. Not sure when Miss Franny took this photo but it could be on Peaceful Easy Feeling or It's Now Or Never or the crowd pleaser, Penny Arcade.

Happy Birthday Chris!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Random Ship Spotting - Part 2

The second in the series taking a closer look at ships we have seen whilst not actually travelling on them.

25 August 2008. We sailed into the port of Ajaccio, Corsica and found ourselves overlooking Thomson Destiny. We would take a cruise on her ourselves three years later. She was built in Helsinki, Finland in 1982 as Song of America for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

From 1999-2005 she sailed as MS Sunbird for Sun Cruises before coming under the ownership of Louis Cruise Lines who chartered her to Thomson Cruises by whom she was renamed Thomson Destiny. She is remembered with great affection by many passengers from this period.

She returned to Louis Cruise Lines in April 2012 and became Louis Olympia. In 2014 she acted as a floating hotel for the Winter Olympics in Russia. With Louis Cruise Lines re-branding to Celestial Cruise Lines she now operates as the Celestyal Olympia.

The tall ship Signora del Vento, a three-masted schooner seen here in the Italian port of Civitavecchia was built in Poland in 1962. She has been a training vessel since the 1990s and was bought in 2006 by the Italian Society of Navigation. Apart from her training vessel duties, as part of which she partakes in many rallies of tall ships around the world, she can be hired for private and corporate events, offering meeting space and fine dining.

"What big eyes you have, Grandma..." Every decent sailing ship should have a figurehead carving gracing the bowsprit and the Signora del Vento's figurehead was carved by Birgit and Claus Hartmann.

The Aida Cara in Palma, Majorca, 30 August 2008. The paintwork of the Aida ships make for a real fun sight. When seen head on, there's a full set of lips and two seductive eyes approaching you. But you really do not want to be on the receiving end of a kiss... She was built in 1996 in Turku, Finland for Deutsche Seetouristik/Arkona Reisen as a "club ship" (think Club 18-30 afloat...). In 1999 Arkona Reisen came under control of P&O Cruises who acquired a 51% stake in the company. Originally named Aida, the ship had been successful enough for the new Aida Cruises to build two sister ships. The original was renamed Aida Cara with the two new ships being Aida Aura and Aida Vita.

We joined a cruise on Ocean Village II at Heraklion in Crete at the end of April 2009 and found ourselves moored for the day next to the Festos Palace, part of the fleet of Minoan Ferries. She is named after the ancient Palace of Phaistos, her sister ship being Knossos Palace.

She was built at Sestri Ponente shipyards in Genoa, Italy, in 2001. Carrying up to 2,500 passengers and 700 cars it has an impressive power plant of four diesel engines that can throw it over the sea at over 31 knots. In 2013 she whacked the dock at Heraklion rather harder than expected when trying to dock in high winds and waves.

Another ship from the Sestri Ponente shipyards in Genoa was Costa Serena, seen here approaching Dubrovnik, Croatia on 2 May 2009. We have seen her several times on different cruises but on this particular one we seemed to be following her around the Adriatic. She was built in 2006 and came into service the following year with Costa Crociere. She featured in a six-part documentary for the National Geographic Channel. She has three sister ships: Costa Pacifica, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. Since 2015 she has been catering for the Chinese cruising market visiting Japanese and South Korean ports.