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Saturday, 7 October 2017

In the Depths of Winter: Sepia Saturday

An urban scene, with lingering,  dirty, slushy snow on the pavements, is this week's Sepia Saturday prompt.  I turned to tales of snowy winters. 

 This is the nearest photograph I have to the prompt picture - a grey urban scene (taken in colour, though you might not think so) in Mount Vernon Street, Boston, Mass.  where I was working in 1965-66.  

Cameras for my family,  were just for summer use,  so I have no snow photographs of my own childhood or that of my parents - or even earlier.  

But my parents' memories of the Big Freeze of 1947 remained powerful and that year  has gone down in history as one of the worst winters experienced in  Britain.  According to Met.  Office records,  snow fell every day somewhere in the UK for a run of 55 days, with the temperature  on most days barely exceeded freezing,  causing hardship in both living conditioms and in industry and farming.  

My 1947 photographs here are taken from the collection of my local heritage group Auld Earlston

 This is the main A68 route carrying traffic from Newcastle to Edinburgh
through the central Scottish Borders. 

 Earlston Market Square.

Digging out the train at Earlston Station.  

This was less than two years since the end of the war, and for Britain it was a true age of austerity with food and fuel shortages, power cuts,  and rationing still in place.  Like most people,  our home had no such thing as central heating,  so we had to huddle around the one fire in the living room - the only room with heating. Frost appeared on the inside of the bedroom windows.  We kept the inner person warm with my mother's simple, hearty comfort food - roast meat on a Sunday, cottage pie on a Monday, sausages and mash, corned beef hash,  and steamed puddings, such as spotted dick with custard  or golden syrup sauce, and rice pudding (ugh!),

Getting a cold, meant my chest being rubbed with Vick and a hot drink of lemon and honey - my mother's medicinal remedy for everything.  It must have been a worrying time for her, trying to keep us warm, as my baby brother was only a few months old. 


1963 was another  notoriously bad winter.   We were living in Edinburgh and I recall my mother being concerned at the non-arrival of my father from a business trip to London (long before the days of mobile phones and instant communication).  He was stranded overnight on a train stuck in the Border hills, with an engine sent to rescue it also trapped. 

Below photographs of Earlston in 1963

The Market Square. 

Station Road 

Further north on Soutra Hill on the main road to Edinburgh, a lone car trundles through the walls of snow cleared from  the road.  


Then came all the talk of global warming, with mild and wet winters (umbrellas the essential accessory) and the near decimation of the Scottish sking industry. 

2001 was a blip with some of  the worst snow for years, and Hawick in the hilly Scottish Borders,  where we then lived  was cut off for three days and I could not get to work, with no buses running outside the town.  With rucksacks on their backs, people were going down to the supermarket with their  children's sledges to load them up and drag the shopping back home.   It was a time  to resort to creative  cookery from what was in my store cupboard and for the first occasion  in  years, I had time to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.   

The River Teviot frozen at Hawick

The road down the hill from our house - impassable for cars. 

Snow when it first falls ca be a wonderful magical experience transforming the landscape.  But when it changes to an icy, slippery danger, I prefer not to venture outside,  and when it ends up as grey, messy, slush on pavements,  it is a depressing, wet experience trying to negotiate pavemnts and cross roads 

So let's end on a picturesque note of a photograph taken in 2012 - back to the row of trees on the main A68 road  in Earlston, where my first 1947 picture was taken.


Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
to share their family history and memories through photographs. 

Click HERE to read other bloggers bad weather experiences.


  1. Great slide show of winter's charm and havoc. I've only been as far north as the Pennines in winter but the cold and snow required more forethought and caution. I remember one village museum had a dramatic photo of a hilltop road cut through snow banks several meters high that looked like someplace in Siberia. It was probably that same 1947 season.

  2. Great snow pictures, but I was a little surprised at your "Ugh" remark re: rice pudding? My grandmother's recipe made a delicious creamy vanilla rice pudding with a hint of nutmeg. Sooo good. As for being resourceful at meal time because you couldn't or didn't want to go out in the snow, I remember my Mom one time setting a casserole dish on the counter, then opening all the cupboards to see what she could put together for dinner that night - coming up with "Noodle Wiener Bean Treat". It was REALLY good, but unfortunately, she could never quite remember exactly what she'd put in it.

  3. I grew up in upstate New York snow country so I had early childhood lessons in braving the wintry climes. Still...that's a lot of snow to fall over 55 days! I was also surprised by your reaction to rice pudding, which I consider a comfort food -- along with its close cousin, tapioca pudding.

  4. To Molly and Gail - you are great advocates for rice pudding! My father loved it and it is still one of my husband's favourites, but I have never liked anything with hot milk, and rice pudding in years of school dinners put me off even more, as I tried to eke out the spoonful of jam to disguise the taste of the rice.

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    1. Lots of good photos here with roadside snow to match the prompt, but clearly too much snow can be very inconvenient and far from romantic. Have you ever tried Greek style rice pudding - I love t!

  6. I confess to never having eaten rice pudding, probably because one look and maybe putting a spoon in it was enough. However, I do love tapioca pudding, and now I'm inspired to make some soon. Great post with such good historic captions of big snow storms.


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