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Posts Tagged ‘Belfast’

Fete-Front-500

This photographic souvenir of the Students’ Union Fête at Queen’s College, Belfast was produced by the well-known photographer Abernethy. The 1894 fête/fair was organised to raise funds for a new building and was a spectacular event. Its various attractions and exhibits are outlined in detail in an accompanying guide called The Book of the Fair which was published by Olley & Co. It provides a fascinating insight into the commercial and social life of the city in the late nineteenth century.

The stalls were run by students and the wives and daughters of local aristocracy and merchants. George Morrow & Son provided the decoration for part of a spectacle known as Pomona’s Palace which featured an Enchanted Forest and the Realm of the Ice King! Stallholders adopted various costumes and these were outlined in detail in the guide. The Art stall attendants were dressed in “the style of Kate Greenaway.” Medical students wore a skull and crossbones motif. The women at stall No. 7 entitled ‘The Snowdrift’ wore “white crepon dresses, white white silk fichus, white picture hats with plumes, and powdered hair.”

Fete-Back-500

The photographic stall was run by the city’s foremost commercial photographic firms including Allison & Allison, Hembry, Kilpatrick, Nielsen and Reid Brothers. A photographic studio was constructed on the grounds of the college which was sponsored by James Wilson and guaranteed that “sitters will receive finished proofs within a few hours.” In addition to cabinet photographs the photographers offered ‘Midget’ photographs like the one featured above. I was able to ascertain that this portrait was taken by Abernethy on either Friday 26th of May or Saturday the 27th. Abernethy advertised elsewhere in the guide boasting that he had two premises: one at High Street, Belfast and a Printing and Finishing works at Bloomfield stating that “work finished in the suburbs is free from fog and smoke, which often spoil photographs finished in the city.”

The other advertisements in the guide give a real flavour of the city’s commercial life and included: Dunville & Co. Limited, Royal Irish Distilleries, Belfast who claimed to be the largest holders of whiskey in the world; The Franklin Steam Laundry, Belfast to whom one could send dirty linen by train; Anderson Brothers, 12 Royal Avenue, Belfast who specialised in re-covering umbrellas and another advertisement offered the ‘Martlet’ brand of non-alcoholic Pilsener for “advocates of temperance.”

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I really like the fact that this portrait can be linked to a specific event and despite its small size, only H 48mm x W 28mm, the image is strong and clear. The surrounding mount depicts the college’s main building designed by Charles Lanyon in a Gothic Revival style. Whoever the sitter was, I hope he enjoyed all the fun of the fair which included a ‘Living Aunt Sally’ under the management of the Arts Students and a performance by the Clifton Banjo Society!

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Larne-postcard500

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William McKelvey lived on the beautifully named My Lady’s Road, Belfast with his parents, William and Annie, two sisters and a brother. He was 8 years’ of age in 1911 which means that he would have been around 15 when he sent this postcard from Larne in 1919. Perhaps he was at boarding school or had left home to take up employment? Either way Larne was not to his liking as the following message makes very clear:

“Dear Mother (N.G. Down here), Arrived safe but fed up. It is so awful down here. Hope you are all well. Nobody would get to like this place. I wish I was back for good. Will write again about Thursday. Rem[ember] me to the rest, Your loving son, Billy. – I am in bed just now, 9.30 p.m. This is near the Black Arch.”

One wonders how his mother might have replied to such a morose missive!

The postcard which was produced by Signal has seen better days. It looks like it might have been stuck in an album and you can see where the glue has yellowed, however, this doesn’t detract from this snippet of life from 1919.

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I have featured images from this Northern Irish album in a previous post. The photographs were taken by H.J. Malcomson from Belfast with a Kodak Vest Pocket camera between 1925 and 1932. Most snapshot albums are filled with images of family events and occasions, however, this photographer had artistic aspirations. Even though the prints are tiny (6.5cm x 4.5cms) the photographer has succeeded in creating stark and abstract images of large scale landscape features in Antrim and Down.

 

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I was hoping to post this cabinet card for International Women’s Day but didn’t get the scan ready on time. This proud graduate marked her conferral by commissioning a portrait from Kilpatrick photographers of 8 Donegall Place, Belfast. Street directories show that the business was based there in the 1880s and the tight fitting bodice and high neckline of her outfit are in keeping with the fashions of that period.  

The lace detailing looks like either ribbon or Guipure lace and her slim silhouette was most likely created by corseting. Other nice details include the almond-shaped brooch, possible made of bog oak, which was worn high on her neckline. The hood of her academic gown was lined with either ermine or rabbit fur and you can also see a cane and the academic scroll in the image.

The cabinet card format (16.5 cm x 11.4cm) was larger than the carte-de-visite (10.5 cm  x 6.3 cm) and peaked in popularity in the 1880s. There are some fine examples on the excellent blog The Cabinet Card Gallery.

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Sometimes mistakes make for the best photographs especially when the attempts to rectify them are as humorous as the one above. The tops of the heads of this seaside group were chopped off by the photographer only to be restored in this crude but highly effective manner. Someone has pencilled in the missing foreheads and hairstyles and the results are especially funny on the gentleman in the middle of the shot. The little girl with her bucket and spade is the only intact figure and appears to laugh mischievously at her older relations.                                                                                                                                        

This snapshot reminds me of a scene from RC Sherriff’s The Fortnight in September (1931) one of my favourite recent reads from the excellent Persephone Books. The novel relates in beautiful detail the experiences of a family on a seaside holiday in Bognor Regis between the World Wars. It includes a magical scene where they collect their holiday snapshots from the local pharmacist. They were presented with six snapshots which must have been a standard number of exposures during this period. The Kodak album which houses the above photograph also held that number of prints and the following ad from the 1930s records the move to eight exposures! In the digital age, this appears like a ridiculously small number of photographs with which to record a holiday.

I bought this little album alongside five others in the same format for only $9.99 and can’t believe no-one else wanted them! All originated from the Belfast area and the Kodak verichrome film stickers which appear at the back of them are nice little pieces of 1930s ephemera. I also noticed that there is an interesting article by Lucy Curzon in the latest issue of ‘History of Photography’ on the Mass Observation’s documentary photographs of 1930s holiday makers in Blackpool which ties in nicely with this topic. 

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These two groups of sisters are beautifully presented with matching dresses and hairstyles. The girls above were photographed by Robert Lyttle of  Belfast, and have fabulous banana curls tied with large ribbons. Their light coloured linen or cotton dresses are worn with dark tights and lace-up boots or shoes. I particularly like the detailed smocking and the series of pin tucks at the bottom of their skirts. Interestingly, they all wore necklaces and bracelets.

The second group were photographed at William McCrae’s Studio, Berkeley Road, Phibsborough, Dublin. They too wear matching white outfits with the dark tights and shoes so typical of the era. Their dresses have nautical details which are similar to a 1905 girl’s sailor suit held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the girls in either photographs were, however, based on the skirt lengths and the studio addresses it is probable that the photographs were taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Census records show that in 1911, Belfast-born Robert Lyttle was living at 23 Kingsmere Avenue with his wife Eleanor and three children (Gwen, Norman and Cecil). He doesn’t feature as a photographer in the 1901 census. Curiously, the verso of the photograph lists him as the Official Photographer of the Football Association of Ireland!

William McCrae was of Scottish origin and in 1911 lived over his Berkeley Street studio with his six surviving children. By this time, his Irish-born wife, Rebecca, had died. Since their marriage in 1887, she had given birth to at least nine children! The family are listed as members of the United Free Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian group who were in existence from 1900.

By 1916, McCrae had also opened a studio at the fashionable location of Grafton Street. The business was continued by his sons, one of whom may have been the photographer commissioned to record the aftermath of the North Strand bombings in 1941. 

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The above photograph is a single page from a large album and the caption reads ‘Finaghy House, Belfast, Our home for 4 years. Geoffrey was born in the room with large window on the left’. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to identify who this Geoffrey was though it is likely to be one of the Charley family who owned the house up until about 1885.

The house was then purchased by the Brewis family whose claim to fame is that they bred some of the first Corgi dogs owned by the English Royal family! It is now a nursing home and I think the formal gardens in front of the house have changed considerably. 

I reckon that the above image dates from either the 1870s or early 1880s, as the woman’s outfit includes an elaborately draped top skirt and silhouette which was typical of the period. However, as I cannot see the extent of the bustle it is quite hard to give a precise date.

Overall, I like the careful positioning of the figures within the landscape and the caption which shows the importance of this place for one family. 

 

 

 

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