Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs Light Come To Town

This will probably be my last Sepia Saturday contribution, for a while, and I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate 50 weeks of Alan's excellent blog, with a story of my 2 x Great Grandparents, as reported in the Daily Herald on Wednesday, 25th August, 1937.

Two excited old people, Mr. Wellington ("Duke") Light, 78 year-old Hampshire farmer, and his 74 year-old wife, yesterday visited London for the first time.

They came as guests of the "Daily Herald" - and their visit fulfilled a life ambition.

For, they had never before been more than 25 miles from their home in Colden Common, near Winchester.

Married 52 years, they have never been separated, had never ridden in a bus or been to a theatre or cinema.

Here is how they spent their day with a "Daily Herald" Special Correspondent, who showed them the sights.

1 P.M. Driving over Westminster Bridges, they catch their first glimpse of the river.
"How beautiful," says Mrs Light, "Look Duke, it's just like the sea. And is that Big Ben right up there? We've read all about him in the papers."

1.10 Passing Buckingham Palace. "Is that where the King lives," asks Duke, unbelieving. "why does he have such a great place as that?"
Mrs Light interpolated the story of "how we nearly couldn't come to London after all because one of Duke's pigs, which he bought at market yesterday at 22s. each, and very nice little pigs too, escaped and ran away. But it was all right after all. We found him this morning, sleeping in the next sty."

1.15 Mr and Mrs Light shake hands all round at the Royal Palace Hotel. Going up to their room they take their first trip in a lift.
"What?" says "Duke," again incredulous, "Up three flights of stairs in about a second. I never would have believed. If that isn't a licker."

2 P.M. Lunch in the Cumberland Grill. Says "Duke," pointing to the concealed lights, "Is that the sun coming in there? No? It must be some wonderful lights."

Later, he tells the waiter how he nearly couldn't come to London because of the lost pig, lights a cigar and clears up the Stilton.

3.30 "What high buildings you have up here" (around Marble Arch) "I never dreamt there were such places."

4.15 At the Bank of England, they see "where the money comes from," and watch the pigeons outside the Royal Exchange.
"I used to keep pigeons," says Mrs Light, "but the cat killed them all. Does anybody ever feed these, (anxiously) I thought they looked well fed."

5 P.M. "I do believe my man will want to come and live here," she adds, as the car slips along the Embankment. "Well, I've heard a lot about London, but I never would have believed," says "Duke." "What a mighty place it is to be sure."

5.30 "marvellous, marvellous" they both say in Hyde Park. "You Londoners ought never to want for fresh air."

6 P.M. Mrs Light tells the manager of the hotel all about the day (and about the lost pig).

Mr Light explains to the Hall Porter that "it's the best day I ever did spend. Fifty two years we've been married, last Monday as ever was, but I never dreamed of anything like this and that's the truth."

8 P.M. At the News Theatre, they see their first pictures. "It's hard to think it isn't real," whispers "Duke," in my ear. "I've read about the pictures, but I never would have believed…"

Later he confesses that the Silly Symphony, "Father Noah's Ark," troubled him a little. "I don't like mockery…"

9 P.M. On the way back to the hotel. "I've told that manager man," says Mrs Light, not to be surprised if I'm up at 5 o'clock tomorrow raking the fires about. He did laugh!" They decided that tomorrow they would like to see the Zoo.

My Grandmother told me that Duke and Jinny had their trip to the Zoo, but although they knew the animals were well cared for, it upset them both to see them in captivity. At that point, Jinny became homesick. She thought about her cows, wandering free in the meadows, and suddenly she felt like a prisoner. She was never one to mince words, and duly informed her hosts that she had seen enough and wanted to go home.

On their return, Duke was asked if he had been nervous about anything. "Only of the bath," he exclaimed, "we're only used to an inch or two in the tin bath in front of the range. In the hotel, the maid had filled the bath three parts full!" This, he thought, was wasteful.


  1. What a fantastic post and what a fantastic story. It's like one of those old vases you see on the Antiques programmes that comes with a rich provenance. We're going to miss you from Sepia Saturday - make sure you come back soon.

  2. What a delightful post. How fortunate you are to have such a record of your great-great-grandparents.

  3. A lovely post, Martin. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading these.

  4. This has to be the sweetest, most lovely post I've read in a long while, Martin. What a delightful pair! And how wonderful to have this absolutely fascinating insight into two people who otherwise may well have been lost in the mists of time. By that I mean, to have quotes, phrases, descriptions of their reactions to everything they saw. Yu can almost hear their voices. It's precious. What a gift!

  5. This was classic, Martin! I loved not only what they had to say as they experienced everything, but the way the newspaper interpreted their big trip to the big city. "Licker" is a new one on me!

    I think I would have liked Jinny (being someone who also doesn't mince words). I would have been anxious to go home to the farm as well.


  6. what a lovely, lovely story - to think never being more than 25 miles from your home for most all one's life.

    thank you for sharing your great-grandparents grand adventure with us. what a gift to have the original clipping!

    wishing you a nice hiatus from sepia saturday - and we look forward to your return!

  7. Hoping you are not leaving forever. I love that post. I can just imagine their wide eyes at seeing the city. such a charming post.

  8. That was wonderful, Martin, thank you.

  9. An astonishing and amusing tale that was all the more so with the news clipping. I can almost hear their amazement at the sights. Really enjoyed this.

  10. I really enjoyed the visit to London of Mrs. and Mr.Light. Excellent post. Hope you return sometimes to Sepia Saturday. Best wishes. T.

  11. Wonderful post, Martin! Gadzooks - they'd never even ridden a bus! I wonder how they finagled the trip from the newspaper. But never mind, what a great experience for them.
    I hope you're not swearing off all blogging!

  12. What a wonderful story. How life has changed in the years since.

  13. Wonderful. My NZ nephew is just home from a trip to meet his English fiance's family 'up North' and couldn't believe they had never been to London. His girl is obviously a stay-at-home..he met her in NZ.

  14. Whoops..left out a 'not' there. His fiance is definitely NOT a stay-at-home!

  15. How wonderful, Martin! Thanks for this very special post!

  16. Wonderful post, how lucky you are to have this report about your 2x great grandparents, and have this glimpse into their thoughts and words and the world they lived in.

  17. What a fabulous post. I like their commentary too. While they may have been fascinated by London, my guess is that when they returned home they knew they were in the best place of all.

  18. Delightful musings. It's a reminder that life can be full without most of the things that we think are essential.

  19. Lovely post, Martin! Ciara's comments above hit the nail on the head - how marvelous to have this snapshot of your relatives (and I mean the words more than the picture) and see the world through their eyes. Thanks for posting it.

  20. smart wrap up.
    you have true talent.

  21. All I can say is what most others have said...wonderful!. I loved every word of it. What a treasure!
    Don't stay away too long. I'm going to have to take a break also but will keep in touch.

  22. Oh my gosh, this is fabulous! However did you find the article?! (Or perhaps you family saved it and it has passed through the family?) I's assuming you never met your great-grandparents, but this helps you - and us - come to know them a little. Thank you. What a fun read.

    I hope you're okay and that you'll be back to Sepia Saturday soon. We'll miss you.

  23. Thanks everyone. So glad this post received such a positive response. I never knew Duke or Jinny, but their story is a strong one, that deserves to live on. Jinny's story, in particular, deserves much more attention. Something I'm hoping to develop over the coming months.


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