The Church On Tour: First Stop – Butlins!

One of the less explained pieces in the British Pathé film archive, these muted out takes of a 1961 clergy conference by the seaside are a bit of an art-house thriller. Vicars join in with a strange chopsticks dance in front of bemused deckchair stricken tourists, whilst other members of the clergy enjoy a few sherries in a bar with some ladies. Two priests get strangely entangled in a children’s climbing frame and the Bishop of Southwark parades around the seafront looking a bit out of place amongst the crowds of people in beachwear. Great shots of the bishops and priests taking running jumps into swimming pools.

Brilliantly rare footage of Butlins chalets, 1960s holidaymakers and a baffling insight into the Church of England letting their hair down.

The Orange Prize

He only asked for freshly squeezed juice

It’s 1967, and British Pathé are at the world orange peeling championships. Peeling the orange to emulate the crown jewels is optional, but the peel must be cut off in one piece. Jose Turpin ‘Don Pepe’ can peel an orange in 12.5 seconds! Bizarrely the boxer Henry Cooper judges the tournament, but the narrator kindly explains – “When Henry isn’t laying men flat in the ring he’s a green grocer” – so as you can see, his presence on the panel if justified. Don Pepe pins his orange peel to the lapel on Henry Cooper’s jacket. Rent-a-grin Henry shakes Don’s hand and then (blink and you’ll miss it) averts his eyes as if to say “WHY am I doing this? WHY?”

Sky Sports need to get their act together. Orange peeling championships need a comeback. Surely this is an advertiser’s dream that Orange phone network are missing out on? P.s. One fashion blogger fan of British Pathé drew attention to the video’s accessories too – particularly Don’s jet-embedded ring and Henry Cooper’s tie clip. Even the most trivial videos bare all sorts of historical importance.

No two hands are alike!

"Or else fits of depression and nothing very great is achieved"

Today we were quite amused by this astrologer and palmist Gabriel Dee back in 1931. Gabriel explains the nation’s tragic fate according to their palms with absolutely no hint of humour or light heartedness. She comes out with some quite remarkable phrases like “If it reaches out across the palm then you will travel and die abroad”, or our personal favourite – “you’re absolutely incapable of sincere love”.

The diagram soon fills up with Gabriel’s linear annotations, telling us everything from our creative capacity to the extent of a jealous streak. She finishes on the rather dubious warning – “And remember! Your left hand is what you are born with, your right hand is what you make of it”

Full marks go to the creepy Wicker Man esque music at the beginning too. Watch Gabriel Dee’s lesson in palm reading here.

Halloween Come Early: Jaunting Easter Hat Parade

Don't move Margaret

A fan of British Pathé, Sam in Leamington Spa, emailed asking if we have any footage of tarantulas. We may well do, although tarantulas wouldn’t have been jotted down in the canister notes unless they were the main content, which is unlikely for a newsreel. However, this rather terrifying tarantula hat stars in an Easter bonnet parade from 1955. Easter has several odd traditions, and sadly hat parades are in decline, but they were one all the Easter rage. Hundreds of women would line up to flaunt their homemade creations in front of a panel of fashion experts and town councillors. This clip shows helicopter hats, race horse hats, a ballerina hat, hats that have been fashioned from straw, paper and plants. Watch this Easter Hat parade and others here

1950s Customs Training: Fancy a custard cream?

Drug trafficking was once a much merrier affair
The boys inspect a suspicious looking plank of wood

This 1958 clip of a customs school gives a glorious insight into the very gentle affair of detecting drugs trafficking in the 1950s. The dozen or so students are taught by their training officer how to look out for secret nooks and crannies in various vehicles, such as the waterproofing on a wooden boat. As the narrator helpfully points out “Not even a death watch beetle can call his home his own”. Drugs are referred to as “habit-forming narcotics”, whilst alcohol is quaintly quipped as “spirits much tastier than petrol”. It’s refreshing to see how customer service is top on the list in this customs training class. The boys are told they should “not bully or badger, but be courteous, efficient and firm.” How times have changed.

Watch the 1950s customs training reel on British Pathé here

Trapeze Wedding: Couple head for the clouds

The sun’s out in London today and so we felt like finding something sunny and funny. We’re loving this footage of a trapeze wedding in the sky from the summer of 1959. The wedding video begins with a topless man assembling scaffolding while a merry narrator speculates over what the cause of such “highly unconventional behaviour” could be.   There are several enjoyable details: a trapeze wedding cake with a terrifying swinging doll, two very toothy 1950s bridesmaids looking bemused and a Union Jack flying high above the groom. The 1950s narration is predictably cheesy and a tour de force of tenuous puns – “this cake is really going up in the world” / “One should be on top of the world on one’s wedding day” etc. etc.

Watch the full clip here