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    A blog from the Friends of St Annes Library featuring stories from the people who live and work in St Annes about the objects that are most special to them.
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Ian’s glass negatives

My most Treasured Possession is a collection of 400 glass slides that record a visit my Great Uncle Archie and his wife Kate made to India in 1925.

Ian with the glass negatives

Great-Uncle Archie was a man of wide interests, in whose home my father and his two brothers were reared while their parents were away in China. My grandfather (his elder brother), worked for some forty years as a missionary and must have been very grateful for a family arrangement that allowed his children to grow up in comparative comfort and safety whilst he and my grandmother (who sadly died there), sought and faced a succession of hardships in a far-off and often-hostile land.

In 1925, aged around 57, he took 3 months’ absence from his wholesale grain and grocery business to travel to India, taking Kate with him to visit her sister there, who was married to a Scottish missionary named Andrew Low. In Uncle Archie’s collection of books is a slim volume of 1901 titled “Across India” that mentions Rev Low’s work among famine orphans in Nasirabad, Rajasthan, so Uncle Archie may have been contemplating this journey long before he actually made it.

Besides amateur microscopy and telescopy, both of great interest to him, Uncle Archie was also a keen photographer and documented his trip very diligently. The journey through India took them from Bombay to the Low’s handsome bungalow in Jaipur in Rajasthan, and from there on a holiday to Kashmir. He recorded some fine pictures of the Himalayan valley that they trekked up, following a spell relaxing in a houseboat on  Dal Lake.

But he was also an elder of the Church of Scotland, fascinated by the active spirituality of India, and the remainder of his trip was planned around sites of religious significance, enabling him to illustrate with an epidioscope (magic lantern) the lectures about Indian religions that he subsequently gave to church meetings in Greenock on his return. He was also fascinated by the variety of trades and skills carried out quite openly in the streets – pottery, silver-work, winnowing of grain etc – and made many photos of people engaged in their crafts. I have inherited some of the text he prepared as scripts for his talks, various indexes of the slides (for each talk he would make a fresh selection), and also a few letters to his nephew my uncle (at that time a student in Oxford), that reveal more fascinating details of their epic journey.

riverside scene, benares

Women winnowing in Jaipur

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