I Recently borrowed a
whole bagful of old photographs from Mrs O Pritchard, from Aberdaron. They are really interesting e.g. Eleri Stores, Daron
Cafe, school photos of Deunant, Llidiardau and Botwnnog and some
photographs of seafarers who worked on the Roses ships of Amlwch, each one
in it’s own unique way a real treasure. As everyone knows, we love old
photographs, and there’s nothing better than having a good look in the old
‘biscuit tins’ that are home to so many fine images. I went through the
photos with Mrs Pritchard, and one of them was really
old and quite worn at the edges, and showing it’s age. It was a photograph
of the Cobblers of Pensarn, Aberdaron, and Mrs Pritchard knew the name of one of
the young apprentices William Jones, Penllech.
When I got home we
took a closer look at the photograph and on the back we noticed that the
surname of the photographer was Thomas and his studios were 47 Everton
Road, Liverpool. The forename had faded into
the mists of time, but we thought it could have been John. So we
library of Wales at Aberystwyth to see if our hunch was right. Lo and
behold William Troughton of the National Library came back to us to
confirm that yes John Thomas did have a studio at 47 Everton Road,
Liverpool – talk about Wow Factor – but there was more to come this
photograph wasn’t amongst the vast collection of over three thousand John
Thomas images at the National Library. Some of his images are very
familiar like the one of the Bardsey Fishermen sitting in their boat on
Aberdaron beach, and the Rhiw, Parish Cottages image that we have had on
Rhiw.com from the very first old photographs page. John Thomas travelled
throughout Wales at the end of the nineteenth century taking photographs
in towns and villages, mansions and crofts. We as a nation are indebted to
him for recording so much of that period. And we are so chuffed and proud
that we have been lent this image, and can share it with you all, it
really is a treasure of social history. Gwenllian.
John Thomas set up in
business as a photographer on his own account in 1867. By ca.1880 he had
moved to 47 Everton Road, though for a short period his photographs bore
the legend “John Thomas, 47 Everton Road (late 66 St
Street, Liverpool) on the reverse. His business premises were referred to
as “The Cambrian Gallery.” As this photograph has the address 47 Everton
Road on the reverse it is likely it dates from
the early 1880’s or 1890’s. Not all photographers were meticulous about
dating their photographs, John Thomas being one.
There were three
strands to John Thomas's work. The first was a conventional studio for
portrait photography in Liverpool. Secondly, he sold photographs of the
Welsh celebrities of the day – bards, musicians, and ministers of religion
through shops, markets and fairs. Thirdly, he also undertook trips to many
of the remoter parts of Wales. These trips, which due to the nature of the
equipment he carried with him, were almost expeditions. On these trips he
photographed towns and villages, beauty spots and other important
features. He also took group portraits of people at their workplaces, such
as shops, factories and quarries. In his reminiscences he remarked that he
would be sure always to visit these places at mid-day. This was both to
use the best available light and to ensure that the workers were
photographed during their lunch break so as not to upset their employers.
This photo of the cobblers at Pensarn seems to fit into this category.
This was profitable work for photographers as very often one of those
pictured would be willing to take orders, collect money from people and
later distribute the finished product.
You can view some of
the collection here.