"I drink only to make my friends seem interesting." - Don Marquis
Some time ago, in The Boys' Day Out, I wrote about a postcard photo of a group of men, presumably drinking friends, including my great-grandfather Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941), who called themselves the "Ding Dongs." They were gathered in the courtyard behind the Old Bell Hotel, Sadler Gate, Derby, probably in the late 1910s or 1920s.
This one, although a cabinet card, and somewhat earlier - I guess that it's from the mid- to late 1890s - is a very similar group portrait, again taken outside what appears to be a mock-Tudor style building. Perhaps it is also a pub, although none of these men are carrying tankards or bottles of beer. On the contrary, they look as if they have been out for a stroll, or perhaps watching a game of cricket, and are in dire need of a pint .. or two.
Charles Vincent, standing at far left, slightly aloof from the others and, as always, a dapper dresser, is arguably the smartest amongst what appears to me a pretty rum lot. What strikes me first is the array of headgear, from sporting style caps with both horizontal and vertical stripes, very high-crowned bowlers (or derbys, for those reading this in North America), light and dark pork-pie hats, a possible top hat (4th from right, at the back) and something I generally think of as a curate's hat, similar to the pork-pie, but with a more rounded top and a slightly upturned brim. Indeed the bearer of this last - seated in the middle row, third from left, and the only one of the group who has refused to answer the photographer's request to look at the birdie - may also have a clerical collar. There are far fewer beards than might have been the case a decade or two earlier, although the majority have moustaches.
But it is the chap to the right of the cleric (or to his left) who surprised me most. I had no idea that my great-grandfather knew Oliver Hardy! Okay, I'll admit that the more rotund of the famous duo would only have been five or six years old at the time, and besides, he was an American, so it can't be him. Perhaps readers will recognise someone else, though?
Charles Vincent and friends, c.1905-10
A decade later and they were venturing further afield. Well at least Charles Vincent was. He appears standing at 2nd from left, pipe in hand, in this somewhat more salubrious looking group arranged outside the ivy-covered front of what may be a country inn. I have no idea of the location, but I suspect it's somewhere in Derbyshire, if anyone recognises it, please leave a comment below or get in touch by email. I had in mind The Peacock Inn at Rowsley, a well known Peak District watering hole and starting point for walkers and fly-fishermen, but it's not there. All are bare-headed, although two can be observed holding hats, a homburg and a boater.
Charles Vincent and friends, c. late 1920s - early 1930s
A couple more decades on, the group of drinking buddies has been whittled down considerably, and they've graduated to fedoras, which are not too dissimilar to what my father referred to as his "Captain von Trapp hat". Sadly, among the many hundreds of images that came up in my "Google Image search," not one showed Christopher Plummer wearing said hat.
Actually this last group might better be termed an "Old Gits Luncheon Club" (thank you Alan). The location is unknown, but I think it's probably somewhere in the Derbyshire Dales - Matlock, Cromford, etc. - where CVP owned property.
This is my contribution to this week's Sepia Saturday, where you'll find many more old photographs of similar ilk to while away your weekend.