Christmas approaches and we reach the half-way point of this project, new images continue to emerge from the Derek Evans Christmas-stocking-of-an-archive. Some catch the eye more than others. With Christmas lunch shopping lists being hastily compiled, visions of roast goose, mince pies and lashings cream piling up, it is a relief to the digestive system to step away from these frenzied festivities and have an indulgence of a different kind, this time in the his ample and varied photographic archive.
One of project’s highlights (and there have been many) is the day the Catcher Media team arrived en-masse at the Hereford Archives and Records Centre some months ago to sort through a number of boxes containing his work. Over the next few hours, escaping from behind storage boxes were audible gasps, cheers, and giggles, as we each chanced upon yet another image, probably unseen for decades.
There were many, many memorable photos from that day, but if I had to choose one it would have to be a glorious image of the late Bishop Eastaugh on his walking pilgrimage towards Hereford Cathedral. He is wearing his regulation and familiar long, violet-coloured cassock and his feet are clad in Army-issue boots. From the angle, it’s clear Derek must had been lying down in the middle of the road. How does he capture such movement in a still image? That’s the magic of this photo and his photography. If I could, I would request this one as a Christmas present. Who knows, maybe my Christmas fairy (Rick and Julia!) is listening and my wish list will come true.
There was of course a gritty and serious side to Derek’s work, but in other aspects, there was often a quiet humour that underpinned a lot of his news reportage. It remains a delight. He told one of his protégés never to go out hunting for a scoop. Instead, allow the scoop to come to you. I was thinking about this when I came across these photos from his exhaustive albums full of cuttings. As much as the hop season comes around year after year, the return of flooding was almost another certainty. Another hardy annual. I know from my years of working on local papers, flooding always meant lots of opportunities to fill newspapewr space. And so it must have been when Derek arrived in Willersley in 1960 to take routine pictures of the River Wye breaking its banks and flooding the village. But then Lulu the pig changed everything. The much-loved family sow went walkabout/swimabout in the floods and two stalwarts, one a police constable and the other an officer from the RSPCA, wade into the cabbage patch, where Lulu finds her swimming trotters and swims away, oblivious to the drama that surrounds her.
Sixty years after the event I can almost see Derek’s eye’s flashing when he catches sight of the Lulu wading through flood water: ‘This one will sell and sell’. And it did. But there is an end note to this photo story. Christmas is a time for bringing people together. Time and again over the life of this project, Derek’s photos has reached across the decades and reconnected individuals again. In one of the photos out of shot, Lulu is being ushered through the village by its owner, a Mr Amos. When this photo was shared on social media, Mr Amos’ great grandson got in touch: his grandmother, Mr Amos’ daughter and living in Yorkshire, found the image and recognised her dad straight away. How amazing is that. Happy Christmas everyone! Here’s to another exciting year ahead.