“Willie Wedgewood - ‘Lealholm Express’ ”
Taken on Lealholm Bank, this shows a tramp with a well-known local character called Willie Wedgewood, in his ‘postman’s’ uniform. He never was a postman, but all his life he was employed to carry messages over great distances on foot around the dales. Although he was simple-minded, he could always be relied on to deliver the message or parcel, whatever the weather for a few pence.
He collapsed on the road wearing his uniform and died at the Union Workhouse, Whitby in 1895. His obituary in the Whitby Gazette lamented the loss of ‘the last of the local human oddities’ and said: ‘Nothing pleased his vanity more than to swagger about in the cast-off uniform of a postman or a soldier. He had great skill in imitating the trombones of the Farndale Brass Band. He was know as the ‘Lealholm Express and the ‘Dales Carrier’. His pockets produced a medley of strange odds and ends, but nothing of value.’
Sutcliffe describe how the plate was taken: ‘I remember once coming across two picturesque figures on the moors. They were willing to be photographed. They sat down by the roadside, but do what I could, not a ghost of an image even at f.8 could I see on the ground glass the light was so weak, and my camera (a whole plate one) had no scale. Further down the road was a trough used for watering horses. This, if full, would reflect enough sky to focus on, and would provide a seat for the sitters, to say nothing of the help it would give them in suggesting that it was thirsty work being photographed . . . there was enough water to focus by, and an exposure of sixty seconds was given, and what is more, neither of the sitters had move a muscle.’ (Yorkshire Weekly Post, 18 September 1909).