Films of Whitby which lay undiscovered in boxes for decades are revealed for first time

Reel-to-reel audio recordings which lay undiscovered in boxes for decades are revealed for the first time in three ground-breaking documentary films on show at Whitby Museum.

By Duncan Atkins
Friday, 10th September 2021, 9:32 am

The films describe life in Whitby as seen through the lens of one of the town's press photographers, and as heard through the voices - recorded decades ago - of women and men who lived and worked on and near the sea in Whitby.

York-based film maker Anne Dodsworth was so bowled over when she first heard the archive, she later recruited actors and a Berlin-based composer to bring together a unique cinematic trilogy.

Ms Dodsworth's company Blow Your Trumpet Films was commissioned to make the trilogy by Whitby businessman David Tindale in 2019.

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Herring boats leaving port, by John Tindale.

The archive is part of the lifetime work of David Tindale's father John, who died in 2001 aged 80.

Not only was he a Whitby Gazette photographer, he was also a chemist in the town and a published author.

He chronicled life in Whitby from the 1950s to the 1990s, gathering audio recordings of elderly people describing memories and events in the town that go way back into the past.

The Tindale archive - thousands of his photographs, most of which were published in the Whitby Gazette, some amateur films, and many hours of the audio recordings - forms the core of Dodsworth's films.

Children and the piers at low tide, by John TIndale.

The main presentation is a documentary shown across three screens to make the most of unseen archive films and photographs.

The two shorter films are compilations of the audio recordings, combined with clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Among the audio tales are accounts of the death and destruction caused by the First World War bombardment of Whitby.

Also described is the rescue operation launched following the sinking of the military hospital ship Rohilla, just off the Whitby coast, in October 1914.

RNLI Runswick crew, by John Tindale.

There are tales of poachers feeding their families by hiding salmon under babies in prams, and descriptions of just how harsh life was for the hungry children of the local primary school.

There are also tales of partying until 2am, and fun times in Whitby at the Regatta.

Ms Dodsworth.said: "What comes over is the warmth and resilience of the people in these recordings made mainly in the 1970s.

"It’s quite remarkable they have never been heard before; they chat about First World War events very familiar to them as if they were yesterday; some are talking about their strict primary school teachers - in the 1890s."

David Tindale.

The main presentation, A Vision of Whitby, tells John Tindale’s story about how he came to chronicle decades of life in Whitby.

His story is told through re-enacted scenes, and an extravaganza of archive, across three screens, the music exclusively written and performed by Berlin-based Alasdair Reid.

The two other films describe life on land, and life out with the fishermen on the cruel, cold North Sea. Ms Dodsworth combines clips from audio recordings of identified people with a mixture of film, including clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Included among the contributors in the audio recordings are famous locals John “Woodpeg" Storrey, born 1893, George Frampton born 1903, and Sarah Beedle Solly (nee Brown) born 1890.

David Tindale said: "My father never stopped taking photographs his entire life, from being a young man to an old gent, and was looking for the story in everyone he met, whether for news, for literally thousands of weddings and significant events, or for those small moments in life that still make the paper in a town like Whitby.

"What he loved doing was getting people's stories out of them, and in a place like Whitby, tucked away in the top corner of Yorkshire, there's absolutely no shortage of great stories and great characters.

"For the younger generation and generations to come who are hooked on social media and the internet, these films represent a proper journey back in time.

"The people my dad recorded lived lives very different to ours, but in every way that matters they were just the same as us.

"We can hear the sorrows and joys in their own voices and wonder how we might have got on if we had been in their shoes and born in their time.

"It's a unique thing that my dad did, hours and hours of recordings - and Anne Dodsworth has brought them to life for me, my family, for Whitby - and for the thousands of visitors to Whitby.

Ms Dodsworth added: "I spent hours during lockdown listening to the audio recordings and have been mesmerised by the humour, warmth and resilience of the Whitby characters, it’s been a real privilege to work on these films”.