This is a very special photo; one of a series that I’ve got framed on the wall (in fact I think half of my extended family probably have copies on their walls too …!). But I’ve got Tony to thank for this particular one, as he’s been doing a ton of digitizing of old images, in this case a scan of the original from my mum’s old photo album. Mum’s second from the left; and she’s with her mum & dad – my nana & grandpa – and her (then) 3 sisters (nana & grandpa went on to have a further 4 girls and a boy).
The first amazing thing is that the photos exist at all: it was 1931; and nana & grandpa certainly couldn’t have afforded a camera. That day, as they often did, the family went off up Clydeside for the day, to Milton Brig, at the entrance to the old Milton-Lockhart estate, where the girls would play by the river and grandpa would fish for trout. Nana & the girls went by bus. Grandpa cycled behind, to save the fare. They had a playful bus-driver, who would alternately slow down and speed up … first letting Grandpa catch up … and then leaving him far behind … the girls screaming encouragement out of the back window every time he got closer.
There was a man on the bus, watching all of this, who eventually introduced himself very politely to my nana. He was a photographer, he said, from France; travelling in Scotland. Would she mind if he spent the day with the family and photographed them? Nana agreed, but asked if she could have copies of the pictures. And here they are …
I sometimes wish I knew his name. Or his story. What was a French photographer doing, on a bus, in the Clyde river valley on that day in 1931? That he was there at all in itself suggests an interesting man. And he was a great photographer: the images are all mesmerizing. I wonder if he ever published them anywhere else? … or if our family’s copies are the only ones …?
So: I wonder sometimes. But mostly I’m just grateful. That he was there, interested. That Nana said ‘yes’. And particularly that she asked for copies.
We still go to that spot on the river. The bridge (which you can see in the picture below) is still there. The course of the water has changed a bit, though, submerging the ‘islands’ where the girls played. Right at the bottom: a lovely picture of mum as she is now.
As ever: click on any of the pictures to see the full-size image.