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It's a centenaries bonanza for April, as we focus on an amazing collection of photographs which haven't been seen since they were taken more than 100 years ago. We also look at the calamitous sinking of the Empress of Ireland in 1914, and on a lighter note, the 100th anniversary of Pygmalion on the London stage.

Ernest Battersby's Edwardian abundance

Hidden away for over a century and never before published, the Ernest Battersby Collection is a rare gem of a find. These wonderful Edwardian photographs are now exclusively available through Mary Evans.

Ernest Battersby was born in 1878 in Stockport, Cheshire, the ninth of eleven children, and went into the family business of hat manufacturing, for which Stockport was a pivotal centre. In 1906 the Battersbys bought a second hat factory in Conty, near Arras in Northern France, where Ernest lived for extended periods. Travelling in Britain and Europe for business with his brother Edgar enabled Ernest to indulge his keen interest in photography. Like Ernest, Edgar never married, and in 1915 volunteered to serve his country in the Honourable Artillery Company, being killed two years later at the Battle of Arras.

Ultimately, Ernest was no more fortunate. He contracted tuberculosis and spent increasing amounts of time in France to manage the factory and for the warmer climate, but was forced to leave Conty when the house and factory were requisitioned for the war effort. He died on 1st October 1918 at Yvetot, near Rouen and was buried there.

His collection of over 700 negatives ended up in a storeroom at the Battersby factory in Stockport, but nothing was done with them. They survived the factory closure, flood, and several house moves, until Ernest's great-nephew began the painstaking cleaning and scanning process in 2013, revealing for the first time in 100 years what Ernest captured in the long gone heyday of the Edwardian era before Europe was engulfed in the Great War. What were then snapshots and personal memories are now a fascinating archive, chronicling the life and observations of an upper-middle class industrialist as he went about his daily life.

For a selection of these beautifully-restored photographs, click here.

Empress of Ireland - 100 years since loss

Next month sees the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in the early hours of 29th May 1914 in the St Lawrence River. Sandwiched between the Titanic in 1912 and the torpedoing of the Lusitania in 1915 during the First World War, the Empress of Ireland tragedy is often overlooked but remains Canada's worst maritime disaster.

A British-registered ship of the Canadian Pacific line, RMS Empress of Ireland departed Quebec City for Liverpool on 28th May with 1,477 passengers and crew. Following the damning report into inadequate lifesaving provisions on the Titanic two years earlier, the Empress of Ireland carried enough lifeboats to hold all on board as well as 2,200 life jackets, and well-drilled crew practised in evacuation procedures.

Heading for open water down the St Lawrence River, the lights of another ship were spotted, the Norwegian collier Storstad, which then disappeared in a fog bank. Fifteen minutes later the Storstad suddenly reappeared, repeatedly blowing her fog whistle and heading straight for the Empress. The collision tore a 350 square-foot hole in the starboard side of the Empress through which river water poured in. The ship rapidly listed to starboard so severely that it was impossible to launch more than a handful of lifeboats, and within 14 minutes the Empress was gone taking 1,012 people to their deaths.

Our images include a poster proudly advertising the Empress steamers in 1910; diagrams of the ship's collision and sinking; and pictures of survivors. Not least among these was Captain Henry Kendall whose actions as the master of the SS Montrose in 1910 led to the arrest of the notorious Dr Crippen aboard his ship, who was subsequently hanged for murder.

Pygmalion

We've recently come across some wonderful caricatures of actors in Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion which had its UK premier 100 years ago on 11th April 1914 at Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's His Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket, London. The illustrations by Thomas Downey in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, and by Tony Sarg in The Sketch, show Mrs Patrick Campbell as Eliza Doolittle, Tree as Henry Higgins, and Edmund Gurney as Alfred Doolittle. The play went on to become Shaw's most popular and the inspiration for hit musical My Fair Lady, the film version of which starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, is, by coincidence, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

You can view the full set here.


Marathon success

Congratulations to our IT Manager, Mark Braund, who completed Sunday's London Marathon in 4 hours and 47 minutes to raise money for Anthony Nolan, the charity which arranges stem cell transplants for people suffering from life-threatening blood cancers.

If you'd like to contribute to Mark's fundraising efforts, you can sponsor him at www.justgiving.com/MarkBraund2014. Alternatively you can text MBRA64 1 to 70070.

Let us know what you think

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Best wishes,

Mary Evans Picture Library

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd. 59 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.