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On The Track Of My Great Uncle Harold - Eroticdreambattle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tony Grist

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On The Track Of My Great Uncle Harold [Feb. 5th, 2017|04:44 pm]
Tony Grist
I have decided he was gay. If he wasn't he's not around to set me right. Nobody is. And though I don't believe I ever met him I may be the last person standing who knows he ever even existed.

Until now.

The records of his life are terribly sparse. I have the usual birth and death certificates and a few- a pitifully few- photographs. I've posted one of him as a soldier. Here are most of the rest.



I can't even be entirely sure this is him, but, then who else could it be? Who else in the family was this dapper? Who else took his holidays in North Africa? It says on the back that this was taken in the Coronation Mosque on 24/7/21 by Hedley Mitchell Esq. Who he?

Well, perhaps he's the chappie in the white suit with Harold in this next picture...



We're still in North Africa for the next snap. High jinks are being had. Harold is in the middle. At least I think that's him but none of these pictures have his name on them. Is that a golf club he's holding? If so, why? Are we having a  game of donkey-golf?



And now we're back home in Blighty. This is Harold with his parents and much younger sister Joan. If there were no other clues you'd know him by the tilt of his hat.



Shall me follow him to the end? I hesitate to post the next because it's such a blurry image- below my standards, really, but so far as I can see it's the only picture I have of him as a (comparatively) old man. He died in his early 50s.



That's him on the left- the smartest man at the wedding (though whose I have no idea.) Next to him in order are his sisters Joan, Ethel and Kathleen and Ethel's husband Laurie White. Missing from the line-up is his sister Violet, my granny. Perhaps she was behind the camera. 

P.S. Since posting the above I've done a little more research and- well I never- it was my parents wedding. That would explain why my granny isn't in the shot. She wasn't any old guest, she was the bridegroom's mother!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2017-02-05 06:02 pm (UTC)
I'm liking Harold a lot.

In a sense he reminds me of a guy I only knew through LJ who died last year - and as nobody would come to his deathbed the nurses at a Berlin hospital ended up calling me, saying I was the last on the list. So of course I drove down and sat with him for the last hours - if his mother wouldn't come sit by him, I would.

These stories are, in a sense, part of MY cultural heritage. Like Stonewall, like Alan Turing, like the current risk in the US of equal marriage being destroyed. It's quite emotional, really, but I do think we need history. And I do think we need the history of more than just Oscar Wilde or Rock Hudson.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-05 06:57 pm (UTC)
I like Harold too.

I don't know how far out of the closet he was. I think his family sort of knew- and some of them- I suspect- kept their distance. He doesn't feature much in my grandparents' photo collection.

Joan- his youngest sister- was the one who stood by him- and was there for him. Joan was a lovely person. I'll be posting about her in due course.

I'm romancing, of course. Most of this is supposition and deduction and intuition. I may be getting things quite wrong.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2017-02-05 07:57 pm (UTC)
A single man travelling to North Africa at that time... Well... It does tell a story - and one that most men would have taken care not to be associated with unless they had a particular reason to go there.

Of course we'll never know if he went there to share a bed with Hedley Mitchell Esq., or whether they went there together to find the readily available "services" of straight Moroccan boys; for all we know he might have gone for the architecture. The evidence seems circumstantial - but it does seem to point in a particular direction.

(Also, how did a clerk afford a trip to North Africa? It seems terribly extravagant.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-05 08:31 pm (UTC)
North Africa- the destination of choice for sex tourists from Wilde to Orton. Yes, that was what clinched it for me. The unnecessary Esq is interesting. It's as if he were trying to emphasise the respectability of the relationship.

I believe he lived with his parents for much of his life. They weren't badly off and may well have subsidised his lifestyle.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2017-02-05 08:45 pm (UTC)


Another LJ friend has this "Hedley Mitchell" in her family records... Apparently from Australia - but she has no pictures of him. Still, I'm seeing the beginning of a fictional internet family history!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-05 08:53 pm (UTC)
Curiouser and curiouser

My man in the white suit (who may not be Hedley) looks a good deal older than Harold. Also- perhaps because of the white suit- I have him down as an American.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2017-02-05 08:59 pm (UTC)
The trousers seem "pale", rather than "white" - so perhaps it's just a linen summer suit?

It's completely improbable, but since we know so little let's just assume a lot!
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2017-02-05 08:22 pm (UTC)
Harold is in the middle. At least I think that's him but none of these pictures have his name on them.

The face looks right. And the way he's always got something in his breast pocket, even if it's just a dapper handkerchief. In this one picture, I think it's the mustache, he reminds me of Basil Rathbone.

Is that a golf club he's holding? If so, why? Are we having a game of donkey-golf?

Maybe they were trying to fake up a game of polo.

Thank you for tracing him through these pictures. I hope you can find other records—if you know his name and regiment, for example, you might be able to follow him through some of the war.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-05 08:33 pm (UTC)
Polo, yes, that's a possibility. Wot larks!

Military records. Good idea. They're often available online. Thanks for the suggestion.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2017-02-05 08:54 pm (UTC)
Military records. Good idea. They're often available online. Thanks for the suggestion.

You're welcome!

When I threw "Hedley Mitchell" into Google out of curiosity, I got a lot of information about a department store in Erith. It's difficult for me to tell from the photo at the bottom of this page if he could be the gentleman in the white suit—he doesn't quite look it to me, but the mustache is a confusing factor. And of course the gentleman in the white suit could be somebody else entirely.

(Then my brain went down a rabbit hole of wondering whether "Hedley Mitchell" could be an alias or an in-joke and whether it would be like going around the U.S. checking yourself into hotels as "Mr. Sears," all of which is just fantasizing.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-06 09:26 am (UTC)
I think you're on to something.

My grandfather was born and grew up in Erith. And I believe my grandmother's family had moved there- probably after her father retired.

I think I need to see if there's more to be learned about Hedley Mitchell...
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2017-02-06 09:57 am (UTC)
My grandfather was born and grew up in Erith. And I believe my grandmother's family had moved there- probably after her father retired.

Oh, interesting. I had no idea.

I think I need to see if there's more to be learned about Hedley Mitchell...

Let me know what you find!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-06 11:40 am (UTC)
I think you've already found all there is to be found on the internet.

Maybe there's something in the family archives. I'll keep on looking.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2017-02-06 12:10 pm (UTC)
I think you've already found all there is to be found on the internet.

There were two Hedley Mitchells of Erith: senior, who founded the department store, and junior. So far the one mention is all I can find of him. He may be a complete red herring (born too late to take pictures in 1921), but I thought you should know.

Edited at 2017-02-06 12:12 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: sweetperiwinkle
2017-02-06 04:31 am (UTC)
I love looking at old family pix. I have the tendency to have my head tilted just like my great uncle Joe and I looked almost the same as my mother when she was a girl. =)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-06 09:33 am (UTC)
I've inherited the photographic archives of several branches of the family. It's fascinating to sort through them and make connections and uncover the stories.
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[User Picture]From: sweetperiwinkle
2017-02-06 01:06 pm (UTC)
Genealogy is fascinating. You should see my mom... we look almost the same. She has blue eyes though she inherited from my grandpa, where I have green eyes. Don't know where that came from. All of my mother's relatives have blue eyes.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2017-02-06 07:15 am (UTC)
Absolutely fascinating. I do hope you will keep all of us updated. And I do think your suppositions, especially given North Africa, are correct.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-06 09:34 am (UTC)
Thanks.

There's more to come. I already have at least two posts lined up for today.
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[User Picture]From: splodgenoodles
2017-02-06 10:11 am (UTC)
I'm really enjoying these posts!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2017-02-06 11:27 am (UTC)
Thanks.
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