Monday, July 03, 2006

When did you last see Goodison Park?

It could be a question that the Immigration Service could use as a test for true scousedom. Just say 'And when did you last see your father?' If he’s a genuine scouse he’ll know what you mean. It’s the name of the second most famous picture in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery (founded by Andrew Walker, a Liverpool brewer, in 1877 - thought you’d want to know). Most kids in Liverpool know it because nearly every school in the city has a print of it prominently displayed. (A disciplinary measure, perhaps, like the crucifixions in Catholic schools?) The painting depicts a boy dressed in a blue velvet jump suit standing in front of a large table faced by stern soldiers. A girl (presumably his sister), is in the background, crying. It’s a 17th century scene, and the boy’s father has been a supporter of the Royalists in the Civil War, and Cromwell’s men - the Roundheads - are obviously looking for the old man with the objective of decapitating him. (Fortunately Republicanism had a short life.) The picture was painted by W. F. Yeames (a non-scouse) and acquired in 1878.
The picture’s popularity is surprising in view of the fact that – as avid readers of this blog will know – Liverpool supported the Parliamentarians against the Royalists in the Civil War. They still do.
(Another Immigration Service test story: Dizzy Gillespie shows up at JFK without the necessary documentation but claiming to be the real Dizzy. An alert NIS official says, ‘What comes after Oop Bop Sh’bam?’ ‘A klook-a-mop’, says Diz, and is admitted in a flash. But you don’t have to believe it.)

With all these memoirs about the battle of the Somme, which began 90 years ago yesterday, I’ve been thinking about when I last saw my father.
460,000 British and Commonwealth troops were killed on the Somme, 20,000 French and half a million Germans – almost a million men in one battle. Walter was lucky – he was one of the boys who came home.


Ed R said...

Walter had something in common with JRR Tolkien, another Somme first-wave survivor:

Ed R said...

Let;s see if this works:

J.R.R. Tolkien and the Battle of the Somme

riviera writer said...

Thanks Ed - makes you wonder if we learned anything in 90 years.

justin said...

I recall seeiing a copy of the painting, "And when did you last see your father?", when I used to read the Children's Encyclopaedia, when I was a kid. My mum who lived in Merseyside for the first 23 years of her life, occasionally pointed it out to me in the book... she must have known it well in her earlier years.
When I think about past battles, I recall the protest song, "Where have all the flowers gone?". What a waste of human life.

riviera writer said...

Thanks Justin,
Some years ago my brother and I enacted the picture with his children - I'll try to find the photo and post it.