One For Rebekah

Christmas Card 001The greetings card project has taken me back to the late 1950s, when Mum trekked around valiantly selling my adolescent Christmas card production so that I could cover the cost of their commercial printing.  As far as I remember we didn’t lose any money.  We certainly couldn’t have afforded to.  Although I have produced amateur handmade postcards of my photographs in the years since, I have never again attempted to sell any.

In the 1950s the method was pretty archaic by today’s standards.  I drew the artwork, took it to a block maker who produced a metal block, and to a printer who printed up the cards. Christmas Card 002 The three kings scene was done when I was fifteen; the shepherds the following year; and finally the madonna and child in 1959.  By Christmas 1960 I was in employment and could afford to buy cards.

The first and third of these pieces were done on scraper board.  The second on a fashion plate board.  No-one else was required to reproduce them today.  I still have the originals which I scanned into my computer; cleaned off the debris of the years in iPhoto;  and uploaded into WordPress.Christmas Card 003  Magic.

I no longer have the blocks because, when working as a Child Care Officer in the 1960s, I gave them to the printing department of an approved school out in Surrey somewhere.  I can’t remember the name of it, and in any case that type of facility for juvenile offenders was phased out many years ago.  I hope the lads enjoyed practising with them.

Becky has very much appreciated the recently published old photographs of family members she never knew.  So, Beck, this one’s for you.

Norwood school, featuring Grandma & Grandpa Knight & Aunt Evelyn, c.1913tif copy

The Norwood School for the Sons of Gentlemen was a family run business of the Knights for several generations, although not always in West Norwood.  Male members ran the school, whilst the women became governesses where they served all over Europe.

Central to the photograph, probably taken in 1913, are my paternal grandparents Beatrice and Jack (John Francis Cecil) Knight.  Jack, after 1914 was never to work in the school again.  Returning from the First World War he no longer had the heart to work inside or in education, and bought a removal firm.

The woman on the far left we knew in later years as Auntie Evelyn.  It was her sister, Mabel, who bequeathed our father 18 Bernard Gardens which features in my post of 17th July last year (click here).  When the family moved into this large house in Wimbledon, among Mabel’s effects were all the gramophone   records of Julie Andrews.  Mabel had no record player, but had clearly taken pride in her former charge.

Evelyn, Mabel, and another sister, Ethel, governesses to the aristocracy during the twentieth century, between them, lived through all the major upheavals of that period.  In 1917 Ethel and Mabel fled the Russian Revolution; Evelyn was in Ireland during the crisis of 1926; and Mabel observed the Spanish Civil War at close hand ten years later.  We look forward to Chris’s publication of these biographies.

Sam 3.04

Becky has noticed the family likenesses that are evidenced in the old photos. Grandpa Knight 1917 Sam, relaxing in a Barbados Bar in 2004, having just got himself into the Guinness Book Of Records after 59 days rowing solo across the Atlantic, we think bears a striking resemblance to his paternal great-grandfather photographed in 1917, the year my father was born into a world where life was so very different from today.  Sam had the freedom to be energetically animated. Grandpa Knight Grandpa had a great deal weighing him down, not just, I think, keeping still for the studio photographer.  He was no more a natural soldier than was my Dad, who, a generation later was thrust into a similar conflict.

This evening Jackie produced a deliciously hot chilli con carne with wild rice, complemented for me by the last of the Cahors, and for her by a small bottle of Blue Moon.


The next morning, following Becky’s observation, I added the blown up section of the school group photo.  I had spent hours searching through and scanning slides to find one of Sam that showed the likeness to the army portrait, when I had in front of me one of Grandpa that would have made the job so much easier.  Whilst still looking pretty staid, in this one my forebear looks rather less gaunt than the one taken four years later after three years of war.


  1. I am doing research into officers of Herefordshire Regt in WW1. It looks as if Jack Knight originally served as sergeant in Royal Engineers (Signal troop) before being commissioned to Herefords. Born? Died? I cannot tell you much about his military service – still early days in project – there will be more info on him at National Archives at Kew.

    1. Thank you Martin. Sadly, my brother Chris, who was our family archivist, died 5 days ago. After the funeral, I will access his papers (which he had asked me to write up) and find the dates for you.

  2. This is so brilliant and interesting. I was very sad to read of your brothers passing when you wrote this, but what a beautiful wealth of creation in your family!

  3. Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. I do have similar photos of my family on both sides. Much more on my father’s side who were very “Bourgeois”… Only 2 or 3 on my mother’s side who was blue collar to a fault. I may have poste a similar picture somewhere. Let me try to find it.
    Meanwhile, in a different setting, you may have seen this one:
    Cheers Derrick

    1. Thank you so much for your stunning link, Brian – a shocking tale of the affect that dreadful madness had on your family – pointing up the difference between our two countries experiences. Jackie relates one similarity from her days as a home carer. Many of her clients in their 90s had shared the lives of your women who lost their men. The penultimate paragraph in the following post tells a similar story:

  4. PS. Not to forget your great-aunts… witnesses of history. My mother had an old friend, born in Saint-Petersburg around 1916, Russian. Fled Russia of course in 1917. She still spoke fluent Russian and was both keen to “go back” to Russia and scared. “What if they arrest me?”. She eventually went to Moscow in the early 80’s. With a French passport. When the immigration officer saw her birthplace he immediately spoke to her in Russian. She pretended she did not understand.
    Bits of history… ?
    Thank you for keeping those bits alive…

    1. My late friend who came to England as a 10 year old on Kindertransport forgot all his native German but never lost the accent

      1. Accents can be hard to lose. Kindertransport? Was he Jewish? I had a piano teacher in East Africa, an old Jewish German Lady. Spoke perfect English “viz a ferry strong German accent.” Fantastic teacher.

Leave a Reply