Photo Donation of the month: A Winter’s Tale

In January 1963, the local press was full of reports of the ‘arctic spell’, where on Boxing Day 1962, snow descended upon Bury and its surrounding towns. There were messages from the police who patrolled danger spots such as rivers, lodges and reservoirs to warn children of the dangers of thin ice; local shops advertised notices of soaring prices ‘due to the severe weather’; sports pages – once full of victories and defeats – listed postponed matches, leaving players wondering when they would be able to play off their back log of fixtures.

Taken from the Bury Times, January 1963.

Was there anyone out there, apart from sledging children, taking delight in the frost, snow and ice? Of course, there must have been many who saw the beauty and drama of a town’s transformation and we have the evidence of at least one: Gertrude Jolley from Prestwich! She composed this enchanting scene from Narnia, subsequently donating it (amongst other striking images) to Prestwich Library for their local history collection. We now hold the collection of photographs taken by Gertrude in the late 1950s and 1960s of a rural Simister before completion of the M62.

Description on the reverse: Reservoir near Baguley Brow Farm, Bowlee. Early in 1963, after long frost, the water leaked from the reservoir and the ice cracked and slipped.

This particular photograph is of the reservoir near Baguley Brow Farm, Bowlee. We can’t be sure if the figure in the scene is a companion of Gertrude’s but the dark-clothed ‘stranger’ certainly adds a touch of mystery and melodrama to the composition. There is a gesture, a slight incline to the right that suggests he may turn round and beckon us; do we ignore those warnings from the police and follow him towards the cracked ice? What did Gertrude do?

Check out description of the other photographs in the series on our catalogue.


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