Edna Bold (B.1904): Habits, Culture & Belief

Edna Bold stands out from other members of the working class because she admits to being agnostic. Bold’s beliefs are transparent in her leisure activities. Bold pursued a life of freedom and liberation which she expresses through her interests in music, art and dance.


Until the age of fourteen Bold was made to attend Sunday School, she left at the age of fourteen as an agnostic “never to return again”(16). Bold did not want to live in the puritanical way that her parents did stating;

“I believed with Robert Stephenson that “A man’s true life for which he consents to live, lie altogether in the field of fancy. There is no exemption from the quest for truth nor from the drudgery imposed by acceptance of the accidental conditions to which it has pleased God to call us”.”(36). (See, Edna Bold (B.1904): Reading and Writing).

Charlie Chaplin.
Charlie Chaplin.

Bold recalls paying “a penny a week”(49) to watch “Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Mary Pickford, Pearl White, Chester Conklin, Tom Mix”(49). Bold says “Every working class child worshipped them”(49).





Bold’s interest in the music of “Beethoven, Mozart and Mendelssohn”(22) developed when her friend Jesse Mills, told Bold her uncle was “practising them”(22). This prompted Bold’s decision to join the “school music society”(23) where she “became familiar with the music of Brahms, Bach, Handal […] ect., ect.”(23).

Bold says “At home we made our own music”(42) and she and her family sang “English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Folk tunes”(42). Singing folk music is an image which often occurs in working-class autobiographies. According to A. L. Lloyd, folk music allowed “common people to express their fantasies, their codes, their aspirations, and folk realism was not just a matter of accurate description and convincing narrative. Songs were about hopes as well as facts.”[1].

In her chapter ‘Street Music’ Bold says “In the beginning, music was ‘for free’.”(23). Bold provides a description of the streets which were filled with ‘Buskers’;

“In the side streets the barrel organs literally bombarded the air with ‘Yip I Addy I Ay’, ‘Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-de Ay’, ‘Yankee Doodle, ‘Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside’, ‘All the Nice Girls love a Sailor’. All the little girls danced and I danced with them. “She should have lessons”, said my father and shocked my puritanical mother.”(24).


'Dancing in the Streets'
‘Dancing in the Streets’

It was dancing in the street which developed Bold’s interest in dance. She confesses “I began to sense this sounder, more enduring, more rewarding state of affairs when my serious involvement in Dance began”(54).  Bold’s father aspired to send her to dance classes but her “puritanical mother would have none of it”(55). It was in secondary school that Bold took part in “Natural Movement”(55) classes. She recalls “The sense of release and freedom I felt through this kind of movement brought such a revulsion to the hard, dry discipline of school”(57). Bold describes her interest in dance as her “Affair de Coeur”(57) and says “As soon as I was free and ‘my own man’, I headed for the Madge Atkinson Studio in Deansgate, joined an evening class, and began working for the Imperial Society of Teacher’s Certificate of Dancing”(57). Bold did not pursue dancing as a career because she knew she would be “second rate”(57). Bold transferred her “feeling for line and movement into another medium”(58) and “specialised in drawing and painting”(58). Whilst working as a teacher in Ardwick, “Roland Sudren from the senior school”(34) enrolled Bold in “Charle’s Peachment’s life class”(34) where she began drawing.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Bold’s agnostic attitude continued in her later life. She discovered Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and decided to “join the movement”(81). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi “offers every man ‘sound physical and mental health, greater ability in action, a greater capacity to think clearly”[2] through the practical technique of Transcendental Meditation. Bold says “I meditated, but never seemed to achieve transcendence”(81) but she “understood the principle of the technique”(81) and “knew that life for me could never be the same again.”(81).

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967.
The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi achieved his fame in the 1960’s because he was the guru to The Beatles. After The Beatles came to “the college”(84) to see one of Maharashi’s lectures Bold became “fascinated”(88) with “the ‘Whole Scene Going’”(88). Bold recalls “I skimmed the ‘fat’ from the Pop Magazines”(88) and “It seemed a new idiom of creative living in an ever expanding industry”(88). Bold says “A way of preserving the age of innocence into adolescence and beyond had been found”(90). Despite educating herself on ‘The Whole Scene Going’ Bold says “despite the charm ofLLucy in the Sky”(92) they were not “for me”(92). This provides a comparison to the music of Beethoven and Brahms which Bold listened to. In this sense her memoir can be used as evidence of the change in culture which emerged in the 1960’s.


'Man Lying on a Wall', by L.S Lowry. Taken from his collection 'The Loneliness of L.S Lowry', 1968.
‘Man Lying on a Wall’, by L.S Lowry. Taken from his collection ‘The Loneliness of L.S Lowry’, 1968.

Bold shared her interest in art with her husband John. Bold recalls meeting L.S Lowry because he and her husband “were at art school together”(95). Lowry was not to become famous until after his death in 1976. Bold, John and Lowry took a trip to the Sandon Club, which was an art gallery in Liverpool. She also recalls ‘The Loneliness of L.S Lowry’ which was the title of Lowry’s 1968 exhibition at the Crane Gallery. Bold’s habits clearly developed from her childhood and helped to shape her identity. Bold and John celebrated their mutual interests by visiting exhibitions at “The Academy of Fine Arts”(99) and the “Society of Modern Painters”(100).

Aran Islands

Bold recalls in her childhood “I adored the countryside, feeling myself far more comfortable than in the town”(41). This feeling continued in her adult life. Bold and John shared “an absorbing interest”(109) in the Aran Islands. Bold says “The pure air, the bright sun transformed Aran into an unusual and extraordinary place”(111). Over a period of years Bold and John “lived for short intervals on each island”(110).

'An Aran Village', by John Bold. A twelve peice collection of John's work can be found by clicking this image.
‘An Aran Village’, by John Bold. A twelve peice collection of John’s work can be found by clicking this image.

Bold was a creative minded woman who discovered herself through music, art and dance. Bold describes the moment she started secondary school as her “transition from working-class to lower middle-class”(32). This can also be traced as the time she learnt more about music, art and dance. Bold’s habits, culture and beliefs certainly helped her in her wish for self-improvement and I believe they are the reason she was able to break the class boundaries.

[1] Frith, Simon. London: Routledge, 2004. Popular Music: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume 2. Pg. 163.

[2] See, Forem, Jack. Transcendental Meditation: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Science of Creative Intelligence. Australia: Allen and Unwin, 1984. Pg. ii.

Bold, Edna. THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT BEING THE RECOLLECTIONS AND REMINISCECES OF EDNA BOLD. July 27th 1978. Found at The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, at Brunel University.

N.B. All images link to their original source.

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