The Snows of Yesterday

I’VE WRITTEN several times about my great grandfather George who worked in the cutlery trade in Sheffield. Here’s a watercolour by his son Maurice Swift, my grandfather. It’s signed ‘M. Swift age 13’ so that means that he painted it around 1900.

The farmhouse on the hillside with its shelter belt of trees could be a real location on the Peak District side of Sheffield, or perhaps it is imagined with that kind of country in mind. I phoned my mum to say that I’d been surprised to come across it in a drawer in my plan chest – I’d forgotten all about it. She suggests that it might be a copy of a picture and remembers that it was once framed. It’s mounted on a kind of brittle card, 2 or 3 millimetres thick, which is typical of that period.

Like so many family treasures, my mum had put it in an anonymous brown envelope, (postmark dated December 1986, which I guess might have been about the time that she handed it to me; she’s pencilled my name in block capitals on the back of the envelope).

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    1. Yes, that was the artistic side of the family, with skills put to good use in the cutlery industry. I’d be fascinated to see a sketchbook compiled one of my Victorian forebears, if such a thing ever existed. As I’ve mentioned before, they’d draw out design ideas – even a prestigious commission for razor blades for Napoleon III – on the back of an envelope, so most of their working drawings must have been disposed of. I guess that holidays of any description were probably beyond their means, so they’d never get the chance to compile a travel journal. Makes me realise how lucky I’ve been

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