Tinker’s Mufti

Source: Basil Peacock, Tinker’s Mufti: Memoirs of a Part-Time Soldier (London: Seeley, 1974)

Text: The first entertainment I recall, for which one had to pay, was a panorama display in the town hall. It was mainly educational and consisted of a series of enormous canvases depicting scenes from Switzerland and Italy passing across a stage from one roller to another. The scenes were brilliantly coloured and lit, and a man gave a running commentary as they passed across. Towards the end of the performance, he announced that for the first time in Newcastle actual moving pictures would be shown on a screen. I remember that the actors in them looked foreign and appeared to be moving in heavy rainstorms. A few years later, moving pictures were shown in our church hall for the benefit of children in the Band of Hope. I remember seeing the first epic film, The Great Train Robbery, and being terrified when the steam engine seemed to be coming off the screen and into the audience.

Comments: Basil Peacock (1898-1991) was a dentist, a soldier, and a radio broadcaster, whose childhood was spent in Newcastle. There is more than a suggestion of mixed memories here. It is unlikely (if not impossible) that a panorama exhibition was combined with motion pictures, which were first shown on a screen in Newcastle two years before Peacock was born. The 1903 dramatic film The Great Train Robbery does not feature a scene in which the train comes at the audience (an effect more commonly ascribed to the 1896 Lumière film L’Arrivée d’un train).

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