Hannah Hauxwell interview among lost audio tapes that bring century-old tales of Christmas in Whitby to life in new film

A kindred warmth crackles in lost voices from a lifetime ago as they tell of Christmases past in the heart of the moors.

These are the last audio reels of a forgotten archive, collected by former Whitby press photographer John Tindale and capturing an essence of life that once was.

First his newly-recovered footage revealed old tales of the sea, of shipwrecks and sailors and war, but now, ahead of what would have been his 100th birthday next Saturday, a last short is revealed.

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From a new hidden film comes the voice of Hannah Hauxwell, hardy daughter of the Dales and star of ITV’s Too Long a Winter, recounting food drops and hardship as snow drifts rose.

Whitby's winters past... children playing in the snow in wheelbarrows. Image by former press photographer John Tindale, revealed as his old recovered audio tapes are turned into a new film for Whitby Museum.

"We had good neighbours and we helped each other out," she recalled in astonishing footage, now showing in the film at the Whitby Museum.

As milkman Leo Welford, born 1903, told how he delivered by sledge when his horse "buck'd and jump't and gallup't up hills", another voice echoes: "You couldn't see hedges for ice and snow."

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Astonishing lost archive of Whitby press photographer reveals 'character study' ...

John Tindale was a press photographer and a founder of the North York Moors Railway, who died in 2001 at the age of 80 having chronicled Whitby's history through audio recordings.

Whitby's winters past... children sledging. Image by former press photographer John Tindale.

His vast archive was revealed earlier this year in exhibitions and a documentary commissioned by his son David and made by Anne Dodsworth of Blow Your Trumpet Films.

Now a new film is revealed, collating tales of Christmas and winters long ago. To Mr Tindale the younger, this is a side to Whitby's story that details life for those who lived from its land.

"Half of Whitby's story is the sea and its traditions, the other half is its rural hinterlands," he said. There's lessons in it, about community and roots.

"He wasn't looking for stories of hardship, it's just that the hardest time of year was always winter.

John Tindale.

“It's like something was lost that has now been found,” he added. “To me it shows an almost forgotten part of Yorkshire. That's my father's legacy, in a way.

"He loved the town, its characters and independent minds. Throughout his life he was making sure it was all collected. It's all here."

Memories of Christmas

In A Moorland Christmas, memories of festive seasons are shared by Whitby's country folk, farmers and labourers. This was a time when Christmas meant a holly tree and a goose for the table, and when warmth could be found in carol singing and midnight mass.

Whitby's winters past... a milkman delivering by sledge. Image by former press photographer John Tindale, revealed as his old recovered audio tapes are turned into a new film for Whitby Museum.

To Mabel Race, born in the 1890s, Christmas meant a musical toy in her stocking, while to another it might have been an apple, an orange, and thruppence if she was lucky.

"We thought we had the world... it was lovely," one voice recalled, as another added: “It were more happier days, though we had nowt”.

To Mr Tindale, the footage shows a "simpler" way of life, evoking imagery of farms stranded in six-feet of snow, but with a warm hearth and full table for Christmas Day.

"When we listen to them talking, these farm workers and farm daughters, it was simple lives,” he said.

"Like a lot of rural poverty, it's not talked about nowadays, that idea that people accepted the way things were. An old fashioned kind of winter.”


Whitby's winters past... gulls before Whitby cliffs in snow. Image by former press photographer John Tindale, revealed as his old recovered audio tapes are turned into a new film for Whitby Museum.

A Moorland Christmas is the final film to be made from John Tindale's lost audio tapes, on show at Whitby Museum.

A special showing will be held on Saturday December 4 to mark what would have been Mr TIndale's 100th birthday, and it runs until Sunday at the museum where an exhibition designed by Colin Pyrah OBE opened this year with two other films entitled A Whitby Life and You'll Never Tame the Sea.

The exhibition has proved hugely popular, with the museum seeing its visitor numbers nearly double, and attended by many descendants of those featured.


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