‘Give Me a Ticket to Heaven’

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by Jeannie Swales

It’s not often possible to pin down an exact moment of everyday history.

But the reverse of this postcard tells us that it was postmarked at 3pm on February 16, 1905, in York. The recipient was a Miss Whitworth, who was staying, or living, at the White Horse Hotel on Coppergate in the city. The sender didn’t waste any words: the message on the card is simply ‘from CH’.

But perhaps they felt that economy of style was necessary to offset the sentimental outpourings on the front of the card.

A little girl is pictured surrounded by a concerned group comprising a dowager lady, a stationmaster, a railway worker and a sailor. Below her, the pathetic opening to a 1903 music hall song with words by Richard Elton and music by Denham Harrison, Give Me a Ticket to Heaven.

The child (‘so frail, in form, so small in size’) tells how her mother died in childbirth, and her father has recently also departed this world:

“Give me a ticket to heaven; That’s where dad’s gone, they say. He’ll be so lonely without me, Travelling all that way. Mother died when I was born, sir, and left Dad and me all alone; So give me a ticket to heaven, please, before the last train is gone.”

The softer-hearted amongst you will be delighted to know that there’s more to the song than just the extract on the card, and there’s a happy ending. The child’s father, it seems, is also a railway worker, and when she took his tea to him that night, she discovered he’d had an accident and overheard a tactless co-worker comment: “He’s booked for heaven, poor old Dick!”

But the kindly stationmaster knows better:

“He took her to the hospital; they let her see her Dad. Though injured, he had not been killed and oh! her heart was glad.”

Let’s hope Miss Whitworth appreciated the sentiment.

Elton and Harrison collaborated regularly on music hall songs, including A Heart of Gold, Forget-me-not Eyes! and Why For You Look at Anoder Gal (sic), and Harrison, who died in 1945, performed many of them.

You can hear him singing Give Me A Ticket to Heaven here: http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/c/Harrison%252C%2BDenham/all/1

The postcard is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects acquired by the borough over the years, and now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. For more information on the collections, and how and where to see them, please contact (01723) 384503 or visit www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.org.uk