Every day I love to look at the old photographs which Lynn Heiden uploads to Twitter and Facebook as they give us a fascinating window into the past. Often she is able to trace details of the lives of the people in the photographs, using census returns, trade directories etc.but sometimes there just aren't enough clues. I was particularly struck by this group of unknown children so just for fun I thought I'd make up character sketches of them.
Teddy was born early in the century, a much loved second child after the death of his brother. Photographed, age 2, he is yet to be breeched so his mother has dressed him in a spotless, lace edged frock, cleaned and pressed by the maid, but he can’t resist trying to slip off his uncomfortable shoe. Later his sister Muriel will be born, but he will always be his mother’s favourite and she is so glad, that just as he is about to be sent to France to fight, the “war to end all wars” ceases. Sadly he decides to become an army officer and dies early in the Second World War, leaving a wife and four children.
Little May is very nervous, as she stands leaning against the wicker contraption in the photographer’s studio. Why does she have to stand so still in front of that strange “camera” and why has the man hidden behind a tablecloth? Ma says, “It’s for Da. He’s gone a long way away to “fight for his country” and we need to send him something to help him remember you.”
Stanley has always been a character. Almost as soon as he was born he had a dirty laugh and he loves to take off people he knows, in his broad accent. Borrowing his Dad’s pullover and his best hat and umbrella Stanley is trying to look like the rent man who comes round weekly, licking his pencil and writing down the payments, so he’s using his copy book as a prop.
Connie is usually happy. Mother takes her everywhere, whether it is helping at the church bazaar or going to buy a yard of ribbon at the haberdashery shop. Her brothers have gone away to boarding school, but Connie goes to a small local school with other little girls. She likes the scene behind the bench in the photograph, as it is the largest picture of the countryside she has ever seen. Soon Jim and Georgie will return for the holidays and she can run after them through the fields.
Gwenne was born just after World War One when her father had returned from the war. Daddy was always very quiet and would frequently disappear for long walks. Gwenne can’t remember seeing him smile, although Mummy said that he used to love taking her dancing. He died two years before this photo was taken but Uncle Fred, Mummy’s brother, has always been more like a father to Gwenne. He’s nor married so he always comes to Gwenne’s house, every week, for Sunday lunch. Ten years later, he will give her away in marriage to young Hugh whom she’s known all her life. Hopefully when Hugh goes to war in 1940 it will not change his life as drastically as it did to Gwenne’s father.
Elsie was born in London. She has two brothers and two sisters. She is the middle child but she is also the boss. She looks after her youngest siblings while her mother does the laundry and housework and she expects her big brothers to do exactly what she tells them. As soon as she can, she wants to help her father run his stall in the market. She has the voice and the confidence to attract customers to the, “lovely juicy apples” and she loves the jolly atmosphere in the market street. It won’t worry her that she will need to be up before dawn to fetch the produce and she is prepared to work hard. One day she might have her own shop.
Please visit Lynn's Waffles to see her research on other pictures from her collection.