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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

A Crack in the Mystery Photo Door

You might remember reading on this blog about My Mystery Photo Pouch – a small brown leatherette wallet full of little photo snaps which I believed to have belonged to my great aunt, Hilda Griffiths. The photographs inside came, it seems, from Hilda’s cousin, Anna Helena Talbot, known to her friends as Nellie. Every so often I manage to identify someone in the photos, some of which are labelled, others not.

I posted about the photographs on my old Family History Secrets Blog some years ago and this week I had an email from someone who’d come across the post and wanted to tell me about his connection. Nellie’s sister, Mabel, had married his ancestor John Herniman Ben Mowels in 1918. I’d mentioned in my post about a little scrap of paper amongst the pictures which had recorded, in Nellie’s hand, the couple’s wedding in Pulborough on 27th May of that year.

Newspaper search

I sifted through the photos in my pouch and pulled out some of Mabel which I scanned and sent off to him. On the back of one of them, Nellie had written Mabel winning the 75yd running race. In it Mabel is pictured crossing the tape, grinning out at the camera.

My correspondent had asked whether I’d been able to verify the date of the wedding noted on the scrap of paper, and in the absence of a marriage certificate, I thought I’d see if the ceremony had been mentioned in a local newspaper.

Gathering potatoes

Interestingly, however, what came up in my search, wasn’t the wedding but a fund-raising fete in Crewe (where Mabel and Nellie were born and grew up) held in August 1918.

After a summary of some of the attractions at the fete, the newspaper report went on to say: "The most important event was the sports", below which it listed the winners of the various races – amongst them the ladies running race and the intriguingly entitled “Ladies Potato Gathering Race”. The winner of both these races was Mrs Mowels – our Mabel!

Written on the reverse of another photo of Mabel – this time of her actually running in a race – is a note saying that it was taken at "Perway Garden Party", so my photo may not be the same event as in the newspaper. But what it does seem to confirm about Mabel – she was quite the sportswoman!



Jun 19, 2022

The sports story on Mabel was an incredible find Wendy! I stared awhile at your small brown leatherette wallet! I can imagine it holds a good few mysteries!

Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Jun 20, 2022
Replying to

It certainly does, Elle. It took a bit of puzzling out when I first unpacked it as I wasn’t even sure who it had belonged to. Fortunately I recognised a face amongst the batch which whittled down the possibilities. But there are still plenty of images left to fathom out! 😁

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