Archive for the ‘Gerald Dodd’ Category

Harry Glassblower

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Long-term phantophiles will be sad to hear of the passing of Harry Glassborrow AKA Glassblower, a man who forty years ago made us smile today with his antics as hospital porter in the Dreadnought Hospital.

Aided and abetted by his friend and fellow porter Gerald Dodd, Harry loved to lark around, dressing up in whatever was available, messing about on bikes, pulling faces and generally entertaining everyone he met.

And those of us he didn’t meet. Some of us weren’t born when he was playing the clown in what is now part of the University of Greenwich but Gerald, a keen amateur photographer, carried his camera with him everywhere. Harry couldn’t resist the opportunity, Gerald kept the pics and we have been enjoying them ever since.

I knew that Gerald was trying to contact Harry, and when his email arrived I thought it was good news – that they’d finally managed to meet up again after losing each other for a long time – but it was instead Harry’s son (also called Harry) with the news that just as Gerald had managed to track down Harry Snr. on Facebook, his old friend passed away.

Gerald is, as am I, very sad to hear such tidings. Harry brought such innocent fun to these pages. Both Gerald and The Phantom’s thoughts are with his family in this most difficult of times. Gerald says:

Harry, just to say thank you Harry for being my friend all those years ago. R.I.P.

There are so many Harry Glassblower posts (thank you Gerald!) that the best thing to do is direct you to the Phantom Phindings page for him and you can see him for yourself. The search fuction is a blunt instrument – the posts are in no special order that I can see – but short of giving you dozens of links here, it’s my best bet.

In the meanwhile I leave you with a taster, if you have never encountered Harry the Hospital Hipster before. He was a dapper chap, but with a sense of fun more of us should aspire to, however trendy we aspire to be. Sometimes I think the 21st Century is too po-faced for its own good.

Greenwich Reach in the 1960s

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Following on from the discussion about re-naming reaches, another one of those lovely moments when Gerald Dodd says ‘don’t think you’ve seen these yet…’

I’m guessing he was standing on Greenwich pier to take these – given he was a porter at Dreadnought Hospital that would make sense – lunchtime, Gerald? This one must be one of the tourist boats – a bit smaller than the ones we have now, but still the same principal. The Isle of Dogs is just a tiny bit different too…

Island Gardens is much the same, of course, though it could be changing soon if the developers have their way.The pier itself has only just changed, of course. For a working river the Thames looks very still, perhaps this was early morning?

And Wood Wharf. The power station, just in case you’re wondering, is not Greenwich Power Station but Deptford, we’re looking West here.

Strange to see these pictures. It was that long ago and yet it looks like another world…

Charlton Park in the 1960s

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The gems from Dreadnought Hospital porter Gerald Dodd’s photo album just keep on coming. Every so often I get a little email that says ‘not sure you’ve seen these yet’ which brightens up my entire day. I even have a backlog and at some stage I need to go through and see which ones you’ve not seen yet either. I would link to older posts but there are just so many of them. I’m pretty sure I’ve tagged them with his name, but you can always use the little ‘search within this site’ google box if you want to see more.

The pictures today don’t have people in them, but Gerald lived in Charlton Park Lane, so being the proud owner of a camera (a relatively unusual thing in the 60s) he took it out on occasion to get to know it. I love these images – it was obviously a glorious day but there’s something slightly faded and melancholy about the park and almost ghostly about the house, which reminds me of the very odd, flawed but curious Halloween theatrical experience I had there a few years ago.

Something that would appeal to anyone who would like this photo is an exhibition at Charlton House at the moment, run by the indominatble Carol Kenna and the Charlton Reminiscence Project. I’ll let them tell you about it as I haven’t been yet:

A View from the Ledge

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

I just love this image. It is, of course, another in Gerald Dodd’s collection, which, if you are new around here, was a series of pictures taken by Gerald in the 1960s when he was a porter at Dreadnought Hospital, showing the back corridors, wards, roofs and back-spaces of the place – perhaps rather an odd thing to do then, but utterly fascinating to us now.

I love the moodiness of the Gatehouse with the room in shadow and King William Way daylit outside.

It’s the little things that I like – the ashtray on the desk, the paper carrier bag, the mug. I like the vertical lines and miniature frames created by the window.

I can’t tell whether the chap in the picture is our old favourite Harry ‘Glassblower’ or not, but I’m sort of hoping it is – a man who can make me smile forty years on when I never even met him. Here he is on the floor, draped in a Union flag surrounded by beer cans for no reason other than fun:

This is what the inside of the Gatehouse looked like:

George Budge the gatekeeper…

Gerald says “George  was a bit of a wheeler / dealer, (small time ), the carrier bag on the table would have been George`s with his latest wares. It was a bit of this and that,  nothing to expensive or big. I remember I got a nice half-sovereign and gold chain for a few bob for Pam ( now my wife). I liked working with him just to see what he brought in – a silver pocket watch one time, cheap but a non-runner (still have it ) and another time a second hand cine camera.”

I’m guessing the little films Gerald sent were made with that camera…

And here’s Gerald himself:

And in case you were wondering which of the many Greenwich photography shops Gerald patronised, he’s found an old packet of negs:

More fun with Gerald and his pals another day…

Gerald’s Home Movies

Friday, January 4th, 2013

It’s been some time since we had a peek into Gerald Dodd’s wonderful photo album from the 1960s, when he was a porter at Dreadnought Hospital and carried his camera everywhere he went.

Today, though, I want to look at something a little different – another pride-and-joy of Gerald’s, his movie camera. Gerald dickered with Super 8 throughout his time at the hospital and though it’s a bit fuzzy by today’s standards, I still find these tiny, fleeting slices of ordinary life fascinating.

We’ll start with our old friend Harry Glassblower:

Harry’s also in this one, as are Gerald’s knees at one point, and Gerald himself, if you don’t blink…

I wonder if anyone has stood at the gates of the Old Royal Naval College and just taken film of the traffic since Gerald did. It was very ordinary for him – but for us, who haven’t seen an open-backed Routemaster for years around Greenwich’s one-way system, it’s a little glimpse into the past. The couple of seconds footage of Blackheath show that some things don’t change, of course…

This is one of my favourites – a little of Docklands, a little of the river, Dreadnought, the area around – and some views from the roof of the Nurses Home (now Devonport House…)

Finally a film of two halves – the first half being the view from Devonport House again, including some spooky shots of the Cutty Sark and St Alfege, and then, from 1.33, shots of Gerald, Harry and his mates messing around – with Gerald’s bike, with a bottle, with a car, with each other. I love it.

Thank you Gerald – and thanks too, to your son-in-law who digitised them. It’s a joy to see these films.

Harry Porter

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I said I’d get onto the antics of Dreadnought Hospital porter Gerald Dodd’s mate Harry Glassborro (or ‘Glassblower’ as they used to call him), one of those guys that are created to brighten up the world, and today seems like the day to do it.

Harry and Gerald used to do night shifts together and Gerald says “you never knew what he got up to, mainly when I took out my camera. Being a young boy from the sticks in Wales I didn’t know very much about city life. ” Harry took Gerald under his wing. “Every shift we worked together was good, I looked forward to it. ”

As you’ll see from these pictures, Harry was a ‘prop-man’ – couldn’t take a photo without one. He is, of course, the chap with the sink plunger in the top photo – but you’ll never see him without some object (often involving beer, I note…)

Here he is as one of the tutors at Hogwarts, an amazing feat since the place wouldn’t be invented for another thirty-odd years.

I’m not entirely sure what he’s hoping to find in the gate porter’s cabinets, but hey…

Thing is, the guy just has a face for comedy – even just holding an apple he looks like he’s stepped straight out of a sit-com. Click on the image below and check out those cheeky eyebrows to see what I mean. I honestly have no idea what the hell he’s doing in most pictures – but that’s not the point.


Of course, just because ‘everybody liked Harry and Harry liked everybody’ didn’t mean he wasn’t above scaring the bejeesus out of the young, naive Gerald, who tells me of the time his mentor spent a nice long while talking about the gruecities of post-mortems over tea in the lodge then contrived ‘a job’ across the way that involved his young companion having to go to one of the labs in the Cooper Building just as one was starting. “Quite a shock to my system,” admits Gerald.

I don’t want to know what the bucket’s for here, but I’m rather taken with the winklepickers in the shot below. Harry was clearly a natty dresser too (and I’m guessing a bit of a hit with the ladies – cool shoes and making ‘em laugh…)

I guess all it is is making fun out of nothing – but I think there should be more of that sort of thing in life. Gerald admits “he made the long night shift go fast.” I can’t think of a better acolade for a co-worker. And now, forty-odd years later, he’s making us smile all over again. Hurrah for Harry Glassblower and his night-shift nuttiness.

Gerald lost touch with Harry – but would love to know if he’s still around or if anyone knows him. He thinks he was married, possibly with children, and lived in Peckham, but admits, ‘we rarely talked about things like that, we were too busy getting up to things…’

If you know (or even are) Harry, do drop me a line and I’ll pass you on to Gerald.

Actually, I’ve just realised that last photo was missing one of Harry’s signature props. Quick, I’d better supply him with one.

Ahhh. That’s better. So – tonight – may I propose a good old fashioned Friday Night Toast:

To Harry Glassblower – and his photographer pal, Gerald…

Portermore (7)

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Thought it was about time we saw some more of Gerald Dodd’s photos today. This batch are a little on the fuzzy side because they are actually stills from Gerald’s 8mm movies – which must be wonderful little time capsules. Any time you want to YouTube them, Gerald… ;-)

These are all exterior shots of Dreadnought Hospital in Greenwich, where Gerald was a porter in the 1960s and 70s and, unusually for the time, had a camera (and now, we discover, a movie camera…) and brought it into work. These are mainly pictures of his mates – we’re beginning to get to know them now – Dave, George, Mr Davis and, of course, hospital wag Harry Glassblower – and they’re fascinating for that – but even more fascinating are the backgrounds that Gerald caught in the background of his candid shots.

Take this one for example, of Harry who is walking around a corner with mischief in his grin:


I’m guessing its the bit where the University bookshop is these days, in between that and the new/old Brewery. If it is, it looks pretty much the same as ever. If not – I have no clue.

I also have no idea what he’s carrying. (UPDATE: It’s the clock used for the security walk – that would have been an afternoon shift…)

Out in the car park is a little easier to spot:

See what I mean about booze never being that far away from these photos?

I just love the old cars behind them – take this one for example:

Or the ambulance caught in this little scene of patients and staff, enjoying the sun and if other photos are anything to go by, sharing a crafty nip of something just out of shot…

Those benches are still around – or very similar, anyway.

Is it just me or does everything seem so much more relaxed – you just don’t see patients, doctors in white coats and porters in their brown sitting outside enjoying the sun together these days (not, I suppose, that we see much sun either…)

Back to interesting backgrounds and here’s Harry just about to ride one of those little Mini Moulton bikes that were all the rage in the 70s:

and actually riding it:

The bike was Gerald’s – and Harry’s trying to offer him cash for it.  Despite being turned down, he rode it anyway – that’s the hospital grounds in the background with the Naval College (as was then) behind him.

But this is my favourite shot. As porter, Gerald got to go where few others did. This was the front of the nurses home roof, looking towards the main road. Bet not many people get this view even now…

So – there are 8mm movies of Greenwich around too. Whatever will fetch up next. As always, Gerald – thank you – we’re loving these shots. And folks – yes, there are more to come…

Porter’s World

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Thought it was about time for some more photos from Gerald Dodd today. Gerald was, if you recall, a porter at Dreadnought Hospital in the 1960s and early 70s and, perhaps unusually for the time, not only had a camera, but carried about with him, taking pictures of the Greenwich work life around him – and the antics of his mates, of course…

This is the view most people got of Deadnought Hospital – as you can see, the building’s purpose might be different now, the No. 70 bus may no longer exist but the rest of the scene around the outside of the hospital hasn’t really changed very much.

Inside it’s a different matter entirely.

This was Gerald’s domain:

Gerald knew this place inside out. This, for example, is the corridor from the main entrance to the hospital. Not many people would think to take a photo of what is basically a conduit between worlds – the wards that we talked about a week or so ago, and the porter’s lodge where Gerald and his mates hung out -Dave McGregor, Davis, hospital clown Harry Glassblower (I have a whole bunch of pics of Harry in various ‘costumes’) and George Budge the gate porter (sitting down in this picture inside the gatehouse…)

They must have spent hours in that gatehouse – most of which seem to have involved tea and fags…

Here are a couple of shots of the hospital switchboard:

and the porters gatehouse, looking exactly as I’d expect it to. Of course this isn’t the fancy gatehouse at the entrance to the site that you can see in the second picture, this was inside the hospital.

The great thing about these pictures is that Gerald was just as happy snapping the strange, netherworldly regions of the place – here, for example, is what probably still is underneath:

Gerald took his camera outside, of course – to places it wouldn’t occur to most of us there’s a photo to be had:

(don’t you just love the ‘proper’ bins in that one – none of that newfangled wheelie nonsense…)

and of course he was always seeing what he could snap out of the window:

But for me, it’s definitely the people I love best. I’ll leave you with some of Gerald’s companions. He’d love to hear from any that might remember him…

Johnny and Mr Collins


Dreadnought Hospital Wards

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Some more great photos from Gerald Dodd today – a selection of snaps (from so many he took) around the wards of Dreadnought Hospital in the 1960s.

Many of Gerald’s shots were candid – as porter his domain were the corridors, basements, back alleys and secret places of the hospital – but as a mad-keen photographer, he just couldn’t resist a few of the wards.

This one, for instance, of Outpatients. I confess it reminds me most of Carry on Matron or something that Leslie Phillips might be wearing a white coat in. I just love the uniforms – the starched aprons, the little white caps, the upside-down watches…

But I think what I like best about these photos is (and I see this particularly in Gerald’s other pictures of him and his mates in the hospital’s underbelly – you’ll be seeing them soon) is the sheer number of bottles of beer that keep turning up (at least I think it’s beer – could be sauce bottles or something in this pic of nurses and patients, I guess – no doubt in other photos ;-) )

Nurse! The screens!


Gerald, these pictures are great – and show a side of  the NHS in the 1960s that’s beginning to be forgotten now. You and your mates must have had fun. Thanks for sharing them with us.