SESQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION 1865-2015 – a poem by Peter Wyton
The serving British Prime Minister, Viscount Palmerston,
Expired after a breakfast of port wine and mutton chops,
Charles Dickens survived a train crash at Staplehurst
And Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland first hit the shops.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson qualified as the first woman doctor,
William and Catherine Booth founded their Christian Mission,
Soon to be rebranded as the Salvation Army,
And Cheltenham’s amenities received a notable addition
In the form of the town’s first Photographic Society,
Scarcely a quarter of a century after those doughty pioneers,
Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot
Set the artistic and scientific worlds by their ears,
Burning magnesium ribbon to create flashlight images.
What modernising trailblazers they must have been,
Doctors Wilson and Abercrombie of our General Hospital,
Coalface conspirators of the darkroom scene,
Mixing up chemicals to create a light sensitive
Solution to be coated onto a glass plate,
Innovators in a process comprehended
By only a few, but which would precipitate
A whole century and a half of discoveries
In which your members have played their full part.
Think of all those posed Victorian groupings,
Glowering Dundreary whiskered gents. Smart,
Uniformly unsmiling womenfolk, bolt upright
In bombazine, on uncomfortable chairs,
Or their lower class agricultural equivalents,
Self-conscious, smocked farm hands with unblinking stares.
Some of your earlier practises, of course, have lapsed.
Victorian males and females of your august society
Made use of segregated darkrooms, in different buildings,
To eliminate the possibility of any undue impropriety!
Subsequently, more liberal Edwardians, relaxed at the seaside,
Posed beside saucy mill girls with Kiss-Me-Quick hats. Sturdy
Soldiers, in uniform, affably obeyed orders
To ‘Smile for the cameraman’ or ‘Watch the birdie.’
Your notabilities are legendary, confectioner Krier,
Eric Franks, what a roll call there has been
From Van Wadenoyen to stalwarts like Wendy and Jean.
The box brownie. Kodachrome. Polaroid. Cell phones.
You and your predecessors have seen the lot.
Congratulations. Let’s hear it for
The Cheltenham Camera Club. Give it all you’ve got!