Charles Clark Frank (1871-1950) – countryman, soldier, writer – was my grandfather. I never met him but after my dad died, my mum gave me several carrier bags crammed with dusty, dirty old papers and said ‘You might like to read these’. My heart sank. The Essays. Dad had mentioned them many times. They had lurked in the dark recesses of the garage ever since I could remember. I pictured myself poring over long worthy-but-dull tracts. I felt obliged to at least start, as it was unlikely anyone else was going to, and dad had kept them for so long.
Reluctantly, I hoicked one at random out of the pile. After I’d stopped sneezing, I began reading; contnued reading, and – yes – became hooked.
As a member of the Scarborough Essay Society or SES (which seems to have included members as far afield as London!) grandfather wrote essays on a wide range of topics, from fishing the River Dove in his beloved Yorkshire Moors, to a lyrical description of Anna Pavlova’s dancing, embracing subjects as divers as the duties of a Special Constable, a comparison of two Shakespeare characters, and a dragonfly alighting near his knee in the middle of an enemy bombardment on the Somme in 1916.
The essays were written between 1898 and 1933, some are good, some not so good, and some are amazing. Many have the criticisms of fellow SES members attached – which really enriches them (when I can read the hand-writing…). However, all SES members wrote under a pen-name – grandfather’s was ‘T’Moor Poult’ (or TMP) – so I have no idea who ‘Gimcrack’, ‘Paul Pry’, ‘Agricola’ or even ‘Δ’ were.
To date, I’m about half way through reading the essays (about a hundred in all) and am astonished at how enriching the experience has been – leading me up and down all sorts of fascinating avenues, and I feel I’m getting to know my grandfather. I hope that eventually, they can be shared in some way, but in the meantime, I’ve started this blog as a tribute what ‘Gimcrack’ might have called my grandfather’s ‘esprit de plume’.
And it’s for my dad, too. My dad, Charles Godfrey Hugill Frank, gave me many things (including for my birthday once, many years ago, a fire extinguisher!), but he also gave me many gifts. Not least among these is a love of words, and it’s this which has, I believe, helped me to finally understand, to a small degree at least, the essence of an often puzzling man – my dad.