Saturday, 5 March 2016

In Search Of M.W.Thackrah

I’ve always had a fascination with old photographs and have picked up a few over the years in various flea markets and old bookshops, sometimes for college projects or even curiosity value.

Around 1995, I was back visiting my family in Catterick, North Yorkshire when I ventured into Richmond one day. Popping into a flea market (now long since closed) I chanced across a selection of old photographs dating from the early 1900s.

Many of these were in the region of 20p – 30p each so I thought I’d get a selection for use in a future college project. That college project ultimately became a video short based on The Beatles In My Life song. Most of the photographs ranging from children to old men in flat caps, Victorian era ladies and old people attending tea parties or on bus outings but all fairly anonymous. All, that is, except for one.

Among all these photographs was an early 20th Century portrait photograph of a clergyman. The image signed underneath (I assume) written in his own hand, M.W.Thackrah. I gave the photo little thought other than that it was a nice image.

The photo was subsequently scanned in, used in my animation and I only came across it again a few years ago when I started blogging and used it (along with other photographs) for a Wordless Wednesday post.

However, the fact that this photograph, with a signature, has always stood out from the others for me, is that it isn’t anonymous. With the others, we can create fictional biographies of these people, unlabeled but still very real, their identities, apparently now lost to the mists of time. Anyone who knew them, or remembered them are now sadly probably dead too. Not so muchfor  M.W.Thackrah, he clearly signed this photograph. So who was he? Can I find out?

Last week, I came across the image again, and wondered if I Googled the name if any results would come up? Probably unlikely but worth a go!

I was pleasantly surprised when I found an article on the Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society Website referring to four curates from the Barwick-in-Elmet parish in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s, one of which was an M.W.Thackrah. It is possible that M.W. Thackrah was actually a Yorkshire man, the Rev. Matthew William Thackrah?

Matthew William Thackrah gained his BA at Queen's College, Cambridge and an MA in 1905. Thackrah’s training for the ministry began at Cuddeston College where he was appointed Deacon in 1902. Later that year he was appointed curate at St Paul's, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. After becoming an ordained priest in 1904, he remained there until he was appointed curate of Barwick-in-Elmet in 1905 where he remained until 1907.

I forwarded a scan of the photograph to the webmaster of the site, Harold Smith, shortly afterwards. Harold kindly returned my email responding that he’d check the society records to see if this might be the same person.

Harold got back to me yesterday saying there isn’t anything in the Society’s records to indicate that it is the same man, although there is enough circumstantial evidence that it could be a possibility.

How the photograph found itself in a North Yorkshire Flea Market in 1995 is anyone’s guess. Maybe Thackrah had sent it to somebody in the area at some point; perhaps he’d even visited Richmond?
  • You can read the full article on The Four Curates of Barwick-in-Elmet at the Barwick-In-Elmet Historical Society website.
  • If you can help with any information regarding M.W.Thackrah from further details of his life or work I’d love to hear from you, if only to piece a little more information about him together.

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