Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Whittling down to one winner in each category was exceptionally difficult - there were just so many amazing stories and poems celebrating, based in, or inspired by our city.
The winners are...
CHILDREN - Lockdown is Breaking Me Up Inside by Eva Simms
TEENS - Hive New Writers' Prize - Wizened by Sharmin
ADULT CATEGORY - The Low Wall Beat of Love and Loss by Ellen Uttley
I stood outside the university building at Arundel, the creative swirling of the writing class I’d just left already settling in my mind. The ideas, so clear just minutes before, now fragmented and brushed to the dust of faint memories and half formed ideas of thoughts unwritten.
The beat of their voices reached me before their words did; the rhythmic tick of the t’s and the hisses of s’s reaching above their words to find me in my procrastination. Rain misted my face as I walked through the grey air towards them, two men, rapping at the edge of my hearing.
They stood beside a speaker that was rested on the short wall that made the entrance of the university building into a squat kind of courtyard. Leaning in over it, they seemed to be aware only of each other, as if they thought the sound of their voices and the beat of the speaker wouldn’t move past the bubble of space and concentration that they had created. They rapped for each other, at each other, and no one else.
I reached them at the same moment that their words reached clarity. The one to the left, a squat man of strong build and sharp shirt, moving with shoulders and knee to the flow of his counterpart. His eyes rapt; competitive and entertained, he took in the words of the longer man. The right man, in his baggy stained shirt and his tight jeans, chin wagging to the beat of his story.
“..she was maybe eighteen, yeah
her collar pristine.
Her daddy was furious that she wasn’t Miss Thing.
She spoke with her gumption, yeah
and she spoke from her heart.
Her mummy would have train her
but there was nowhere to start.
She was her own to the core, yeah
her dreams made her soar, yeah
Her sisters screamed and cried and scratched
and yeah they called her a whore, whore...”
Rapt, I took in the words as he threw them. About a girl thrown out into the world with nothing but her wits and her dreams. How he had scooped her up and placed her down in a place of security and serenity. He tapered off as she reached him through the computer screens that had connected them to the real world of the life that they had pledged to build together. Two beats later, the squat man pulled down first one starched cuff and then the other and took up the beat.
“...yeah, I hear what you’re saying, man
my own love was tight.
I kept her warm and loved her and she
treated me right.
But she died from the train tracks, man
she died in her sleep.
She died from her mind
calling her weak, weak.
I know what you’re saying, man
how love can change everything.
But she died and worse
she died on the day that I bought a ring...”
He wove his grief in the air between them like silk, thread of his own recovery and the redemption and hope and the cleansing fire that he found in a loss so certain and so destroying that he had nothing left of himself but a handful of dust.
Lost in the words of his counterpart, the tall man swayed, and as the sharp shirted rapper lifted a hand to wipe his eye, he grabbed the beat from the air and continued his story.
“...It was perfect for a time, man
the woman was sweet.
She hoped and cooked
and wrote and sang
and we just went click.
But things start to slip, yeah
then it just went quick, yeah.
She has been gone and month now
and my minds like a crypt, yeah...”
The arms of both of them, swaying in time, reached over to form a bridge. Hand to shoulder they rocked with the music that swirled around them. Suit jacket stretched taught and rocking softly to the beat of his soft sobs. His counterpart looked down at him into the safe space created by the loop of their arms.
“...Yeah man, this life will throw stuff at you
and grief will go hard.
But your life is your own, man
and you hold the cards.
We have to pick up the tatters, man
we have to tie up the shreds.
We have to pick up our feet
we have to pick up our heads.
We have to pick up our hope
we have to find what we can
we have to stitch this together
as we clutch at the sand.
We might lose some moments, man
we might lose some years.
we might lose some parts of us and
we might lose some tears.
But after it all
when we come out of the dust
we will still be there waiting
we’ll be whole
we’ll be us...”
Their heads raised up to face each other, and they lowered their hands. The shorter one reached out and clicked off the speaker with a numbing silence. I turned before they could notice me standing there, and moved off down the hill, towards the train station.
Thursday, July 8, 2021
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Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Shortly before lockdown in March 2020, a diary covering the middle years of the Second World War was donated to Sheffield City Archives. It had been found among the possessions of the late Herbert Parker who worked as a crane driver at Firth Brown in Sheffield during the Second World War. Herbert had not written the diary himself and his family had little idea why it was among his personal effects...The diary writer gives a first-hand insight into wartime civilian life, including a vivid description of the Sheffield Blitz. Unusually, it is written as half letter, half diary for his six-year-old daughter to read ten years later when sixteen. Later entries are also addressed to his second daughter, born in 1942. Other than the names of his two daughters, the diary is anonymous. However, references to family events gave archives’ staff sufficient clues to identify the author. Researching cemetery registers, birth, marriage and death indexes and the 1939 Register, revealed the author to be Arthur Frederick Slinn (1906-1983) who, in 1939, lived at 116 Verdon Street and worked as a casting crane driver in a steel melting department at an unknown firm. As both men were crane drivers, perhaps Arthur also worked at Firth Brown and was friends with Herbert Parker?
Beginning the diary on 16th September 1941, Arthur contemplates the risk that he might not survive the war to see his daughter grow up. This seems to be the motive for committing to paper his wartime experiences, observations and aspirations. His hopes and optimism for post-war society shine from the pages, a life with social security, poverty a thing of the past, no unemployment and adequate old age pensions. He is completely confident in victory over the Nazis and foresees the war ending in 1943. He writes that from the chaos of war philosophers will emerge “to build a world that befits a Civilised Age”.
Air-raids and their precautions are a recurring theme. Arthur describes frequent air raid warnings, antiaircraft guns firing at overflying aircraft and life in general under the threat of air attack, all interspersed with the touching sentiments of a father taking to his daughter. There are also comic moments, such as when on a dark night in the blackout he tripped over a sandbag and bumped into something. After hurriedly apologising, he realised that he had collided with a lamppost.He also talks about the prohibition of things we take for granted in peace time such as newspaper weather forecasts, which could have provided enemy airmen with useful information.
Around 25 retrospectively written pages, describe the two Sheffield Blitz raids in December 1940 and their aftermath. Arthur’s family were mainly affected by the first night, Thursday 12th December 1940, when he sheltered in the cellar with his wife and daughter. He feared an incendiary bomb might land on the house and start a fire trapping them in the cellar. So, in between blasts from high explosive bombs, he repeatedly left the relative safety of the cellar to check the upstairs floors and make sure the house was not on fire. At one point, a loud thud announced the arrival of an incendiary bomb which burnt fiercely on the rear doorstep, lighting the whole garden. With some difficulty, he extinguished it with shovelled earth.
Arthur describes the whistle of falling bombs, some of which failed to explode and expresses admiration for bomb disposal crews who would later have to deal with them. In 1985 an unexploded 1000kg bomb dropped the same night was unearthed during drainage work at Lancing Road and is now displayed at Kelham Island Museum.
Just before the war, Arthur joined his works AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service); for this critical role he received only one hour’s training! Later he also enrolled in the Supplementary Fire Brigade, organised by the Chief Constable of Sheffield, but he complains it was poorly organised and lacked equipment.
As the war progressed, Arthur received more specialised fire training some of which he describes in detail. Although Arthur’s daughters may have had little interest in operating a Light Trailer Pump or the design of building sprinkler systems, his technical descriptions provide a unique insight into the wartime volunteer firefighter’s role.
On 26th February 1943, Arthur comments that, “life today is fairly tolerable”. Although plain, food was nutritionally balanced and by no means in short supply. For children, a points system was used to ensure a fair share of chocolates and sweets.
As the war progressed and the threat of air raids diminished, Arthur missed the thrills of the air raids even commenting that, “Some-how it ain't the same war without them.” He clearly wished for a more active part in the war and during 1943 had volunteered for the RAF but was rejected owing to poor eyesight.The last entry is dated 27th September 1943, as the allies advanced through Italy, but with D-Day still eight months away. By this time, a second daughter had arrived, and she too features in entries. Perhaps by this time Arthur felt more confident of survival and no longer needed to record his thoughts and experiences.
Whether either of Arthur’s daughters read the diary or even knew of its existence is a mystery. Had he given the diary to Herbert Parker for safe keeping and, for whatever reason, never retrieved it? In later life, Arthur and his wife moved to Kent where he died in 1983.
Sheffield City Archives would like to hear from anyone with information about the Slinn family or the diary.
To discover more about Sheffield during the war please see our Sheffield Blitz Research Guide and themed collection of Picture Sheffield blitz images, maps and documents. Or visit Sheffield City Archives web pages to search our online catalogues for more material.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Titanic Chief Officer’s Links to Loxley Chapel (Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library "Monthly Marvels" Blog)
15th April marks the anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster - when over 1,500 passengers and crew members tragically lost their lives after the British passenger liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean just a few days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York back in 1912. One of the most senior crew members who lost his life on this date 109 years ago was the Titanic’s Chief Officer Lieutenant Henry Tingle Wilde (1872-1912) who had close links to the old Loxley Independent Chapel (which later became Loxley Congregational Chapel and eventually Loxley United Reformed Church) on the north-western outskirts of Sheffield. In our latest Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library ‘Monthly Marvels’ blog, we highlight the Wilde family’s longstanding association with the Loxley Chapel over multiple generations as revealed through a recent cataloguing project we have carried out centred on the chapel’s historic records.
Henry Tingle Wilde was born on 21st September 1872 in Liverpool (where his father Henry Wilde senior had relocated from Loxley) but baby Henry was taken to Loxley just a month after his birth to be baptised at the Loxley Chapel - an indication of the importance of the chapel to the Wilde family who had worshipped there for generations. It's apparent that young Henry and his family continued to make regular trips back to Loxley from Liverpool and the old chapel there continued to occupy a special place in their hearts.
The newly catalogued collection of Loxley Chapel records at Sheffield City Archives (collection reference: NR2324) includes a range of historic church minutes and account books, as well as registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, dating back to when the chapel was first built in 1787, which illustrate the Wilde family’s prominent role in supporting the chapel and the local community in the village of Loxley over successive generations.
The records include various documents, for instance, concerning Henry Tingle Wilde’s architect uncle George Arnold Wilde (1841-1914), who served as a deacon at the chapel, and who notably carried out significant restorations to the Loxley Congregational Chapel (as it was then known) in 1890, and later drew up plans for the extension of the graveyard there in the early 1900s.
One of the more unusual items in the Loxley Chapel collection which has been unearthed through our cataloguing project is a 19th-century account/memoranda book (which also includes brief diary entries) evidently kept by Thomas Wilde (c.1795-1866), who worked as a 'saw grinder' and 'farmer' in Loxley. Thomas Wilde was Henry Tingle Wilde’s grandfather and George Arnold Wilde’s father. Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book, which dates from c.1819 onwards, sheds intriguing light on the lives and preoccupations of members of the rural community of Loxley back in the 19th-century. The small volume also helps to chart how Thomas’ grandson made the unlikely journey from a landlocked farming family in the village of Loxley to the beginnings of a successful maritime career, before ultimately ending in tragedy and his death on board the Titanic.
There are lots of fascinating references to be found in Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book. On 25 August 1839, for instance, Thomas Wilde notes how the Rev. Sutton “preached to the chartists”. The following year, he records his duties as an 'Overseer of the Poor' for the wider parish of Ecclesfield in 1840. A year later, he includes notes on the census in his capacity as one of the census enumerators for the locality in 1841. In August 1853, there is an intriguing reference to payments for a Dr Thompson for "assisting a Hungarian refugee”.
Thomas Wilde’s account/memoranda book also includes a range of interesting medical and food recipes. Some of the recipes are reflective of the Wilde family’s farming duties, including recipes “for the scouring of young calves”, “for pleuro pneumonia among cattle” and even one “for a cow that gives bad butter” (this latter recipe comprising "2 ounces of ground ginger" and "3 pints of old wine"!)
There are also medicinal recipes designed to help with ailments such as sore throats, coughs, toothache, consumption, one recipe “to prevent infectious fever” and even recipes for “cholera prevention and cholera cure” . These latter recipes are indicative of how cholera was a major concern for people at the time with Sheffield facing a major cholera epidemic in 1832 which led to a number of fatalities (and further outbreaks occurring in 1849, 1854 and 1866).
Other (more pleasant-sounding sounding) recipes in the volume include those for “raspberry vinegar”, “blackberry wine”, “making buns”, “gingerbread cakes”, “sage puddings” and “mock madeira”.
As noted in his account/memoranda book, Thomas Wilde and his wife Ann had 10 children born between the years 1819 and 1841. The volume also includes some loose papers and notes relating to Thomas' second-youngest son Henry Wilde senior (born 1838) and shows how Henry relocated from Loxley to Liverpool where he obtained the post of ‘Chief Clerk and Cashier to the Liverpool and London Insurance Companies' and later became a 'Surveyor of Risks and Assessor of Losses' in Liverpool. Henry Wilde senior's move to Liverpool sparked the chain of events which would see his son Henry Tingle Wilde grow up in the Walton district of the maritime port city and embark on a seafaring career, becoming a Royal Navy Reserve officer and rising up the ranks with the White Star Line shipping company, culminating in his appointment as Chief Officer on the RMS Titanic's first and last voyage.
After the sinking of the Titanic, Sheffield newspapers (as they did all over the country) feverishly reported on the tragedy. Initially, as in the extract below from an article from The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Henry Tingle Wilde was reported as missing before his death was finally confirmed. This particular article draws attention to the Titanic’s Chief Officer’s Sheffield connections, mentioning how it was Wilde’s practice during his maritime career "to spend much of his time ashore in Sheffield".
Wilde's final moments on board the sinking ship are disputed. One surviving witness at the subsequent inquest suggested Wilde shot himself on the bridge once the hopelessness of the situation became apparent. However other witnesses recalled seeing Wilde, "a big, powerful man", tirelessly working to the last to save the lives of others, loading as many people as he could into the available life boats before going down valiantly with the vessel, alongside Captain Edward Smith (1850-1912), the two men standing on the bridge, "with their arms extended to each other's shoulders".
Newspaper reports from the time revealed that Wilde had lost his wife just a year before the tragedy, meaning his death on board the Titanic resulted in his four young children being orphaned.
In 1989, the Loxley Reformed Church (as the old chapel became known) was damaged by heavy storms which forced it to close temporarily but it reopened in November 1990 thanks to repair work funded largely by English Heritage. It closed however as a place of worship shortly afterwards in 1992 and fell into disuse and disrepair. In direct contrast to Henry Tingle Wilde and the Great Sheffield Flood victims, who perished at the hands of water, it seems the old Loxley Chapel may have met its final end by fire. Having stood for well over two centuries, the chapel was devastated by a fire in August 2016 and now lies in ruins.
Although the future fate of the remains of the chapel seem uncertain, the fascinating stories of families like the Wilde family, who once worshipped there, are preserved and can be explored in the collection of Loxley Chapel records we hold at Sheffield City Archives.
For more information on our sources at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library, please contact us (email: email@example.com, website: www.sheffield.gov.uk/archives).