Friday, 5 February 2010

Sepia Saturday: Train and Training

This is my maternal grandfather, Asher James Gregory, aged three or four. So the picture is dated sometime around 1913-14. He once told me how he remembered the photograph being taken, “ though it was yesterday..” A man came, with his camera mounted on a wooden tripod. He wrestled his equipment into place and set up the shot before promptly disappearing beneath a black cloth. After much fiddling about and repeated calls for grandfather to keep still, the deed was done. Miraculously, the photograph has survived for almost 100 years.

It seems entirely possible that the photographer in question was a local enthusiast with a passion for capturing village life through his lens.

At this age, the world should have been at Asher’s feet, along with his treasured model steam train. But, as was so often the case for many country-dwelling families at that time, life was uncertain. Constantly moving from one tied cottage to another. Having a bread-winner with a thirst for beer that was hard to quench. Watching helplessly while siblings fought and lost battles with commonplace, childhood diseases.

He left school at 14 years old, and took up a position assisting a gardener at the ‘big house’, before weeding his way to more skilful work. Over the years, he learnt how to thatch, make hazel hurdles, layer hedges along with mastering of the art of coppicing,.

He came through it all, a countryman all his long life, and lived to see his 92nd birthday before passing on in 2002.

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© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges 


  1. It's amazing he could remember making the photo. I love his button-up boots! And his locomotive.

  2. This photo is so lovely, being in a natural outside setting. My grandfather, his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, were all those local enthusiasts with passions for capturing village life through their lens!

  3. That train must have been a prized possession.
    It's incredible that he remembered that as if it was just "yesterday".
    Ninety-Two was certainly a good long life and he must have had great satisfaction in the coppice-trade.


  4. A lovely picture! I've been going through a vintage album for a future post and enjoying the charming folks of my husband's family.

    My latest nephew, born last September, is named Asher -- a good strong name!

  5. That photographer certainly made a big impression on your grandfather for him to remember it at such a young age! And that steam engine would have been a wonderful expensive gift at the time. Lovely photograph!

  6. Isn't it amazing that we can give new life to this almost lost material - the electronic age, so far away from the world under that little boy's feet, brings the past to the present with such ease.

  7. Lovely picture and as always a thought provoking post. Thank goodness for those local enthusiasts who captured those moments in time.

  8. What a fantastic photo. The train looks well worn! Funny how the photo survived but the train probably didn't (or did it?)

  9. Stephanie

    He had a fantastic memory and could recall events that took place way back in his early years. Those tales were often at the root of his storytelling.


    Thank goodness for the likes of your forebears. Without these enthusiasts, we would be missing out on so much photographic history.


    Yes, his memory was sharp and he always claimed that his hearing was 'acute'. Right until the end, he rarely missed a whisper.

    He was 'at one' with the woods and the materials he worked with. I never heard him express a regret.


    Thank you. I look forward to seeing some of those photographs of your husband's family. Sepia Saturday has opened a wonderful treasure chest of scenes from the past.

    I agree, Asher is a strong name. Our daughter and son-in-law also love it, but we have three darling granddaughters, so it might have to wait for another generation.


    Thank you. I think the engine was passed on by a 'well to do' family. There's no way my great grandparents could have afforded a toy like that.

    Duncan at wittingpress

    Digitisation of our most treasured photographs and documents will prove to be a gift of the age. We should be less anxious now, with the ability to create and store multiple back-ups.


    I must say that this a precious thing to have, and each time I look at it, I'm amazed it survived.


    Thank you for dropping by. Yes, the train had been well used before it came into my grandfather's possession. And no, it never made it I'm afraid. Now that would have been something to have, wouldn't it?

  10. The photo is wonderful, the more so because it isn't a studio portrait.

    I wonder what that train would be worth today?

  11. Wonderful photo! I've asked around in my large family and have failed to come up with pictures of my grandparents' childhood. Thank you for sharing yours!

  12. The photo is beyond a classic. Museum quality. The story is such an enhancement. Thatching roofs today is probably a high paying job. He was determined to keep food on the table and each job kept that happening.

  13. Barry

    In a way, it's fitting that this photograph was taken outside in the open, because that's where he spent his working life.

    I imagine the train would be a collector's dream.


    Thank you. You're very welcome. I count myself very lucky to have this photograph and the chance to show it on Sepia Saturday.


    When I left school, I pleaded with him to take me on as his apprentice. He was adamant that there was no future in it and advised me to choose a different path. As it turned out, thatching has become highly specialised, and lucrative.

  14. wonderful to have heard his memory of this moment

  15. lettuce

    Yes, I do feel privileged to have heard his recollections. Hopefully, they'll be passed down and live on.

  16. Hi Martin
    very nice photo - how different the clothes on him than what little boys wear today too - I am guessing his mom sewed that shirt.

  17. Rhonda

    Thank you for dropping by. Yes, this style of dress would look a bit odd on today's little boys. I would say it's a good guess that his mother made the smock/shirt herself.


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