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Derby Day, Epsom, 1939; tipster Prince Monolulu by Frank Rust for the Daily Mail


Alan Sparrow on a legendary image and the treasure house that is the Northcliffe Collection


Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro, are also custodians of one of the larger collections of press photography in the United Kingdom, the Northcliffe Collection.

The photographs of over 100 named photographers and the work of many more who remain unnamed are held in the huge collection of around 750,000 photos, most of which have been digitally scanned in the past ten years. The collection ranges from 1910 to 1970, with the bulk of the images taken since the late 30s.

The work of the photographers currently working for Associated Newspapers is held separately so that archivists working for the Northcliffe Collection can concentrate on this important resource.

Morag McFarland, who has been with Associated Newspapers since 1990, is the curator of this vast collection and responsible for the scanning and marketing of the photographs. The archive includes the photographic libraries of the Daily Sketch, Evening News, Sunday Dispatch and the News Chronicle, newspapers that are no more.

''Associated Newspaper photographers were largely anonymous - credits in the paper were small or non-existent” says McFarland. “Some of the most interesting pictures we have in the collection are marked ‘Staff’ and nothing more. For that reason we have very limited biographical material on our snappers – the pictures have to sing for themselves.

“Subjects are wide and varied - lots of sport of course, news pictures - such as the fire at Smithfields photographed by Frank Rust, war - especially the home front - music and showbiz (the Mail and the Sketch both had photographers stationed at Heathrow airport throughout the 60s and 70s to snap any celebrities who passed through) and royalty.  There are also lots of feature style photos- some of which were probably not taken for a particular story but because the photographer was there and something caught their eye.

'' Our most famous picture is, of course, St Paul’s in the Blitz, one of those fluke images proving that good press photos are part skill, part luck. Herbert Mason was in the right place (the roof of the Daily Mail building) at the right time - the point when the smoke and clouds cleared enough to see St Paul’s highlighted against the fire raging round it.

''Another photographer, Frank Rust, is a favourite. He took some great photos for the Mail - he seemed to have a particular talent for documentary style photography, and capturing a moment''.

Rust was born in Whitechapel, East London, in 1918 and at 14 he joined the Daily Mail where he worked until his retirement in 1968.
He was an innovator, helping to develop the “Wonder Rapid Sequence Camera” which took 20 photos a second, and inventing a quick developing process which was used in the Daily Mail  “photo car” – a converted van which housed a darkroom. Frank Rust died in 1991

Asked to choose a favourite among the thousands of images in the collection is a hard choice for McFarland, but when pushed she settled on this picture from Derby Day at Epsom, 22 May, 1939, of racing tipster Prince Monolulu, known for his catchphrase of ''I've gotta horse''. He was born in the West Indies and not, as he claimed, in Abyssinia as chief of the Falasha tribe, but his flamboyant style soon made him a favourite among race-goers and  the media. He tipped an unlikely winner in the 1920 Derby, Spion Kop, that came in at 100-6 and netted Prince Monolulu a sizeable sum of money. His future was made and punters paid for his tips. The manner of his life and death was a mixture of half truths: it is claimed that he died when his good friend the journalist Jeffrey Bernard visited him in hospital and offered him a strawberry cream from a box of chocolates on which he choked to death. Prince Monolulu died on St Valentine’s day 1965, aged 84.

This picture and others from the Northcliffe Collection can be bought here


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