A few years ago I wrote a column about my parents’ wedding day. They were married on 10th January 1959 at St Hedda’s Church in Egton Bridge, and the night before there was a great blizzard.
I recalled that the registrar happened to be a retired sergeant whom Dad remembered having a fiery temper and had once forced him, when he was a young cadet, to clear snow from the path to his private house. It had given Dad great pleasure to hand the man a spade to help clear the snow from outside the church.
On his way to the ceremony, this registrar had ended up stuck in a snowdrift, but he was rescued by the wedding photographer who happened upon him en route. Using his Land Rover, a vehicle suited to winters in the country, he helped tow the stranded car out before giving the registrar a lift the rest of the way. What I did not mention first time round was that this photographer was well-known Whitby figure, John Tindale.
I was very fortunate recently to be invited to the launch of an exhibition at Whitby Museum featuring John’s work and celebrating his life. John was an excellent photographer, and his passion was to document the lives of the ordinary people who lived and worked in the town. Most families earned their livings either from the sea or from moorland agriculture, and John’s work, which spanned the years between the 1950s and the 1990s, celebrated the everyday, yet remarkable, stories of these people.
Although it was this kind of photography that John most enjoyed, his main income came from working as a news photographer for the Whitby Gazette, and also as a wedding photographer, sometimes attending up the three ceremonies in one day. He could often be seen standing atop his trusty Land Rover to get a better position from which to take a shot. In fact, one of my favourite photos of my parents’ wedding was taken by John looking down from the top of his car as they left the church.
At the centre of the exhibition, which can be seen until the end of May next year, is a film called ‘A Vision of Whitby’, created by film maker Anne Dodsworth. She invited my mum to participate to talk about her memories of the wedding day, and the part John played in it. I must admit, seeing Mum describing the occasion on screen for the first time was very moving, especially as Dad was not there to share in the moment.
There is a companion exhibition in the museum’s Costume Gallery which showcases the changing fashions in wedding dresses spanning the years that John operated as a bridal photographer. My mum’s simple cotton broderie anglaise dress is one of those featured, as is a stunning and far more elaborate gown belonging to the Marchioness of Normanby.
Alongside my mum’s dress is a plaque showing an article that appeared in the Whitby Gazette at the time. I loved reading the contemporary account, which describes how Tindale helped the registrar get to the church, only to arrive and find that the bride herself had not turned up.
The article goes on to say: ‘Inquiry showed that the taxi she had ordered to convey her from her home to the church was held up. Mr Tindale tried to help but ran into a drift and after half an hour’s delay, the bride had to take off her wedding shoes, don a pair of boots, and walk to the church, using the schoolroom to change her footwear before the wedding ceremony.
‘The bridegroom had not risked road conditions, and had travelled to Egton Bridge by rail.’
I took my mum for a trip back over the moors a couple of months ago, somewhere she hadn’t been for a long time. We visited Lealholm, driving past the house where she was born, and also through Glaisdale where Dad was born, then went to lay some flowers where her late parents and sister lie in Sleights Church yard.
A highlight of the trip was visiting St Hedda’s Church, which is absolutely beautiful inside, and well worth a visit. More than 62 years after she said ‘I do’, Mum lit a candle for Dad, and remembered that very special snowy day back in 1959.
Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 8th October and the Gazette & Herald on 6th October 2021