Questions answered as ‘in’ tray is emptied

It is time to clear the decks again, a nautical analogy meaning, simply, that I am emptying not only the “in” tray on my desk in Peggotty’s Hut but also the in-box on my computer, passing on information from correspondents sent by post or e-mail.

I published an old photograph sent by Mrs Daphne Greenacre showing a group of women walking and cycling and thinks was taken in Gorleston between the wars. She hoped a reader might identify it. From his home in Lowestoft, Trevor Nicholls – retired registrar of births, deaths and marriages in the Yarmouth district – writes: “I think the photograph of the women walking might have been taken on Middleton Road in Gorleston after its completion in 1922-23.

“The fencing in the background appears to be that shown in a photograph of the new road taken from the top of St Andrew’s Church tower just prior to the road’s opening.”

Having studied that photograph, I agree with Trevor, but it does not solve the poser: who were the women and what were they doing? Perhaps they were a church or women-only group being the first people to use that road…

In his 1996 book I Remember Gorleston, the late Jim Holmes says the “important” Middleton Road was built to link the parish church with Lowestoft Road at Elmhurst (later the site of Gorleston Super Holiday Camp). “With the construction of this road Gorleston began to spread westwards and in 1932 the corporation purchased 958 acres of land from Magdalen College, Oxford, for �35,000 which was eventually developed as the Magdalen Estate.”

A decade after Middleton Road was built, a roundabout was built at the Church Lane junction, the first in the borough.

Another query came from Maurice King, of Avenue Road, Gorleston, who recalled attending a recital by internationally-renowned pianist John Ogdon at Great Yarmouth Library in, he thinks, the spring of 1963 but sought more details about it.

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Nothing specific was forthcoming, but Valerie Jordan reminds me that her late husband Aleyn was for many years secretary of the Great Yarmouth Music Club, organising the concerts and booking all the artists, some “before they hit the big time.” Artists she heard included cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and harpist Osian Ellis.

Says Valerie: “I was at the John Ogdon recital, but have no programme so sorry, I cannot remember any details except that it was brilliant.”

Much later, Aleyn told her that on the day of that recital he met John Ogdon at the Carlton Hotel and found him “a very tense and nervous man - Aleyn was horrified that he had no-one with him.” Ogdon’s widow’s biography reported that he suffered a breakdown and was eventually diagnosed with manic depression.

As music club secretary, Aleyn Jordan booked a young pianist named Yonty Solomon who became a friend. “In 1994 Aleyn asked him if he would give a charity recital in the loggia at Somerleyton Hall, which he did gladly at a very much reduced price. These recitals continued under Aleyn and myself. He arranged for a grand piano to be available, courtesy of Allen’s Music store, and for accommodation etc.

“After Aleyn’s death, in 2004 Yonty came and gave a memorial recital in Aleyn’s name. The recitals continued under Liz and Tim Thomas, for Rotary and Inner Wheel, until Yonty died in 2008.”

Twice we looked at collecting autographs, a topic launched when I bought a second-hand book on Yarmouth history that had been signed by many people – all students of the Technical High School in 1959, it transpired.

From Canada, where he and wife Marjorie have lived for half a century, ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels points out that for former pupils at Yarmouth Grammar School, “the word ‘signature’ had an entirely different meaning: it was a master or prefect’s signature inscribed in your ‘prep’ book if you were guilty of a misdemeanour, with three in a week leading to detention and – in the case of repeated fallings by the wayside - a visit to head master Alan Palmer’s study for a caning!”

Danny’s autograph book was started when he was eight or nine by his father who went to political meetings on the Britannia Pier and elsewhere, and it included the signatures of politicians Clement Atlee, Sir John Simon, Sir Hore Belisha (who pioneered Belisha beacons), Anthony Eden, Aneurin Bevan and others beyond recall. Later, in wartime, signatures of soldiers and airmen from the Commonwealth and Empire were added to it.

“What happened to that brown-covered book of memorabilia I’ve no idea - likely discarded to the rubbish bin by my mother in one of her spring cleaning frenzies.”

Alan and Marjorie were saddened to learn of the recent death of entertainer Max Bygraves. aged 89. “He was one of our all-time favourites at the Britannia Pier, with both his singing and his patter.”

They still remember some of his act, plus his appearance with a broom in front of the curtain as the audience filed out, explaining that “they don’t pay me that much so I have to make it up with some overtime!”

Comedian Tommy Trinder also used to don a dust-coat and sweep up as the audience left the Windmill, as did Cannon and Ball when they were establishing themselves here as a star double-act.

Bygraves jointly topped the bill with singer-yodeller Ronnie Ronalde in 1951, and I went with chums because we were “into” Al Jolson...and Max’s act included impersonations of the black-face American favourite whose pre-war popularity had been revived by two late-1940s Hollywood “biopics”.

Finally, last week I wrote about other places that share the name Yarmouth. One of my relaxations is cryptic crosswords, and to my surprise “Great Yarmouth” turned up as the answer to a Daily Telegraph clue: “Set of bars, we hear, linked to a jolly among teenagers in resort.”

Although not fully understand the reasoning, I did solve the clue...or I would have been acutely embarrassed the next day when I looked at the solutions!