Kinder – Lynda Aylett-Green

My uncle died last week, a great sadness because he had always seemed wiser and more approachable than anyone else in my family. He was ninety-eight and his good health had been the result of an active life, so browsing through some of his photo albums I saw a youthful Uncle, good-looking and athletic, gazing at me from sepia photographs with a group of his cycle club friends. They picnicked by deserted roadsides or relaxed outside a country inn, bicycles propped against worn wooden benches, warm sunshine glinting at me in golden brown from those long-ago summers.

He had loved his cycling club, but what would I do now with his treasured silver cups and medals? And the albums loving arranged with each photograph in its tiny cardboard corners, captioned and dated in meticulous white ink.

From his shabby Victorian villa in East London he had cycled on great journeys, often to Cornwall or Wales, and once even to France. I always admired him, yet the rest of the family did not. My mother rarely spoke of her older brother, and then it was with disapproving pursed lips. We never visited him when I was a child, it was only later that I grew to enjoy his company.

One album had photographs of an expedition to the Peak District. His friends, smiling young men in baggy shorts or in strange knickerbockers like plus-fours, carrying hessian rucksacks and complicated box cameras, posed jovially with their arms round each other. There were photos of Hayfield and Kinder Scout and of sombre, determined crowds gathering for the Mass Trespass in 1932. Disappointingly there were no pictures of the climax of the event, the protests, the proud marchers, the final ugly struggles and the imprisonment of the heroic five, although I knew my uncle had been there.

As I closed the album a slip of paper fell from its secret hiding place cut into the leather cover. It was a newspaper cutting from The Times dated 24th April, 1932 with a rather disapproving account of the arrest of the five protesters. I slid my fingers deeper into the cover and found another cutting, this time from The Manchester Guardian of the same date. There was a grainy photograph of a balaclava masked figure disappearing into the mist with the caption “Who was the mystery trespasser?” The article told how the police had failed to capture a sixth man, he was wanted for felling two of the gamekeepers and then for forcibly evading arrest by the police. Another brief report a week later stated that the mystery trespasser was still on the run. Reporters interviewing the convicted men’s families found great controversy. Some said the hooded man was a hero, others said he was a coward, that he should have faced his punishment like the rest. The Guardian’s reporter had boldly headlined his piece “Hooded Hero of the Moors.”

I folded the yellowing papers carefully and put them back inside the  cover; an album to be treasured forever.

 

 

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