At the moment, I’m posting when I can and clinging on with my fingertips but the blog has been very, very busy lately and several big articles have been held back due to time constraints – however, it’s long overdue that I share this fantastic article by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler about one of the great sons of Brownhills, who was up until the last few months, relatively unknown in his hometown.
Edgar Ewart Pritchard – Brother of Syd – was a noted and talented amateur filmmaker who was recognised by the British film industry for his remarkable skill and ability within his lifetime, but has since slipped into obscurity – here, Peter lovingly tells Edgar’s story, based on a huge amount of research, legwork and large amounts of help and generosity from David Evans and of course, Margaret Thompson.
I’d like to thank all involved here – particularly Margaret of course, without whom we’d know next to nothing. This wonderful lady has been incredibly generous with material and her time, and David has been equally facilitating in dedicating himself to recording the memories. But once again, we see what a wonderful researcher and collator Peter Cutler is, and why I’m so pleased to be able to carry his work here.
If you have anything to add, or a comment to make feel free – either on this post or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Collaborative local history at it’s best.
Peter Cutler wrote:
Edgar Ewart Pritchard (1898-1976): A World away from Brownhills
Before the Blog article concerning the 1934 Brownhills Carnival, little was known of Edgar Ewart Pritchard; maybe Edgar was better known farther afield.
Around 1936 Edgar was Honorary Treasurer of the Brownhills Memorial Hall Committe, and in February of that year he organised an event to create interest in the Hall. After the show he gave a show of his own films…’A Camping Holiday in Devon and Cornwall’ and ‘Brownhills Carnival 1934 and 1935’. The latter was so much enjoyed that the company asked for a second time, and the film was stopped when any notability came into view.
In March a concert was arranged in the Memorial Hall to raise funds for the Central Senior School. Edgar gave ‘a delightful film show’ of the life and scenes of the boys taken at the school camp at Conway the previous August. This was also shown, along with the carnival films, at the Co-op Hall in April.
The next article on the Blog concerning Edgar was ‘Where there’s hope’ featuring his film ‘Hope Springs Eternal’.
Fortunately it was in the comments for this article that Margaret, a relative of Edgar, contacted the Blog. Thanks to her good self, and young David, much good material is now available for us to share.
‘Hope Springs Eternal’ can now be dated at 1938 or just before, as it won the international Amateur Cine World Plaque presented by the Institute of Amateur Cinematographists. The Evening Despatch describes it as featuring live action at the Hawthorns, and the Birmingham Bull Ring. (David tells us that Edgar’s BSA Scout can be seen in the film).
In an interview Edgar said, ‘I am not anti-pools, but I leave it to the audience to draw the lesson.’ Edgar further added, ‘I don’t try to film the Greta Garbo or glamorous stuff, I think amateurs should leave that to the professionals. I want to get interesting studies of life as it is.’
The last quote by Edgar may just give an idea of what he was about. In November 1936 the IAC held its annual banquet at the Mayfair Hotel in London. Edgar was awarded a bronze medal in the international contest by the Duke of Sutherland for his film ‘Below the Horizon’. The film was taken from a trawler in the Irish Sea during the previous August, and depicted the life and work of a deep sea fisherman. (Edgar was also a keen member of the Birmingham Photographic Society.)
Another film of Edgar’s is ‘Swinging for Eggs’ which is dated around 1950, but may be from much earlier in 1937….’Footage of the collection of guillemots eggs from Bempton Cliffs, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. A team of men operate a rope pulley system from the top of the cliff whilst one of their number is lowered, wearing a tin helmet as the birds swoop and flutter around him, to retrieve the single egg from a number of nests on the cliffs. He is then hoist upwards, to deliver the eggs into a straw-lined basket at the top. The eggs were sold to cooks and collectors.’
After the War Edgar made two remarkable short films. ‘The Island in the Current’ seems to have been filmed between around 1946 to 1950 and shows the way of life of the population on the island of Bardsey. It is much mentioned in connection with Bardsey Island. To appreciate how difficult it would have been to make these films it is worth watching the short Pathe News film, Island Doctor from 1947.
The description of the film held by the National Library of Wales…’Two inter-titles follow the main title: ‘To the fishermen-farmers and their families of Bardsey who, by experience, well know the meaning of difficulty, hazard and hard work.’ – – – ‘Island life is hard, subject to the moods of the sea, with little leisure. But close contact with nature yields a happiness which few townsmen know.’
The second film is called ‘Island Artist’ and described as:
‘An Amateur Cine World award-winning impression of the artist Brenda Chamberlain’s life on Bardsey Island/Ynys Enlli, shot by Edgar Ewart Pritchard, a native of Brownhills in Staffordshire but a regular visitor to Bardsey. Brenda Chamberlain is seen in her home (with two siamese cats) – sketching, writing (‘Island Fisherman’) and completing a painting, which she sends off by boat to the mainland – and outside – collecting milk (fresh from the cow) from a neighbour, watching shearing in progress, riding her pony, walking with her dog, enjoying a boat trip to see seals.’
‘Artist, writer and poet (Brenda) lived on the Island from 1947 to 1962. She twice won the gold medal for part of the National Eisteddfod. Some murals she painted can still be seen on the walls at Carreg. Several of the paintings and drawings are inspired by the island, as is her volume Tide Race, which has been published by Seren.’
For a few sequences from Edgar’s film, and an idea about Brenda Chamberlain, there is a short interview with her biographer, Jill Piercy, on a BBC Welsh farming programme here.
Tantalisingly the description of ‘Swinging for Eggs’ says it was from a cassette of multiple films. I have sent a mail to the National Library of Wales to see if anything further can be learned.
The National Library of Wales sent me further information. The other films by E E Pritchard were namely ‘Climbing Tryfan in 1947’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Poacher’s Apprentice’.
The films can be seen at the Library if prior notice is given.
The biography of Brenda Chambelain is entitled ‘Brenda Chamberlain, Artist and Writer’ and is written by Jill Piercy. Jill very kindly provided further information about Edgar.
Edgar first visited Bardsey in 1946 and his last visit was 1969. He stayed with Will and Nellie Evans in Ty Pellaf. He made the two films 1948-53 and filmed in summer and autumn to show life in different seasons.. In the summer of 1950 he showed two of his earlier films and ‘Island in the Current’ to the islanders in the school. It seemed to go down well with everyone.
The National Library have copies of both films and I think there are extracts and stills on their online catalogue and on Gathering the Jewels www.gtj.org.uk