Matthew Butson went above and beyond to help Terry Fincher recover his favourite shot that had been missing for 40 years.
Having known Terry Fincher for a number of years we often talk about the stories behind some of his seminal images. I once asked him what his favourite shot of all was and, after mentioning several shots that I knew well he then described one I had never come across before. He then went onto relate that the 35mm film and sheet contacts had been lost a number of years ago and he had never even seen a print from the time it was originally published in the Daily Express in March 1963. Our conversation took place a few years ago so this picture had been missing for more or less 40 years.
Terry was tipped off that Churchill, or ‘the old man’ as Fleet Street termed him - on one of his rare ventures out of his Hyde Park Gate home due to failing health, had left in a car and was heading towards the Cromwell Road. Terry, riding pillion on a motorbike gamely followed Churchill (even venturing down a one way street the wrong way in pursuit of the car), finally ending up in Richmond Park.
Fincher had no idea why Churchill should make such a journey but would soon find out.
The huge Humber Super Snipe came to a halt and out of the car clambered Churchill’s private secretary Montague Brown and Edmund Murray, Churchill’s personal detective. Churchill himself then leaned out of the car and tucked under his arm was a loaf of Mothers Pride with which he proceeded to feed the deer who had gathered around – this proved to be the sole reason for the great man’s trip to the park.
The spectacle of such a conspicuous car – replete with the royal ensign flag on the bonnet - being driven in a restricted area of the park soon alerted the Park Keeper who rode up on his horse and started to berate Fincher - photography was not permitted let alone cars or motorbikes in this particular area. Terry simply turned to the keeper and told him he’d better take the matter up with Sir Winston Churchill at which point the keeper almost fainted with incredulity. Terry obtained his pictures of this touching scene and the story ran half page next day in the Daily Express.
This was one of the last ever shots of Churchill taken in public who died in January 1965. However, this was the last time Fincher would see the fruits of the particular story for nearly forty years.
I knew we had a cabinet full of miscellaneous contacted Express negatives languishing in our negative warehouse which had never really been looked through or catalogued properly – not unusual in a library of some 40 million images. These were sheet contacts (with attached negatives) that had never been bound into folders like the rest of our Express collection and was hopelessly out of date and story number order - so was rarely investigated…this would be akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. However, it was clear this shot meant a lot to Terry and, being one of my photographic heroes, I made it a quest to find the missing image.
In the end the process was fairly straight forward – but extremely laborious. Going through each and every unfiled contact sheet one by one, I eventually found the 35mm sheet together with the negatives attached to it. I still didn’t know for sure it was the image Terry had described as I had no guide to work to and Terry was unsure of the date but I had a good feeling it was the right one – how many stories would feature Winston Churchill feeding deer with a loaf of bread in Richmond Park?!! I then ordered a duplicate set of contacts via our Darkroom and sent these off to Terry. Needless to say he was both amazed and thrilled that the missing story had surfaced after all this time and confirmed these were the right shots.
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