Saturday, November 11, 2006

Child Art, 1914

The eleventh of the eleventh, and Remembrance Sunday tomorrow, prompts me to post this drawing by my maternal grandfather, Harry Handforth, in 1914.

It was probably done at Apperknowle school (near Sheffield) some time around the outbreak of the war. He would have been 10 at the time, and one surmises that the children were given paper and the chance to express their feelings. This image of defiance was clearly thought to have been a great success, and it got taken home and was pinned up for years in the family cottage in Summmerlee, before finding its way into a book for safe-keeping.

Grandad left school at 12 to work on a farm, and would take cart-loads of turnips over to Sheffield to sell. Later, he worked down a coal mine called the Mackerel Colliery because its workings were so wet. He was a foundryman throughout World War 2, making tanks and repairing 17-pounder guns (some of those brought in still smeared with the blood of their former gun-crews).

My mother does not think that they had enough money at home for the drawing to have been done there (making such a luxury as sheets of drawing paper unlikely). My grandfather's mother had died when he was seven, seven weeks after the birth of her fourth child. All four children were taken in by their grandmother, who was 72, but who lived to see all the children married, and herself a great-grandmother.

There cannot be much surviving child art from World War One. Grandad got it all in - Nelson, jutting chin, a bulldog guarding the flag, sabre, pistol and bandolier. It might be a copy from a newspaper image, but Grandad was a good draughtsman, and used a fine copperplate script when he wrote. He was an awesome - and yet surprisingly tolerant - figure to me in my childhood, immoderately proud of my academic success. He died in 1993, just before the birth of his great-grandchild Tim, but the kind of patriarch that you made sure knew that the family was going to extend again.


anonymous said...

Have a listen to the Remembrance podcast on iTunes or on the Royal British Legion blog. It's a good way to remember.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful drawing. Quite apart from anything it marks the passage of the years very nicely: in 1914 it looks very GB patriotic; in 2006 it looks very New York gay.