George Henry’s pictures captured an era in Ballymena’s social history

Rachel's work on grandad's archive pays dividends

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SINCE the advent of the mobile phone camera, we've been snapping more life experiences than ever before.
Now, these might range from a cheesy picture of your current meal to really significant occasions such as weddings or birthdays.
Suffice to say that society has never been caught by the camera at such a level before.
That will be great news for future generations who will be able to see their ancestors in non-posed, natural environments as they look back from some year far in the distance!
So, in today's Ballymena Guardian, we raise a glass to a Ballymena man who did things the 'old school' way back in the days of proper cameras, film, negatives and dark room development.
And we also commend that man's grand-daughter for some sterling work in sorting through his photo archives and for allowing us to use some of those black and white masterpieces which really bring the Ballymena of the 1950s back to life.

George Henry was born on 24th May 1930 in Ballymena into a big happy family of nine children - seven boys and two girls.
His parents were David and Elizabeth Henry. David was chairman of Ballymena council & branch secretary of the Trades Labour & General Workers Union, actively working to improve the lives of working class families. Sadly he died in his 40s, when George was only 14.
George was educated at Guys School and Ballymena Technical college, leaving school at the age of 15 to train as a sign writer.
From then, George had a series of jobs, always managing to stay employed, and eventually working in industry to use and develop his many technical and practical skills.
In the 60s he was an inspector for the Martin Baker Aircraft factory, making ejector seats for jets. That was one of the jobs he was most proud of - and still followed on Facebook.
In 1952, George met the love of his life Rosaline at a dance in Ballymena Town hall, although they had always known of each other from West Church.
They married in December 1954, and had their first daughter Linda in October 1955, followed by Julie in July 1958.
In 1971, George trained as a teacher and taught Craft, Design & Technology until his retirement in 1993 where he had been head of the CDT department in Antrim High School.
George had many, varied interests. He played euphonium in Ballymena Silver Band with his brothers Maurice & Albert, where they enjoyed much camaraderie at their practices and success in brass band contests in the 1970s and 80s.
His claim to fame was appearing on the general knowledge TV quiz show Fifteen To One where he was runner up. He was often heard tutting in disapproval at the TV when a contestant in a quiz show got the wrong answer!
His other hobbies included photography - a skill he has passed on to his granddaughter Rachel.
George passed away in September 2019, a few months before this he gave his photo collection to Rachel; the only one in the family that would know what to do with it and treasure it as much as he did.
The earliest of his photos Rachel can find are from 1954 when he married Rosaline - their photographer didn’t turn up to the wedding!
But there are photos of their wedding day, Linda and Julie as babies and various photos around Ballymena, mainly in Kinhilt Street.
The majority of photos taken by George in the 1950s were taken on black and white medium format film.
His greatest passion though was probably for Classic British Motorbikes and automobiles- especially Nortons & M.Gs - which he spent many happy hours restoring and driving.
He thought nothing of travelling the length and breadth of the UK (sometimes with Rosaline in tow) to pick up some unrecognisable bodywork or part, which he would then transform into a thing of beauty. His patience, eye for detail and craftsmanship knew no bounds.
Travel was always important to George and Rosaline, and they had many adventures across the world from Russia to China & Hong Kong, Australia, the USA and their numerous cruises. These were all documented by George through video and photos.
Rachel was born in Belfast in 1987, daughter to Linda (Henry) and Martin Cooke. Martin was an artist which along with George’s passion for photography influenced Rachel to go to become creative. George would video and photograph every holiday, Christmas and birthday.
Rachel went to the University of Ulster to study a Foundation Degree in Art & Design, then completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Photography. During this time Rachel learnt how to hand process film and prints.
When leaving university Rachel did a lot of different types of photography in Belfast- nightclubs, events, food etc. Ten years after graduating she is now a full time wedding photographer.
Rachel says: “George was a wonderful man, quiet but extremely witty, curious and interested in many things, determined, warm and fun loving, but probably he will be best remembered for his dedication to his family.”
Rachel now spilts her time between Clough with her partner James and his three sons Alexander, Noah and Archie and Belfast for work.
Over the past year Rachel has started going through George’s large collection of slides, negatives, photos and video tapes- converting and archiving them, sending them to friends and family.
The large collection of 1950s negatives hadn’t been seen by many people as only a few small prints had been made.
Rachel decided to invest in a professional film scanner to scan the negatives, retouch and remove any dust or scratches and export in high resolution digital images to be shared on social media and make large prints. Rachel also converted all of George's VHS tapes to digital, archiving the video of family holidays, Christmas's and birthdays.
During lockdown the majority of weddings were postponed so it was the perfect time for Rachel to start a side business in scanning negatives and converting VHS tapes which has proved to be very popular. This is now a business she will continue after lockdown.
As Rachel started to upload photos on her social media she got really great feedback and it has enabled her to make connections with people that knew her grandfather and the Henry Family.

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