Lecturer confirms identity of man dubbed ‘Darkie’

Flooding in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, in 1910   Picture: Paul Costen
Flooding in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, in 1910 Picture: Paul Costen
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017
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THIS WEEK IN 1980: The expansion of Waterlooville

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It was 1910 and the combination of an onshore wind, spring tides and rain overwhelmed Broad Street, Old Portsmouth. It was not unusual.

I ran this evocative 112-year-old picture a few weeks ago and asked if anyone could identify any of those in the photo.

It was a long shot, but I think we have some answers.

One reader reckoned the man helping guide the boat’s stern was John Evans, nicknamed ‘Darkie’. Dr Bryce Evans, a lecturer in modern history at Liverpool Hope University, got in touch to back up that claim.

He says: ‘My grandfather, John Evans, of Fratton, can confirm that the man in the picture is indeed John ‘Darkie’ Evans, his father, and my great-grandfather.

‘John was dubbed Darkie because of his gipsy blood and as a young man he was attached to Sanger’s Circus.’

Meanwhile, Ray Butcher, from Burridge, near Botley, contacted me to say that his father Bert and his siblings were the children in the boat. Apparently they were on their way to school from their home in nearby Bathing Lane. One of Ray’s uncles in that boat, Alf Butcher, went on to become a Trinity House pilot.