Socks for the Boys!

My Great Aunt Norah's wartime diaries, 1938-1948

Scraps of stories: ‘The New Umpire’, 1929

I was delighted to receive this little gift via email: ‘my’ missing poster from Labour’s 1929 election campaign (see Setting the Scene). Thank you John Baxendale!

New Umpire

‘The New Umpire’ acknowledges the recent enfranchisement of women and reflects Labour’s desire to capture what was popularly known as the ‘Flapper vote’. Although the imagery is inclusive – cricket being a working-class game in the Midlands and the North – the poster reflects the strategy, born of Sidney Webb’s argument for ‘stratified electioneering’, of appealing to groups of non-traditional would-be supporters (1).  I like the way the umpire’s scarf spells out that she is a Woman Voter, lest we are confused by the short hair and shapeless coat. She looks to Ramsay Mac, who addresses her directly as he coolly catches out the lunging, off-balance,  pipe-smoking Baldwin.

This isn’t the same poster that Norah’s father ripped down in disgust when, in the face of the pressures of the Depression, Ramsay Macdonald conceded defeat and formed the National Government. (I know this only because RM’s eye is too small to accommodate the poker that Tom Hodgkinson stuffed through it in temper).

But it evokes a whole host of images and stories, some of which I’ve recounted before. Norah’s father proudly pinning his political allegiances to the outside wall of the Hill Top cottage. The same, charging down High Street to rip down the ‘Vote Conservative’ posters that adorned the trees in Major Dalby’s field. There are the family celebrations as Labour win their 287 seats and, with the help of  the Liberals, are able to form a government. And then there is four year-old Norah, sharing the fun and jubilation, watching it all, taking it in.

Norah c 1930 20001


Here she is again in 1929, this time in North Wales on a family holiday paid for with the money from Milly’s Co-op ‘divi’. (That’s another story: how the children always quoted their mother’s number, knowing that a week in Llandudno, Barry or Rhyll would be the happy result).

Milly, Helen (16) Norah (4), Frank (6), Richard (9) and Tom, North Wales 1929

Milly, Helen (16) Norah (4), Frank (6), Richard (9) and Tom, North Wales 1929


I planned in this blog post to explore more critically the issue of what we do with these scraps of story that are neither fiction nor properly History. Beyond family stories, I can’t evidence any of them, and yet I find them incredibly evocative and powerful. It seems that if I want images like these in my narrative, I have to turn towards life-writing, memoir, creative nonfiction, genres which more readily embrace uncertainty and imagination as part of history.

But this will have to wait. I’ll return to this theme. Today, I just want to focus on the fresh blue and green of ‘The New Umpire’ and ponder four year-old Norah, as she absorbs and enjoys.

(1) Dominic Wring, ‘Selling Socialism. The marketing of the “very old” British Labour party, European Journal of Marketing 35 9/10 2001 pp. 1038-1036; Jon Lawrence, Electing our Masters.


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