This is the post I never expected to be able to write - the one with a photo of Toyah Sofaer. But for those of you coming new to the story, let me recap:
Earlier this year, I came across the grave of Victoria 'Toyah' Sofaer in the tiny Jewish cemetery in Chennai in south India. She died in October 1943 aged just 22. Through the magic of the internet, and with the generous encouragement and support of Toyah's family, I pieced together a tragic and deeply affecting story which I've blogged about. She was born into a prosperous trading family in Baghdad - embarked on a transgressive romance with an Armenian man from another trading family - was taken to India by her parents to end the relationship - and died in Chennai 'from a broken heart', in the words of her half-brother Abe, though in what circumstances remains unclear.
More than that, the family had a photograph of Toyah's three brothers and half-brothers taken when she would have been seven. She was in the photograph. But after her death, it was retouched to remove her likeness - and so obliterate any visual reminder of a scandal and tragedy. No one talked about Toyah. No other photographs came to light which the family was confident included Toyah. It was as if any testimony to her life, and death, had been carefully excised. An injustice which Abe in particular, now in his mid-nineties and once close to Toyah, was keen to see rectified.
Last month, a short item I recorded about Toyah for the BBC radio programme 'From Our Own Correspondent' was also posted on the BBC website. It's been viewed more than a million times. The response has been remarkable - one reader tracked down Toyah's death certificate in the Chennai municipal records, another wrote a poem about Toyah, and I'm now in contact with the very small Jewish community in Chennai today.
I owe these photographs, and permission to post them here, to the kindness of Lisette Shashoua. They were taken at the wedding of her parents, Mouzli and Menashy. Mouzli, the bride, was Toyah's first cousin. Lisette, who has taken a great interest in the history of her extended family, was fairly sure this was Toyah. Lydia Saleh, my main point of contact with the family, took the photo to show her father, Abe, and - without prompting - he recognised his half-sister, Toyah, who was two years older than him. He's quite certain it's her.
It doesn't bring her back to life - it doesn't right the wrong done to her - but it does help to honour her memory. I'm very pleased to be part of that.
Lisette has identified those in the photographs. In the one above, standing from left to right: Bertha Haim (Bekhor); the groom, Menashy Shashoua; the bride, Mouzli Haim (Sheshoua); Daisy Shamash. The young girl in the middle of the group is believed to be Dorine Shashoua. Sitting from left to right: Toyah Sofaer; Bertine Shashoua (Khazzam); Violette Haim (Barzel); Marcelle Bekhor (Shamash). Lisette believes the photo was taken in about 1935. There are more details about the family in the wonderful Sephardic diaspora genealogy site run by Alain Farhi, Les Fleurs de L'Orient.
The photo below features the same people but in different positions. Toyah is standing and, as we look, is to the right of the bride.
There may be more to say about Toyah, who knows. But it's so good to look into her eyes.
Hidden away amid the back streets of Bloomsbury is one of the most charming green spaces in central London. It's pocket size, but lovely.
St George's Gardens is a former graveyard - and there are still a few of the more commanding gravestones and memorials. But it doesn't have the sombre, dank feel of a cemetery. On a sunny day, it is simply enchanting.
As the excellent Friends of St George's Gardens website explains, this was one of the first burial grounds to be established away from a church. It dates back to 1713, and was closed for new interments because of overcrowding in 1855.
St George's Gardens has been an open space and public amenity since the 1880s. It's one of several Camden parks to receive lottery funding and the ensuing refurbishment was completed in 2001. The Gardens are wonderfully well kept and welcoming and quite a treasure.
And those buried here? To be honest, not a terribly distinguished bunch - though they include some Jacobites executed after the failure of the 1745 rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
If you haven't worked out where the gardens are, this map should help -
This is the view looking out of Morley library - it has a wonderful art house aspect, not often I capture an image which has something special about it.
And Morley? Well, as this photo suggests, it's an old mill town. Morley, just south of Leeds, is where I was born. I've not lived here for more than forty years, but of late - perhaps age, my father's death, all sorts of stuff - I've been drawn back. The other day, I stopped here for an hour and discovered - perhaps rediscovered, but if I did know once I had forgotten - the majesty of Morley library.
It's a Carnegie library - built with the financial support of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish businessman and philanthropist. He funded the construction of approaching 2,000 libraries in the United States and more than 600 in Britain and Ireland. And judging from this wonderful building - with a striking tiled lobby (Burmantofts tiles, I was told) - which stretches over three floors, these were substantial libraries befitting the ambition than underlay his generosity.
Hall Caine was one of the most popular novelists and dramatists of the era. According to Wikipedia: 'Writing fifteen novels on subjects of adultery, divorce, domestic violence, illegitimacy, infanticide, religious bigotry and women’s rights he became an international literary celebrity, selling ten million books. Caine was the most highly paid novelist of his day. The Eternal City is the first novel to sell over a million copies worldwide.' So it sounds like he was quite a catch to open the library - and Morley was on a roll at this time ... Morley-born Herbert Henry Asquith was Chancellor of the Exchequer and became Prime Minister two years later.
Morley achieved borough status in 1886, and a few years later its remarkable - and magnificent - town hall was built. It still stands, just a stone's throw from the library, though Morley was absorbed into Leeds back in 1974.
The library lobby has a wonderful mosaic floor featuring Morley's coat of arms, devised when it became a borough. The legend 'Industria Omnia Vincit' translates as industry conquers all - you can see why that might appeal to the millocrats who were the dominant political force in late Victorian Morley.
And the emblem - well, top row a couple of cannon balls to represent the civil war battles of the 1640s fought in and around the town, and in the middle a cotton boll (this puzzles me, Morley was part of the heavy woollen district - Lancashire was cotton). Then a shuttle representing textiles which at this time was Morley's defining industry. And below a shove and pick to reflect the small coal mines which dotted the town and adjoining villages, and which by this date were starting to peter out.
This same splendid coat of army features on stained glass in the doors on the library's first floor. A classy touch! And that floor is also now home to the community archive and local history collection. On this version you can see more clearly the ram's head representing the woollen industry - alas now all gone (though a few of the mills, and rather more of the chapels, remain). Below is an aerial view of the town from 1922 from an excellent history and planning document.
Once upon a time, E.P. Thompson taught extra-mural classes at the library and made good use of a stout oval wooden table in the reading room. I asked if it was still around. There's a solid wooden table in the computer room upstairs, but it doesn't quite fit the bill.
In 1964, Thompson commented of his Morley classes: 'Within living memory ... it seems, miners have worked lying down in eighteen-inch seams, children have been in the mills at the age of nine, urine has been collected from pub urinals for scouring, while the brother of one of the students still uses teazles to raise the 'nap'. It is difficult to believe that the industrial revolution has yet occurred in Morley, and next year's syllabus (in the later 19th century) will seem like a tour through the space age'.
There are wonderful design touches to the library - no wonder it's a listed building (and, happily, well used). What a bobby dazzler!
I've been to some isolated and windblown spots, but none to match this -
- a curious monument to the Cold War. Gallan Head: a promontory on the far west of Scotland's Western Isles. It's where the road ends. A surveillance and early warning station in one of the most remote corners of the country keeping track of Soviet submarines and aircraft.
The RAF base was set up in the 1950s and closed a decade later. But it was only last year that a local community trust managed to buy the 84 acre site - on the Atlantic coast of the Isle of Lewis - from the Ministry of Defence.
The photo below shows the base when it was in operation in 1958 (courtesy of David Lister and taken from the excellent Sub Brit site):
You may think that the green-painted buildings which housed the radar operations centre - designed to blend into the landscape and so, one imagines, escape the attention of Russian bombers - don't look all that desolate. OK. This is what's on the other side ...
The blasts of wind are much too strong for any trees to withstand - but there's a wonderful array of flora, notably the eye-catching cotton grass, and oyster catchers with their distinctive red bills nest here and make a loud fuss is anyone intrudes. It is a rugged and enchanting landscape.
The story of the base is told in this guide for guests of the (simply brilliant) SEAcroft B&B in the adjoining crofting village of Aird Uig
This map of the site - both the operational and residential sections of the base - has again been taken from the Sub Brit site. The 'head' of the promontory is a few metres to the north - and the crofting community of Aird Uig immediately to the south.
Of the array of buildings in which the RAF staff used to live, some have been spruced up, others are semi-derelict. The building nearest the former radar installations is now a welcoming open-all-hours cafe and craft shop (with honesty box) appropriately called The Edge - and the community trust's website gives a great account of the history of both the surveillance centre and the crofting community as well as sharing their plans for a transformation of the former base.
In the community cafe, there's a sign that's a reminder of the area's Cold War past - clever to put it on display!
The land at Aird Uig is steeply sloping at either side of a stream that runs into the Atlantic - tough land for crofting. There were once ten crofts here - there's just one working croft now. On the far side of the valley, the stone walls are a remnant of the old 'runrig' system. Each croft, as well as having its own plot for crops and livestock, had access to a section of the runrig land - but these alternated, so nobody was permanently stuck with the worst or most outlying parcel to cultivate and use as pasture.
And yes, the land really was cultivated - the furrows you can see are all manmade, to ease drainage but also to allow crops to grow on the crest of the ridges. What a daunting task to farm such difficult land - but when the crofts were set up in the 1820s, by men and women who had been evicted from a nearby village in the clearances, the barren and inhospitable landscape was part of the attraction. It was a spot so bleak and difficult to make a living from that they were unlikely to suffer a second eviction.
Whittington Park is one of the most unsung and under appreciated green spaces in north London. It's alongside the (still rather unfashionable) Holloway Road in Upper Holloway. And it's been spruced up a bit - including this really magical mural.
It's on the gable wall of an Irish pub - the sort with mock Celtic lettering. And it's in the unmistakable style of Moustache Bleue - this photo of him at work is lifted from his Facebook page.
The theme is of course Dick Whittington and his cat - there's a lot of Whittington around, but when the park takes his name, then I don't suppose you can really object. And just to rub home the association, there's a huge topiary cat just by the park's Holloway Road entrance.
Slightly hidden away within the park is a war memorial - but with a difference. This commemorates the fallen from one particular street, Cromwell Road - a street which has been entirely obliterated by the park. It's work looking out for.
Just back from a very pleasant couple of days at Ironbridge in Shropshire, a crucible of the industrial revolution and the site of the world's first - yes - iron bridge. It's still there, spanning the gorge across the Severn.
Still more remarkable, to my mind, are the winding steps up from the centre of town that lead in to the grounds of the solid 1830s St Luke's church. Ironbridge is on a steep slope - are there are lots of steps and paths, pedestrian shortcuts to avoid the weaving roads.
But this path takes you under - under! - the churchyard. You can see in the photo the steps leading up, and the light coming through from the far end of the foot tunnel.
And the iron bridge? Well, it dates from 1779 and is distinctly impressive. Take a look - (this is not my photo, I have to confess, but from the Geograph site, taken by Christine Mattthews and posted here as Creative Commons)
Supporting an unfancied football team can feel a little like purgatory - great hopes clouded by the perpetual expectation of disappointment. But when, every few decades, they really do breakthrough, the exhilaration - the emotion - is just something else.
Yesterday my son and I went to Wembley to see my childhood team Huddersfield Town play Reading in the Championship play-off final. And they won! Dear reader, they won!! On penalties after 120 minutes of goalless football. Nerve wracking. Gut wrenching. But they did it.
So next season, Huddersfield will be in the Premier League - playing Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U. No one will give us much of a chance; but we're sort of used to that.
The last time Town reached the top flight of football was back in 1970, when Jimmy Nicholson's team won the old Second Division championship. I saw them that year - a really good team. But wow, how the years have changed Town, and English football. Here's that team with the cup -
- I can still name just about all of them. And since you are wondering, they stayed up back then for just two seasons. So yes, it's 45 years - that's almost a lifetime - since Huddersfield last played in the top division.
The detained Spaniards weren't all anarchists - quite a few owed loyalty to the socialist UGT, and some were Falangists. They were eventually moved to a camp near Odessa. Several who accepted Soviet citizenship were released. Most remained in the Gulag system until they eventually secured freedom in the mid-1950s. It seems that more than 150 Spaniards were at some stage detained at Karaganda - about fourteen died in detention in the Soviet Union.
A few years ago, Spanish television reported on the tragedy of the Spanish nationals who had been imprisoned in Kazakhstan - an English language version is available on YouTube:
Two years ago, a small group of Spaniards - one of them a survivor - visited Karaganda to remember the trauma and tragedy. It is one of the more hidden aspects of the Spanish Civil War. It deserves remembrance.
A new acquisition - a marvellous pamphlet from the heyday of the socialist revival of the 1880s, made more special because of its association.
John Burns was a leading figure in the Social Democratic Federation. He was one of four SDF leaders tried and acquitted of sedition after the 'West End Riots' of 1886. The following year he was involved in the 'Bloody Sunday' clashes in Trafalgar Square in November 1887. He was again prosecuted - for riot and unlawful assembly - and on this occasion convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment (though he only served part of that).
This is the text of John Burn's speech in his defence at the Old Bailey, in which he famously declared in response to such counts as "being armed, did make a riot", that 'the only arms I had upon me were a handkerchief and a tram ticket.'
The key issues were the right of public meeting in Tafalagrar square and the arbitrary nature of police action to prevent outdoor socialist gatherings. Burns declared:
'When labourers earn so little when at work and starve when out of work, when the incentive to honest labour is less than that which crime secures, society is face to face with a problem that a policeman's truncheon will not solve, or the suppression of public meetings remove. if the police had shown greater tact and consideration all trouble could have been avoided.'
In 1889, John Burns was a leading figure in the London dock strike - he was later a Liberal cabinet minister.
The nicest aspect of the pamphlet is its inscription:
This is almost certainly the signature of Archibald Gorrie, a prominent socialist activist in Leicester. Some of his papers are held in the Gorrie Collection at the University of Leicester. Among the handbills and posters is this item promoting John Burns's visit to Leicester to address the local branch of the Socialist League -
- and look at the date: 24th March 1889. Exactly the date which Gorrie set down alongside his signature on the cover of the pamphlet.
So it would seem that Burns brought copies of his defence speech with him from London, and Gorrie got a copy from him. A pity he didn't ask Burns to sign the pamphlet - but wonderful to have such clear provenance of a really lustrous pamphlet.
On a sadder note, my search to find out more about Archibald Gorrie revealed that what I take to be his eldest son - a graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford - was killed in the closing weeks of the First World War. Gorrie himself seems to have lived until 1941.
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