Photographer RLV Burrows’ collection found dumped in dumpster

FASCINATING photographs taken from hundreds of vintage glass plate negatives found in a dumpster still present an unsolved mystery for history buffs.

The “Burrows Collection” is held by the Ynys Môn Commune Archives and features black and white photos taken by a former Holyhead press photographer.

RLV Burrows appears to have chronicled all aspects of island life over a long career spanning several decades during the 20th century.

Unfortunately, when the photos were found a few years ago, the index was missing and there were no captions.

The extraordinary images tell their own story by showing intriguing aspects of island life as well as revealing details of Welsh social history.

Llangefni archivists, staff and volunteers have pored over the images for clues to their dates, why they were taken, where they are and who they depict.

An unknown image shows an unusual shop which appears to be selling an eclectic mix of bicycles, long-playing records, cricket bats and dartboards.

In another, two jovial-looking women, one of them in civil protection corps uniform, stand next to two huge saucepans next to a stove.

Senior archivist Kelly Parry said: ‘We don’t know what’s going on in this photo, it could be that the ladies were providing food aid in wartime or post war, maybe it was during rationing .

“We just don’t know, but hopefully someone out there could?

“The photo of the store selling bicycles is fantastic.

“The shop seems to have a very strange collection of things for sale. Maybe someone remembers buying a record or a dart board? »

Other Burrows images show people and animals at farmers’ markets and local shows, there are village fetes, carnival queens, old pubs and bars, shop interiors and exterior views, people at work, garages and factory scenes, as well as local schools and classrooms. .

The Burrows, and other images, are just part of a vast historical treasury housed at the County Council Office.

Other items of interest include estate documents and letters, including correspondence from Florence Nightingale who wrote to a nurse on the island.

The oldest and rarest object is a paginated book in vellum (animal skin).

The Penrhoslligwy parish register dates from 1578 to 1766 and provides a detailed record of births, marriages and burials.

Staff at the Bryn Cefni Industrial Estate site are on a mission to encourage more local people to use its collections and online resources.

With more people passing by, they also hope more light will be shed on some of Burrows’ lesser-known images.

The service says its aim is to “identify, collect and preserve” the island’s history, and that it wants to make its 500-year-old archive “accessible to everyone”.

They are keen to dispel the myth that archives are just full of dusty old documents and are only for academics.

Although their subject matter is rooted in the past, the archive is up to date with a high-tech, temperature-controlled “capsule” designed to protect its precious records. It also has spacious and modern rooms for research, exhibitions and activities.

The archives department also worked on the school curriculum, helped students and volunteers, and made resources available to other organizations.

He recently provided photos to the National Library to work on a “memory archive”, which helped work on dementia awareness.,

Kelly said: “We have so many offers, we’re not just here for serious researchers and scholars, we’re here for everyone.

“We would like more local people to come by.

“We can help people with so many things, from researching family trees to examining old maps, maritime history, ships and planes, crime and punishment, labor records and poverty law, letters, diaries, photographs, we have all sorts of fascinating records that need to be shared.

“Family research is a popular reason people visit.

“Anyone from the area with long-standing family ties could even find their ancestors recorded in our Penrhoslligwy register, which dates back to 1578.”

The National Wales: Kelly Parry at Anglesey County Council Archives inspects the Penrhoslligwy Parish Register which dates from 1578 to 1766 and chronicles births, marriages and deaths.  Photo: Dale Spridgeon

The service also receives inquiries from around the world. He has seen visitors from as far away as Australia and Canada research Welsh family history.

Kelly would like to encourage anyone with old photographs, documents, old newspapers or historical records hidden away in sheds and attics to contact them before they think about throwing anything away.


She said: ‘It’s sad that Burrows’ footage was found in a dumpster, who knows how many precious items have been lost over the years.

“We urge people to think before throwing away anything like old photos.

“There must be many things hidden in attics, closets and sheds across the island that can help tell its story.

“People can always contact us if they’re not sure if it’s something worth saving. Or drop by,” she added.

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