Monday 5 September 2016

Streets of Belfast 1901: An Animated Photo - Joan Lennon

My sister flagged up this video to me, because our grandfather came to Canada from Donaghadee (a small place not far from Belfast) about 10 years after this scene was filmed.  I looked out for him in case he was in Belfast that day (he had a pronounced limp because one leg was substantially shorter than the other, from a badly set break as a boy, so he would have been spot-able) but no luck.

This was filmed from the top of a horse-drawn tram by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, on a fine sunny day in May, 1901.  The end product, an "animated photo"*, was shown in the Usher Hall, Belfast and you can see perambulating billboards advertising the performance at 1:28 and 2:20.

It's riveting, isn't it?  The casual way people stroll into the street - the weight and swish of the women's skirts - I feel as if I've learned a lot, seeing the clothes in motion, instead of just in static drawings or still photographs - the different lengths of skirts for different ages - those enormous hats on those little girls!

I keep seeing more each time I watch it - 
at 0:07 - the barefoot boy 
at 1:10 - the extremely pregnant woman carrying a baby and holding the hand of a bouncy little girl in white and a big hat -
at 1:31 and 1:36 and 1:41 - the way women with more of a bustle would grab the back of their skirts with one hand
at 2:55 - the little boy in his sailor suit, standing out in the street
at 3:05 - the country woman in a shawl and apron 

I can't help noticing the sad condition of some of the animals, then, right at the end, two perky dogs trot by.  Our grandfather loved dogs.  He would have approved.

*"Film" and "movie" hadn't yet consolidated their places as the accepted terms for moving pictures.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Silver Skin.


Lydia Syson said...

Completely riveting, yes! I'm going to have to watch it a few more times and on a bigger screen just in case I can spot my own great-grandfather, Belfast-born, who moved to Manchester and then London in 1901 having started writing as a journalist on 'The Northern Whig'. I feel I'd recognise him as I have a beautiful photograph of him above my mantelpiece.

Other things I loved...the shadows of the buildings from the other side of the road in the early section (some of which looked identifiable, but it's too long since I was last in Belfast), the trundling bill-boards for the Ulster Hall, and the penny-farthing propped casually against a shopfront.

Thank you, Joan!

Leslie Wilson said...

Must show my husband! Trying to remember how old my father-in-law was then. Thanks, Joan! And such good quality film, too. So far I've only noticed the Ormeau as a business I recognise, but he might notice more. I'm fascinated by the sounds of the vehicles, too.