Maurice Wilkinson, a life in walkies.
Like many, Maurice Wilkinson grew up with walking pictures and being pestered by seaside photographers whenever his family went on holiday. The Wilkinson’s lived in Sheffield, and like many in the city Bridlington was their resort of choice as it was on a direct train line. Maurice was born in 1921 just as seaside photographers were getting into their stride, and some of the earliest photographs of him were taken by the newly established firm of Snaps in Bridlington. Indeed he was a baby in his mother’s arms in a large group photograph taken outside the Snaps office in 1921, and this one of him on a seaside donkey on the North Bay was taken the following year. The family must have liked it as they ordered some extra copies from the Snaps office at 18 Prince Street, and sent them off to his father and Aunt in Sheffield on July 10th 1922. Maurice is coping with a bucket and spade and what must have been a novel experience!
Maurice again, captured by a walking picture cameraman from Snaps in Bridlington for the first time. Up until this postcard, all the surviving Snaps portraits of the younger Maurice were taken sitting on the beach, in a deckchair, on the sea wall with relatives or sitting on a donkey. This is a classic walking picture postcard however, with Maurice arm in arm with his mother Ellen and perhaps one of his uncles. It was taken on the sea-front prom above the Bridlington North Beach. Maurice is clearly in a school blazer, marked PHS, but I don’t know of a local school which fits this. The walkie shows the problems when trying to photograph three people on the move, as to get them all in there would always be a lot of background left – or in this case plain sky.
The card was not posted, although there is a Hull address on the back, but I would put the date at around 1931 judging by other surviving walkies of Maurice.
Back to Bridlington for Maurice, this time strolling near the back of the old Floral Pavilion complex at the North end of Garrison Street. That’s his Mum but again I’m not sure if the gent is his Father (who worked as an electrical engineeer for the corporation) or an Uncle. Maurice has another school blazer on; by this time he was probably a pupil at Dronfield Grammar just outside Sheffield. Once more it’s taken by Snaps who had an office just down the street. Maurice is a few years older, and I think it dates from 1936 or so. The photograph also catches in some of the other people round about strolling along at the time, they may well have been next in line for a snap, which adds to the everyday nature of the image.
Maurice Wilkinson broadened his travel outlook beyond Bridlington in his later teenage years, and was photographed for this walking picture by Sunny Snaps in 1939 when he was 18, again I think with his mother Ellen Wilkinson. Where we’re not sure, but it most closely matches some other Sunny Snaps I have taken on Chapel Road in Worthing. Of course WW2 was only just round the corner, and after his family home just survived the Sheffield blitz in 1940 (Maurice salvaged the remains on the incendiary device which set fire to the attic and kept it, the family having fought the blaze for two hours), he joined the RAF (in a non-flying role) although I have no details of his service history.
This last walkie catches Maurice Wilkinson in a very striking beach robe in 1947! The location stumped me, but after seeing the walkie cameraman Maurice asked if he would take another couple of photos of him and his friend (not identified) stood on the wall, and one of these he then had hand-coloured as a souvenir by the Jersey firm of Beach Snaps. From that it was simple enough to locate Mount Orgueil Castle in the background. The robe appears again in a walkie taken three years later in Brighton, by which time Maurice had left the RAF for five years on the road touring in Song of Norway and Brigadoon before returning to Sheffield. For many years he ran a small hotel in Sheffield (still powered by gas light) until he retired aged 70 in 1991.
Many thanks to Giles Robinson for rescuing this material which would be landfill now if he hadn’t chanced upon it.