Monday, 20 August 2012

Medical Men In Lawnswood Cemetery

picture of rather lovely angel topped grave taken yesterday 

Yesterday courtesy of Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery I went on a guided walk and talk round some of the graves of noted medical men interred there. The rain added to the atmosphere really and it was an enthralling and intriguing way to spend a sunday afternoon.

The talk was a mix of biographical detail of each of the internees and a brief overview of the development of the medical profession, and of the hospitals and school of medicine we have in Leeds today. Many of the internees for instance spent time working at the Hospital for Women - now long since gone.

The rain was really quite heavy as we were walking around the graves and so against the sound of rain dripping on the leaves and on the umbrellas we were treated to the tales of various medical men - some surgeons, some doctors and some pioneers in their field.

Two of the internees stood out for me  - Max Louis Rossvally and Thomas Scattergood. Sadly I don't have pics of their graves to show you as the rain was so heavy at this point I wouldn't have been able to take a decent picture but I can tell you a bit of what I remember of their stories.

Max Louis Rossvally 1828-1892 somehow came to Leeds from New Orleans and he converted to christianity from orthodox judaism after treating a drummer boy called Charlie Coulson ho had been badly injured leading a contingent of soldiers in battle during the american civil war. He needed both an arm and a leg amputating and it seems he refused the offer of alcohol or chloroform to help through the amputations - preferring instead to rely on his faith in Jesus. Rossvally was so struck by this he decided to convert, was seemingly disowned by his family as a result and somehow came to Leeds. His wife who outlived him remarried and became the landlady of the Black Bull pub in Horsforth. It also seems he was recruited as a spy during the civil war though there is confusion over which side he was actually spying for. He was also an altruist and founded a clinic which gave free food and treatment to those who could not otherwise afford medical treatment. Charlie Coulson unsurprisingly died five days after the amputations.

Thomas Scattergood 1826-1900 was a big cheese in the field of forensic medicine and was instrumental in the case of Mary Ann Cotton  1832-1873, the infamous serial killer from County Durham who was found guilty of poisoning her step son. But it is also alleged that she also murdered other members of her family including 4 husbands, her mother, her sister, and her biological children with arsenic. Her local doctor after officiating at yet another death due to 'stomach fever' decided to send the stomach contents to Scattergood for analysis. Scattergood found arsenic which lead to exhumations of her other victims. She was found guilty and executed - though whether or not she would be today with advances in both forensic medicine and judicial practice is an interesting question.

Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery organise a number of guided walks and events throughout the year and you can find all the details on their website

Friday, 17 August 2012

Postcard From Berlin July 1906

Another lovely postcard from my small but well loved collection. It's not clear exactly when this photograph of the Brandenburg Gate was taken, but the postcard is dated  23 July 1906 and the postmark on the back is 24.7.06.

It was sent to Miss S Josephine Hill, who lived on Elm St, Holyoke, in the USA from Allan. Aside from the address Allan left the non picture side of the postcard blank and wrote around and above the Gate instead.

I'm not sure if the photo is clear enough for you to read what he put in his spidery inky hand so here it is:

'July 23,1906
Got to Berlin Sunday afternoon,leave 6.10 tomorrow for Dresden. This gate is at east end of Unter Den Linden.Berlin is a beautiful city with a great many fine artistic buildings. Next though Emperor Williams palace this morning.Heard the Fraiserkatz last night.

I bought this a couple of years ago in the antique shop in the lovely victorian covered market in St Helier Jersey. I wonder how it ended up there, I wonder who Allan was and why he was visiting Berlin - was his trip entirely sightseeing and what was his relationship with Miss S Josephine Hill and what the S stands for.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Postcards and why I love them...

The postcard trade is in terminal decline, this makes me sad. I know it's easier and cheaper to text/email but it's not the same. You don't have a lovely over saturated wide angled picture of the place you've been to to keep, nor does the text/email way result in you having to find out how you post things if you are abroad or go into a proper local heart of the community post office in you are in a tiny out of the way village somewhere in the UK. And of course the excitement of whether or not you'd be home before your postcards got to their recipients.

There is something exciting about receiving a postcard too and seeing a stamp from a far away part of the world you'll probably never visit yourself.

I love going to antique shops and looking through faded pics of places I've never been, looking at lovely old stamps, marvelling at the neatness of handwriting from yesteryear (though not all is legible) and that fact that they are mostly written in ink and not biro - and quite a lot in pencil.

Plus it's a brief tantalising glimpse into other people's lives - on the back of a black and white picture of a rather unpreposessing bridge over a what could be a stream or a small pond picture of Beckside Lane in Sedburgh, posted on Oct 18th 1909 is this message from M Pearce to Miss D Clark in Ormskirk in ornate black ink script -
' Hope you are quite well, and having better weather than we are. It has rained every day since we came back and a quarter of the term is over already.I am hoping to see Mother up here for the week-end. Love to all.'    

I wonder where M Pearce was to be a quarter of the way through the term - boarding school somewhere? pupil or teacher? and what their relationship with Miss D Clark was - relative, friend, boy/girlfriend/ , lover? Did Mother make the trip and was it a successful one?

Some of the postcards I've got are just to arrange meetings - back in the day when there was more than one post delivery per day and the first was v early in the morning so you could use the post system as a way to organise your social life. I wouldn't use the post to do that now but I do still send postcards when I go away - I always send one to my parents and one to my own house too.

Aaah postcards :-)

Friday, 3 August 2012

George Hurrell - Another Favourite Photographer :-)

One of my other favourite photographers is George Hurrell - the master of Hollywood glamour photography and if you look at some of his photos I'm sure you'll think so too.

Sumptuous images of stars from yesteryear looking impossibly glamorous and decadent,beautifully lit - for me there is something about black and white that is just so much more colourful than colour and I just adore these photos. Also I'd love to have been present at some of these sessions - nut just to see how long he took to frame and set up each picture but also to hear the discussions with the stars - would Marlene have had an input into how she was lit? Quite probably as she always made friends with the lighting man on set so as to make sure she always looked as perfect as possible, what exactly did happen between him and Greta Garbo?

I'd love to be as skilful as he was - he knew light and how to use it better than anyone.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Favourite Things - Beginning with Photographers

Weegee (real name Arthur Fellig) is one of my favourite photographers and not just because his photos are black and white - though that helps enormously as my mantra is 'everything looks better in black and white' , but because they provoke a reaction in me as the viewer - which can be envy as in 'wow I wish I had that kind of skill with a camera to wow I wish I'd been there to wow - I want that lady's dress' or distaste as he is focusing upon something grim or just curiosity as to how he captured that image. Or just good old fashioned nostalgia for a time I wasn't actually around for but would have loved to have been - namely the 40's and the 50's - though he carried on working up til his death in 1968.

His pictures range from beautiful intimate moments captured on film to grim crime scenes to slighty risque manipulations and duplications of body parts - mostly womens legs and quirky self portraits.

He was slightly obsessed with the grim underbelly of society and it's rumoured he tuned his radio to police channels so he could be first on the scene of any incidents. He was self taught and had a makeshift darkroom in the boot of his car and had a good sense of show business about himself.

I really love him - and I hope you enjoy looking at his work too :-)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


This is one of my photographs on the wall at Voodoo in Headingley at the moment - well until September 26th so for quite a few moments yet....hint hint, plug, plug...

A chum asked me if I'd superimposed images one of top of the other or made scratches on the negative - as although this is a digital print I also use film cameras - though whatever camera I'm using it's invariably black and white I'm shooting in as I believe everything looks better in black and white.  I try to do as little post processing as possible - bar a little cropping as a) I'm not v good at photoshop but mostly because b) I think you should take the photo you want in the first place rather than spending hours manipulating it afterwards.

This was taken in Saltaire and is a reflection in a dirty shop window - I love taking photos of reflections and if they are in dirty shop windows then it's all the better as far as I'm concerned.