Thursday, 5 January 2017

Bucks Phizogs

A treasured photograph from our family archive. This is a Buckinghamshire County Council road gang with their steam roller, out on a Chilterns road sometime in the 1930s (I should think). All in hats and caps, two with ties. The gentleman standing third from the right is my Uncle Joe, in fact my great uncle, being the chap who married my mother's Aunty Dora and lived in Lee Common. Readers of English Allsorts will remember my story about the faux Player's Digger packet, featuring Joe in the fifties. 
    I've always found the photograph curious for three reasons. Firstly it must have been unusual for a road gang to have been interrupted in their labours repairing road surfaces in order to pose for a group photograph. It makes me think that perhaps it was a picture taken by a press snapper, probably from the Bucks Examiner. Maybe accompanying a story about the gang finding treasure in a ditch at Ballinger Bottom, items of silver church plate wrapped in a hessian sack. But I digress, except to say that I checked on the Bucks Examiner and it now appears to be called 'getbucks' and has stories like 'Flasher exposes himself to woman walking in Marlow'.
   Then I think that the diminutive chap second from the right must be an ancestor of Robbie Williams, but more disturbing is the third curiosity that I only noticed quite recently. Whilst the men are posing proudly in front of their steaming roller, a hooded M.R.Jamesian figure appears to have climbed up behind them in order to surreptitiously take the controls of what I see is an Aveling & Porter Invicta with its beautifully embossed prancing horse motif.

9 comments:

uphilldowndale said...

hizogs, now there is a word I've not heard for a long , long time.

Zephyrinus said...

"Firstly, it must have been unusual for a road gang to have been interrupted . . . in order to pose for a group photograph."

Is it possible that they were all out on strike !!!

Happy New Year to you and yours, Peter.

Alan Godber said...

Wonderful photograph and a wonderful word; phizog. You go years without hearing it used then, just before Christmas, I came across it whilst re-reading an O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin novel when a character remarks on someone's "phiz" and now this. Used to hear it quite a bit when I was a child but not these days.

Diplomate said...

marvellous
roll on road gangs

Peter Ashley said...

Yes Diplo. The heady scents of oil, steam, hot tar and Woodbines.

Zephyrinus said...

One wonders whether "Phizogs" is the Anglicisation of the French "Visages".

Please excuse me if this is "blee****ly obvious". It has just occurred to me.

Zephyrinus said...

I omitted to say, of course, that "Visages" is the French for "Faces".

Philip Wilkinson said...

A good and evocative picture. The OED, by the way, says fizzog, phizog, etc, are from 'physiognomy', which makes sense. It's a word I associate with my grandfather, who was of the generation that lied about their age to get into the army and fight in the First World War. In other words I think of it as a word not much used now – but due for a revival.

tony said...

Mr Williams Seems To Pop- Up Everywhere!