Friday, September 18, 2009

Gone for a soldier

I think I may have used this picture before, but if I have I'm sure you won't mind seeing it again. It was very unusual for poor families in the past to have a photo like this taken - in this case, it is 1896 and the two elder sons of the family have joined the army (because there wasn't enough to feed them all) and are about to set off for the North-West Frontier. They had the photo taken in case one or both didn't come back.

Both of them did, though, I'm pleased to say, since these are my ancestors - my grandfather, William Murray Taylor, is on the left.

Banks Of The Nile - Sandy Denny
Leavin' Nancy - Eric Bogle
Van Diemen's Land - Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band
An Empty Cup (A Broken Date) - Buddy Holly and the Crickets
The Blue Cockade - Show Of Hands
For Lovin' Me - Peter, Paul & Mary
Bogie's Bonnie Belle - Richard Thompson
Think It Over One Time - Robert Earl Keen


Anonymous said...
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AliMunday said...

TFD - fascinating photograph. Superb music. What more can I say?

Shoegazer said...

Now that's a 'tache (Snadfrod, note bene)

ToffeeBoy said...

@ tfd - that reall is a wonderful picture, but I'd challenge your comment about it being 'very unusual' for poor families to have photos like this taken.

I think the truth is that, by the end of the nineteenth century, having a session in a photo studio had become such a desirable/fashionable thing among lower middle class/working class families that you almost had to have it done. Clearly, the setting-off-to-war aspect of this picture was the inspiration behind it but photos like this are not as unusual as you might think.

Studios were happy to cash in on the trend by reducing prices to capture the bottom end of the market. It's a similar situation to the large LCD TV screens that we see piled high in supermarkets today. In some respects, the poorer you are, the bigger the TV screen. Discuss ...

ToffeeBoy said...

... really ... [sigh]

AliMunday said...

I was interested in the "Wick & Thurso" caption. My ex sister-in-law lived in Thurso for a few years and my ex and I used to stay for the holidays - what a wild place it must have been in the late 19th century. One road in, one road out, and in between - pretty much open country with little in the way of transport. And the wild coastline in the winter. They must have been hardy souls.

My nephew has a moustache like that - grown (in part) because it makes him look exactly like an old photo of his grandfather. He (my nephew) used to ride around Bristol on a sit up and beg bike - he's a bit of a character. He now runs a small brewery. What more could one want from one's nephew??

treefrogdemon said...

ToffeeBoy: yes, sorry - I meant to say that they look pretty posh but in fact those are their Sunday clothes (and dress uniforms) and they're in the photographer's studio which has been done up to look like a posh living room.

Ali: they lived out in the middle of nowhere and probably went to the Wick studio, as Jeannie's dad was living on a farm near there and there was plenty of to-ing and fro-ing between the families. By 1901 the third son had also joined up and the family had moved to Banffshire where Henderson (and, we presume, his moustache) was working as a ploughman.
Glad you like the tunes. What an ace nephew to have!

treefrogdemon said...

Re Bogie's Bonnie Belle, btw, I was just googling along, as you do, and found (on the Mudcat folk song site) that the people in the song are real:

'Isabel Morison, the heroine of this song, was born at Boghead, 20 September 1823, as the daughter of Alexander Morison (Old Parish Register, Cairnie). She again appears at Boghead in the census of 1841. Her illegitimate son, James, was born on 16 June 1843, the father being James Stephen from the parish of Glass(OPR, Cairnie). In the census of 1851, the son was living with his paternal uncle in the parish of Glass, lending credence to the versions of the song which have the father remove the child from the maternal home. Isabel Morrison [sic] is no longer at Boghead in 1851.'

Don't you love the interweb? I was thinking of adding, on the mothership, that the bloke in the song, or James as I shall now call him, is in the last verse being separated from his baby son, his girlfriend, his job, his money for the whole time that he'd worked so far (more than 9 months), because he'd contracted for the year, and his mates. That is BIG separation. But I'm just telling you guys because is Paul going to pick it? I don't think so.

gordonimmel said...

@treefrogdemon, I don't suppose you know what regiment it was that they had joined? The reason I'm asking is that my great great great grandfather also came from Caithness and he joined the local regiment The Cameron Highlanders(79th Foot). It was with them that he fought and was wounded at Waterloo. In his family research my Dad has often used photos like that to try to glean more information about our ancestors by i.e. sending them off to the Imperial War Museum or such like, where experts not only spot what regiment it was but also what various badges or medals signify.
And as ToffeeBoy said, I think that from The American Civil War (i.e. 1860's) onwards, photo studios made alot of money out of photographing soldiers away to the army, especially during war time.

treefrogdemon said...

Gordon, my grandfather was in the Seaforth Highlanders and my great-uncle James in the Highland Light Infantry. Both became Pipe Majors. The Seaforths have their regimental museum at Fort George near Inverness (where my father was born) and my grandfather has a glass case to himself there with his medals, cap badge and photos.

treefrogdemon said...

PS actually my great-uncle started off in the Seaforths too - that's why the uniforms are the same. The regimental tartan is the Mackenzie.

nilpferd said...

The armed forces were so dominant in British life.. my mother left school early to go to work so her brothers could make their careers in the RAF.
Now they are all retired, but she is still working at the career she began after I and my brother were old enough to look after ourselves.