John Tindale, Photograper 1921 - 2001
John was a well known photographer in Whitby and had various premises in the town for his photographic business throughout his life, starting on Bridge Street then moving to Well Close Square before settling down to his main studios at 14 Skinner Street where he built his dark-rooms, his audio studio for recording work and his photographic studio. It was at Skinner Street that the bulk of his work was done.
John was also a well know character for his involvement in various causes.
North York Moors Railway
Following the closure by British Rail of the Pickering to Whitby line in 1965, John joined the nascent NYMR as head of publicity and advised and participated in all the public relations material that kept the society in the public eye during its tricky birth. Creating public support was vital to persuade British Rail that the new organisation was serious about taking on the railway.
John was involved right throughout the formation of the new organisation, appearing on TV, writing news items for the press, photographing the locos and carriages and dreaming up the ideas that would keep the society in the public eye. Over ten years he arranged much public fund-raising, wrote the official letters to the newspapers, designed the railway logo and used his professional contacts in the press and radio to champion the new railway.
John on the NYMR in an interview for the television
By 1973, the deed was done and John organised the opening of the new railway by the Duchess of Kent , showing her around Whitby and Grosmont. In all, John gave his time and energy for ten years and helped to turn a ‘dream of steam engines’ into reality.
As was usual with John, he wrote this all up as an entertaining pamphlet. For the exhibition at Whitby Museum during 2021, current NYMR staff were filmed talking about John’s contribution. He is remembered with great affection.
The Endeavour Project
In 1982 John originated the Endeavour Project, a scheme to re-build Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour using Whitby ship-making skills on the site of the Whitby ship-yard. He saw this as a way to create work in the town, to preserve the ship-building yard, to keep local skills alive, and to stimulate a tourist and publicity boom by having a sea-going replica in the town, made by Whitby people just as the original 1764 ship had been. The ship would be sailed to Australia on its first away trip.
John was the chairman and chief force behind the project, which gathered major local support over several years.
£20,000 was raised locally and an application for an EU grant was pending and looked likely. However, hopes were dashed when the local MP and EU big-wig Leon Brittan was unexpectedly promoted to even higher office in the EU and his successor cleared away all previous projects under consideration.
The ship’s plans were passed over to the Australians who were about to start their own project. By 1989 they had it under construction and in May 1997 it sailed into Whitby harbour.
John was a guest of honour, but of course would have preferred that it had been built at Whitby as originally planned. Still, the idea of an Endeavour replica at Whitby remains to this day a strong tourist theme for the town, and the subsequent boom in tourism is due in some part to John’s initiation and championing of this ship-building idea.
John Tindale being recognised by the Whitby Rotary and the Whitby Gazette, 1996
Whitby Hospital – Save Our Services
In 1995 large cuts were proposed at Whitby Hospital prompting John to form the ‘Save our Services’ (SOS). An energetic committee was formed, John was the secretary and was involved with much public campaigning and negotiation with the Health Authority. By the end of the year, in light of the huge public reaction including 22,500 signatures of his petition, the authorities had cancelled the cuts. John then helped found the ‘Whitby Health Forum’, a group that actively monitored any further cut-backs that might be proposed. The cuts were substantially delayed back then to the benefit of Whitby people, thanks to the SOS committee and John’s championing of the hospital.
John wrote many published magazine articles about the culture and history of Whitby and District, and also wrote five books on local matters. He covered subjects such as farming and fishing from the Whitby angle and saw humour, drama and amusement in all the goings-on of local people.
He recorded and preserved on tape many audio interviews that he conducted at length with interesting local people, which are now held as a cultural archive at the Whitby Museum. Some were shown as part of the 2021 exhibition. He always found something to say to stress the intelligence, warmth and humanity of the people of Whitby. These publications still promote the town and its culture today.
Always wanting to get the best shot
Source: David Tindale
Photos, courtesy of David Tindale