West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Letters Page



The picture of Bradburn's Ice Cream van in Market Place, was indeed taken by my late father, Frank Holmes. He was asked to take a number of photographs for a proposed Pontefract Guide. He took the pictures but I seem to remember he was never paid and the booklet was never published. The photos remained on file and some time since I decided that the negatives of my father that had survived would be better accessible in Pontefract Museum, so I allowed Mr.  Van Riel to have most of them.

Another photograph that has been used on more than one occasion is the picture of the Prince of Wales pit, taken with a foreground of houses in Tanshelf.

My father took up press photography at the start of the war. His brother Gurnie had previously done this but he went on to become a probation officer so Frank took over. He was provided with film at times by the Leeds Newspapers who used him to cover events in the town and nearby. Many times I have cycled down to Monkhill Station to put a packet of news on the train to be collected in Leeds for the following days paper. At other times he was helped by Tommy Hawley, a foreman at Wilkinson's Furniture works. He would go by bus to Leeds on a Saturday and go round the shops seeing what film or plates he could find. Tommy would call round on a Saturday afternoon to watch my father or me working in the garden. He would quietly take a picture or two and return after tea with the prints. Tommy had a daughter Betty, who he taught to take pictures and she carried on for quite a few years as Betty Beaumont. My father's darkroom was down the cellar at The Priory House and he spent many hours down there in a cold, damp place developing and printing.

I also took up the hobby but did not do much until 1953 when I bought a brand new Kodak Retinette camera which used 35mm film. This was a great improvement on the 1939 box or even more ancient plate cameras I had previously used. My father used any size plate he could get hold of and used to cut them up in total darkness to fit his press camera or the small baby Sybil he used for family photographs. I bought a roll of ex RAF film, five inches wide, and used to cut it up in the dark to fit my box camera. The small offcut in the centre of the film I used in a small film camera my father had carried in his first war service.

A friend was Colin Green, who was lab boy at the KSP and we used to experiment. One experiment was to take six different pictures on one 6x4 ins plate using masks. When I got my new camera in 1953 I went round the town taking pictures of places likely to change. These quickly became perhaps the only record of places and when the late Harry Battye brought forward the idea of a booklet to celebrate the 500th Mayor, several were used. I have continued to take pictures but in recent years have not felt it necessary as many more people have cameras and take pictures at the slightest provocation.

John O.E. Holmes
9 February 2006

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