The Case of William Baines

Wild West Yorkshire, Tuesday 14 December 2010

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Mrs Baines
Mrs Baines drawn from a photograph for my student project, 1972. You can
the influence of Victor Ambrus in the thumb prints and the springy line.

attache caseSTEPHEN SHIRES, who was at school a couple of years ahead of me, e-mailed me this week and sent me this photograph (left):

William Baines“I noticed in your diary pages an item on William Baines (right), the composer. His mother, Mary Baines, lived opposite where I lived in Park Grove [Horbury] and as a family we knew her, my father helping her with various things, and I doing regular shopping trips for her. As a result at some point she gave to my father a small attaché case which had belonged to William which, following my father’s death, has now come to me. It is nothing of value of itself, and inside are only a dipping pen, a pencil and one or two sheets of Mary Baines’s poetry, but it is a link back to William.

“I probably owe to Mrs Baines my early development of the taste for dark bitter chocolate, as my reward for these many shopping trips was a bar of Cadbury’s Bournville.

“The nib end of the pen inverts and slides into the shaft and is then carried in a pen holder in the case lid. That almost suggests the pen came with the case from new.

pencil and pen

“A pencil is a pencil, but I tried to show what I could of this one, because it is a timepiece in itself. The printing on it says:

13, Cornwall Rd. Paddington W.11
(Phone Park 986)”

If you look back through this diary, you'll realise that I'm fascinated by Victorian dip pens so I feel that our modern high street stationary supermarkets are no substitute for Rabbeth & Co! Stephen agrees: 'It would be lovely to think one could walk through Paddington now and find a Dickensian old shop full of varnishes, brushes and so on with some ancient member of the family still behind the counter but WH Smiths and Staples certainly don’t work like that!'

My thanks to Stephen for the photograph of the case, I'm fascinated to see it, not least because, despite my ambitious art college diploma project on Baines, I never knew of its existence. The case conjures up the period; it's got real patina; the sort of object which Sherlock Holmes would examine and tell you the life story of its owner.

Paradise Gardens

Paradise GardensThe Lone WreckIn Baines case, it was a life cut tragically short by tuberculosis; he died in 1922, aged only 23, but he had already composed numerous pieces for piano including impressionistic tone pictures including Paradise Gardens, inspired by a sunset seen from the walls of York, and The Lone Wreck, which captures the rhythmn of a storm tide at Flamborough, a favourite destination for William during the latter years of his life when he lived in York, on Albemarle Road, not far from the Knavesmire.

I drew these, like the portrait of Mrs Baines above, in a Victor Ambrus inspired pen and wash style, when working on my college project.

I've just heard that there's a possibility of a new recording of Baines' music being released in the new year. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Links: My previous pages on Baines At the Grave of William Baines , Celebrating Baines

Richard Bell, illustrator

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