I’ve always loved this photo and was really pleased to find it in an album my dad sent to me recently. He’d written underneath that the man on the far left is his friend Joe Malone, and of course I recognise my dad on the right, but I have no idea who the others are. They’ll all be in their 80s now.
I don’t have sisters, so I’ve always been fascinated by my mother’s relationship with her four sisters. Seeing these old photos of them as girls just reinforces how close the bonds of family are.
I wonder what’s in the bag?
My mother comes from a large family; and one which has traditionally been very close. She has memories of family outings that encompassed so many people they needed a bus – as in the photo above.
Of course, this was in part because fewer people owned cars in Britain in the 1950s and 60s, but even so, I find it remarkable that a family could be large enough – and enjoy each others company enough – to go to the trouble of hiring a bus to convey them to a picnic spot.
I recognise many of the faces in the photo, but unfortunately my mum hasn’t written names on the back so I’m unsure of many others.
My gran is at the back in a dark jumper – peeking out from behind her sister-in-law, Ella Cruden. My grandad’s the only adult male in the shot – his face shadowed by his “bunnet.” I can see three (or possibly all four) of my mum’s sisters – Cathie, May and Sandra (and maybe Margaret), and her sister-in-law, Betty. I recognise three of my cousins – Rob and Elaine both bonneted toddlers on their mother’s laps. The only other person I’m sure of is my great grandmother, Cathrine Cruden, in the checked jacket and beret – looking, I have to say, a bit underwhelmed and also a bit like an extra from ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Looking closely, I can see men in the background – turned away from the camera. The one with the bald spot could be my uncle Bill, but I don’t recognise the others’ backs. So where were the men? They can’t all have been taking the photo?
Like most family historians, I have a treasured collection of family photos – from stiff studio portraits to the latest Christmas shots snapped on a smart phone. But it is this picture that best represents the idea of “family” for me. It contains at least four generations of my close family, plus others to whom I am almost certainly related in some way. They are casually dressed, sitting in a field surrounded by the debris of a picnic, posing for a snapshot rather than a portrait. They aren’t gathered for some formal occasion demanding family presence – like a wedding or christening – but brought together simply to enjoy a day out. It isn’t a great photo – but it’s a great picture of what family can be like.
Here are some other “family photo” posts I’ve enjoyed:
Long ago summer; sisters for ever.
My mother is one of six children; five daughters and a son. As in most families, relationships between the siblings are complex, so I love the way this photo captures five young couples starting out life together bound by ties of love and kin. My parents are in the middle.
Not exactly wordless, but brief.