Category Archives: West Cornwall (and local history)

Harry Ousey-Neglected Colourist amongst the St Ives Artists

 

Very recently I attended an intriguing talk by Sue Astles, Ousey’s neice about this little known Northern  Artist. I found myself wondering just how such a brilliant colourist could seemingly be rather overlooked. Further information and background can be found at

https://www.lancashirelife.co.uk/out-about/harry-ousey-exhibition-at-the-salford-museum-and-art-gallery-1-4082392

and at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Ousey

There are two possible factors which one might surmise for this aberration. Firstly, it seems that his interest in experimenting in so many various styles may have mitigated his being recognised for any definite style. His restless interest in both conventional and abstract work is not difficult to recognise. There is a certain interest in certain themes such as stone wall construction and the sea horizon. Certain influences seem to be lurking in the background from Miro, Dufy and perhaps Rothko. However, the multiplicity of his painting styles, doubtless including original work, could have inhibited proper recognition.

Such recognition might have been easier if he had access to gallery display. My second point is that I surmise that the influence of more recognised and prominent figures in the St Ives nexus made this difficult. Artists like Denis Mitchell and Terry Frost would have understood this. There was a social class barrier to surmount and I am fairly sure this is a pressure that a less wealthy northern painter would have encountered this even in the more enlightened postwar period. A glass ceiling even amongst progressives and bohemians!

Image result for harry ousey artist

Image result for harry ousey artist

Ousey’s later interest in environmental compositions reminded me also of the not dissimilar work of Margaret Mellis. (Not to be confused on grounds of alliteration with the abstract Penwith artist Marlow Moss!)

 

St Ives in the 1950s as portrayed by Hyman Segal

This uniquely illustrated pamphlet of around 20 pages offers a brilliant summary of life in St Ives just after the War. The town’s Silver Age it might be termed. This fascinating time period is manifest in the vivid sketches by the well-known St Ives artist, Hyman Segal. https://cornwallartists.org/cornwall-artists/hyman-segal   

Segal is probably best remembered for his African paintings as well as for his skill in portraying cats with sweeping economical lines. A Daily Mirror photographic  frontispiece shows him, an Art Therapist at West Cornwall Hospital, helping the recovery of a young lad at Tehidy Sanatorium in Camborne. This classic photograph by Bela Zola indicates the pride in the newly created NHS.{Zola was a leading photographer who recorded later the Aberfan Disaster and the profumo Affair among other renowned assignments.) https://www.worldpressphoto.org/collection/photo/1956/28663/1/1956-Bela-Zola-GN1-(1)

The first sketch in the pamphlet is of our celebrated Town Crier, Abraham Curnow -here just 54 years old. This is accompanied by a sketch of his Father-in-Law, Ernest James Stevens, popularly known as “Jimmy Limpets”. This drawing with others by Segal now hangs in the Sloop Inn.

On the following page is an image of Thomas Tonkin Prynne who had been the manager of Lanham’s picture framing business which in previous years  supplied the Royal Academy and other galleries with canvases by inter alia , Julius Olsen, Louis Grier and Moffat Linder. In addition to running an efficient business, he worked for 16 years as a member of the volunteer fire brigade, had a blue Persian cat and loved fishing.

 

There is also a magnificent sketch of Alistair St Clair Harrison, like Churchill, an old Harovian who had been a fighter pilot during the Second World War. It was Harrison who broadcst for the BBC about the rescue of HMS Wave in September 1952 and also about his interest in Antartic whaling. It was with his Norwegian wife that he established “The Gay Viking”;almost as famous for its colourful clientele as its innovative continental cuisine. ( Gay Viking was incidentally one of eight vessels that were ordered by the Turkish Navy, but were requisitioned by the Royal Navy to serve with Coastal Forces during the Second World War)

Alistair St Clair Harrison by Hyman Segal

Frank Edward Endell Mitchell, appropriately portrayed with bow-tie, fashionable in the 1950s, was known as “Micheal” and was the tenant of the Castle Inn. His friendship with Dylan Thomas must have been firmly established in the bohemian atmosphere of the bar there, then opposite Lanham’s and the Scala Cinema (presently Boots). Mitchell who was the brother, I believe of the eminent sculptor, Denis Mitchell, offered the Castle lounge for the display of art works and in his spare time, he himself did pastels and was occupied in breeding Boxer dogs.

The donation of this little pamphlet to the Morrab Archive offers members the opportunity to recreate for themselves the ambience of the Fifties through “The Familiar Faces of  St Ives”.

 

 

 

 

Coming soon- “Growing up in West Cornwall”

Coming soon

Complementing our previous title, Women of West Cornwall (ed. Pam Lomax, 2016), Growing up in West Cornwall describes the experience of childhood in West Cornwall, from the seventeenth century onwards. It documents childhood memories, mostly from the early years of the Twentieth Century, set in the context of institutions that structured the children’s lives – the village schools and the workhouse. The recollections captured here deal with schooldays, holidays, home life (sometimes when the father has gone mining overseas, or when the parents are busy Newlyn artists);  and starting work, as an undertaker’s apprentice in a spooky situation or a cabin boy preparing meals for the crew. How many of us regret that we did not ask our grandparents more about their childhood? This book helps us to understand how it felt to be a child in West Cornwall in the very different world in earlier centuries. Family historians will welcome the surname index.

 

 

 

 

 

The main chapters:

Chapter 1 Clifford Harry’s Recollections of Carnyorth Schooldays 1908 -1916 (Carlene Harry)

Chapter 2 The Decline and Fall of the Village School in Lamorna (Sally Corbet)

Chapter 3 St Erth Wesleyan Day School 1900-1922 (Cedric Appleby)

Chapter 4 Memories of a Mousehole Childhood (Susan Soyinka)

Chapter 5 Young People of Zennor 1600-1750 (Jean Nankervis)

Chapter 6 Children of the State (Sue Nebesnuick)

Chapter 7 The Artists’ Child (Pam Lomax)

Chapter 8 Word of Mouth (Jenny Dearlove)

 

Shorter articles:

Children’s Books (Dawn Walker)

Pamela Smart remembers (Caroline Baker)

Children’s Toys (Dawn Walker)

Jean Mitchell remembers (Dawn Walker)

May Day Celebrations (Carlene Harry)

George Care remembers (George Care)

Bad Boys up the Rec (Linda Camidge)

The eleventh publication of the Penwith Local History Group

100 pages, A4, illustrated throughout in colour and black and white

Published July 2019

Editor Sally Corbet

ISBN 978-0-9954940-1-5

RRP £10 from local bookshops, Morrab Library, Penzance, or from the Penwith Local History Group

Here is one old tradition that used to take place at Man’s Head the other side of Porthmere from the Island in St Ives

 

Summer Blues over coffee-Penzance

Sitting in Mr Billy’s, cappuccino drunk

I  watch the Golowan flag unfurl and roll

over the discount furniture store.

An elegant lizard design ruffled

as Hurricane Hector creeps to shore.

 

Caffine restores and clears the brain’s funk;

mind having been clogged with too many poets

read too superficially, such a rapid tour:-

Akhmatova, Garcia Lorca, Neruda

-several more.

all read in translation with growing piles

of biographies-Akhmatova’s by Elaine Feinstein

and just recovered, after much searching,

Pablo Neruda’s by Adam Feinstein.

The latter faintly and quaintly inscribed to ” Jessie G-

My passion in my life” signed Den

with five kisses -a bargain at three pounds forty nine.

Although I don’t know these signatories.

I remember the  Sixties, when a certain Jessie G occupied

my thoughts and feelings.

 

As the shoppers come and go- not thinking, I think

of Michelangelo,

I long for the enigmatic winds that energised us all-

when Co-Operative with its cheap and vivid green awning

was not just a shop.

As the street fills with delivery vans,

I long for the fervour again to discover,

Sous les paves, la plage!

The Plaque- A Short Story by Kate Whitehead

                   The Plaque.

 

Aileen stands in the wide upstairs window of the holiday home detecting the subtle traces of him: a sharp scent of Old Spice a whiff of musky pipe tobacco. Dazzled by the surprize of yet another days sunshine she peers at the historical tableau below kids jumping from the high stone harbour walls catapulting magically through salty space.

She reaches into the musty wardrobe for a pinned stripe dress belted at the waist, pats her lacquered curls and sprays on the cologne which just like the summer reeks of 1976.

Strapped into her beige high heeled sandals she steps lightly into the midday sun passing familiar faces with a half nod. This unexpected burst of bright blue brilliance only accentuates the loss. Everything is magnified under the harsh distorting glare.

Aileen misses the bracing salt laden spring breezes. The still mid-summer air smells of consumption; over fried fish and suntan lotion. Her brown foundation trickles down her right cheek melting onto the starched white collar of her dress. She considers skulking back into the cool cavern but doggedly continues her weekly constitutional climbing the worn jagged slabs up to the other side. At the top of the steps she rests for a moment breathless, scowls at the discarded detritus tangled in the early brambles. Her frown relaxes into a small self -congratulatory smile as she observes the sleek elegant grey contours of the holiday home sandwiched amidst the granite.

Huddled at the end of the peeling brown bench with the missing slat a blonde woman sits clutching a small black notebook. Her clothes are vaguely scruffy at odds with the thick citrus scent of the Aqua Parma.

“Shall I move?” she asks half smiling half grimacing Aileen can’t be sure.

“No a there’s more than enough room for the two of us.” Aileen replies authoritatively.

The blonde woman’s called Alice . She lives in the village all year round up on the hill.

Aileen half listens to her staccato monologue .She’s diving into a memory, wallowing in its texture. It’s the Aqua Parma that’s set her off .She knows it’s really a special occasion evening perfume, remembers him first giving it to her for Christmas not long after their first meeting wrapped in shiny gold paper. The half empty bottle sits in her bathroom cabinet back home in Ireland. Now and the then she takes it out clutches it longingly to her chest, and strokes the cold glass.

“Oh my goodness where’s the time gone I’m late for my lunch.” Aileen exclaims rising stiffly from the bench.

That’s when she notices it larger, Golder and bolder very recently screwed on above her husband’s modest brown square.

Shocked and enraged at the blatant unbelievable audacity of this thing that’s appeared over night she spits the words at Alice:

“They can’t do this not without my permission .It’s our bench we paid 500 for the plaque …..Because he loved the village so much”

“Oh dear” Alice interjects troubled by the news that there is a dark drama clouding the benign gentleness of her favourite refuge.

“I need to speak to someone who knows about THIS. “  Aileen shouts jabbing a finger at the plaque.

“So you own the bench do you.”  Alice mutters indignantly.

Alice observes Aileen’s cautious descent down the steps and back over to the other side. She rises reluctantly from the bench her daily dose of calm contaminated by the morbid machinations.

Crouched on plastic stool in her porch Aileen unstraps the beige sandals, shuts her eyes and imbibes the cloying scent dusty tomatoes plants mingle with the spicy cinnamon of the purple orchids his daughter gave her.

She can’t decide lunch first, then the stern phone call to the woman at the chapel who knows everything or the other way round.

Suffused with a drowsy contentment after her single glass of Merlot she totters into the bedroom reaches for the tweed arm of the jacket which still has a whiskyish tang , strokes it longingly  wistfully recalling his exuberant warmth and good nature charm.

His words bounce mockingly in her head

“Well what’s  the problem two plaques on the bench? I’m happy to be with the other fella anyway glad of the company.”

Her anger evaporates seeing the matter with his eyes: “ What’s the point of making a fuss  right at the end.” She mutters to herself flipping the fried egg onto the tiny plate.

 

It’s the end of her final solo summer sojourn in the holiday home drifting through the wide rooms, relieved when the massive sun sinks into the sea leaving her shrouded in a comforting twilight blanket. She watches the evening news tut tutting at the relentless stupidity of it all, crochets for her three grandchildren then slides gratefully under the soporific lavender scented sheets.

Alice seeks a new unadorned bench for her morning calm over on the other side .Its slightly concealed by overhanging lilac bushes. Takeaway cartons peep out of the opening of the overflowing litter bin. If she turns her head slightly to the right for a gasp of today’s fresher saltier air she can see the gold yellow outline of her own home on top of the hill. Exultant all of a sudden that there’s a bit more time left she reaches into her bag for the summer sweet strawberries.

Aileen double locks the door of the holiday home for the final time with a brief glance back through the empty windows feeling a mixture of gratitude and sadness. The bulky taxi fills the lane outside waiting to take her to the airport its driver hovers nonchalantly by the open front door.  She sees the girl from yesterday squeezing her way by, acknowledges her with a small wave of farewell , happily reflecting on the hectic autumn distractions that await her back home.

Image result for Plaque on a bench by the sea

 

Der September-Kästner

“Der September

Das ist ein Abschied mit Standarten
aus Pflaumenblau und Apfelgrün.
Goldlack und Astern flaggt der Garten,
und tausend Königskerzen glühn.

Winsculpture-Tremenheere- September 2018

Das ist ein Abschied mit Posaunen,
mit Erntedank und Bauernball.
Kuhglockenläutend ziehn die braunen
und bunten Herden in den Stall.

Das ist ein Abschied mit Gerüchen
aus einer fast vergessenen Welt.
Mus und Gelee kocht in den Küchen.
Kartoffelfeuer qualmt im Feld.

Das ist ein Abschied mit Getümmel,
mit Huhn am Spieß und Bier im Krug.
Luftschaukeln möchten in den Himmel.
Doch sind sie wohl nicht fromm genug.

Die Stare gehen auf die Reise.
Altweibersommer weht im Wind.
Das ist ein Abschied laut und leise.
Die Karussells drehn sich im Kreise.
Und was vorüber schien, beginnt.”

(Aus: Kästner, DIE DREIZEHN MONATE)

Well here is a rough translation by a good friend.
It´s September

This is a farewell with flags
coloured plum-blue and apple-green.
The garden is flagging wallflowers and asters,
and thousand mulleins glow.

This is a farewell with trombones,
with guldize and farmers´ ball.
Tolling their cowbells the brown
and colourful herds are stable bound.

This is a farewell with scents
of a long forlorn world.
Jams and Jellies simmer in the kitchens.
Potato fire smoulders in the field.

This is a farewell with turmoil,
with chicken on skewer and beer in jug.
Swingboats want to go to heaven
But they might not be piously enough.

The starlings start their journey.
Gossamer waves in the wind.
This is farewell noisy and gentle.
The merry-go-rounds are spinning in circles.
And what seemed past, starts.

Four Old Photographs from St Ives

Here is my Mother’s Aunt Vera

as though for a test on the screen

like a Hollywood Star, pure smile;

happy, serene, genteel like a heroine-

war survivor, positively engaged

with the future a dream.

 

Turning the page where a collection

of ladies, mostly hatted with one man

wait on the wharf for Crimson Tours to bring the charabanc.

One lady, in control, in the centre

banters with the photographer, another

has her back turned as the shutter clicks.

 

The next, a street party, circa 1960

or before, all festive with my mother

looking happy serving a group of pensioners

who look like they are reliving a Sunday School band-tea.

Everyone wears hats and there is a lovely bunch of flowers,

one lady glowers, a man has his customary

goofy smile and there are delivered milk in bottles

unlikely to be stolen on the step behind.

 

By 1970 the future seems to be arriving more suddenly,

when standing with camera on the end of the quay,

and almost unbelievably four or five

ducks carry a squadron of marines

into the harbour. What have we done

to be thus invaded? History approaches

us on a stormy day and I bury my chin

into my duffel coat.