Letters in the Attic

WhereIngleby Greenhow Village HallType of EventIllustrated Talk
WhenThursday 27th June TutorDr Tony Nicholson

On Thursday, 27th June, Dr Tony Nicholson, one of the more eagerly anticipated speakers in our programme, delivered the third part of his story relating to letters and photographs found in the attic of his house. This collection had lain unnoticed until a boarded up doorway in his attic was discovered and opened during renovations. The story is about what emerged from 300 letters and 30 photographs. Two framed photographs, in particular, were to drive the final part of the story.

The collection belonged to a lady called Annie Johnson. The first photograph was of Annie’s former husband, Gus. Annie and Gus married in 1899, an ill-fated marriage as Gus had had relationships before and during the marriage. Gus had been in a relationship with Agnes McWilliam before the marriage and left Annie to return to her. The marriage ended in 1902 and Gus and Agnes married in 1922. Agnes later left Gus and Gus killed himself in 1928. Annie clearly had fond memories of Gus to keep his framed photograph for all that time.

Tony explained that the second framed photograph was harder to place. At first, speculatively, it was thought to be a photograph of Annie’s father. But no! The story begins to emerge from a series of letters. Annie had engaged in correspondence with a female friend called Gussie, who was a prosperous friend from Hampstead, in London. The letters spoke of Gussie’s father, Frank. It seemed that Frank was something of a “Bluebeard”. The first of Frank’s wives was Gussie’s mother, who died suddenly of apoplexy, according to the death certificate. Frank, however, was violent man, and there were bruises on the body. But a natural death was the official cause. Frank married again and the second wife left the scene after Frank had her declared insane and placed in an asylum. She died in 1899. Frank married for the third and final time in 1897!! And this wife left him because of the ill-treatment she suffered at his hands.

 In the course of researching the Gussie line, a descendant of Gussie sent Tony a photograph. It was exactly the same photograph Tony had found in Annie’s collection. The photograph was of Frank.

So who was Frank to Annie that she should keep his photograph in a frame in pride of place? This talk was described earlier as Part 3, and the final part. Perhaps there is more to see the light of day.

Speaking of which there was, during the talk, a lively aside with some members of the audience about the popular use of photographs as visiting cards during the Victorian period. On the darker side, we have had glimpses of the unseemly private side of life around that time.

 After refreshments question time concluded an entertaining evening.

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