Monday, July 03, 2006
When did you last see Goodison Park?
It could be a question that the Immigration Service could use as a test for true scousedom. Just say 'And when did you last see your father?' If he’s a genuine scouse he’ll know what you mean. It’s the name of the second most famous picture in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery (founded by Andrew Walker, a Liverpool brewer, in 1877 - thought you’d want to know). Most kids in Liverpool know it because nearly every school in the city has a print of it prominently displayed. (A disciplinary measure, perhaps, like the crucifixions in Catholic schools?) The painting depicts a boy dressed in a blue velvet jump suit standing in front of a large table faced by stern soldiers. A girl (presumably his sister), is in the background, crying. It’s a 17th century scene, and the boy’s father has been a supporter of the Royalists in the Civil War, and Cromwell’s men - the Roundheads - are obviously looking for the old man with the objective of decapitating him. (Fortunately Republicanism had a short life.) The picture was painted by W. F. Yeames (a non-scouse) and acquired in 1878.
The picture’s popularity is surprising in view of the fact that – as avid readers of this blog will know – Liverpool supported the Parliamentarians against the Royalists in the Civil War. They still do.
(Another Immigration Service test story: Dizzy Gillespie shows up at JFK without the necessary documentation but claiming to be the real Dizzy. An alert NIS official says, ‘What comes after Oop Bop Sh’bam?’ ‘A klook-a-mop’, says Diz, and is admitted in a flash. But you don’t have to believe it.)
With all these memoirs about the battle of the Somme, which began 90 years ago yesterday, I’ve been thinking about when I last saw my father.
460,000 British and Commonwealth troops were killed on the Somme, 20,000 French and half a million Germans – almost a million men in one battle. Walter was lucky – he was one of the boys who came home.