Blue Plaque Tribute for Amy Cecilia Flagg
A new commemorative blue plaque will be unveiled in South Tyneside, on International Women's Day, in tribute of local historian and wartime photographer Amy Cecilia Flagg.
Miss Amy Flagg (1893 - 1965) was a well-known figure in South Shields, using her Brownie Box camera to record daily life and the changes in the town during the 1930s. Her work is most notable for the haunting images she took on the outbreak of the Second World War, particularly the aftermath of enemy air raids.
The plaque will be unveiled by the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Pat Hay, at Amy's former family home, Chapel House in Westoe Village, on Tuesday (8 March). She will be joined by the Mayoress Jean Copp, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside, Councillor Joan Atkinson and those who nominated her for a blue plaque.
The Mayor said: "Amy Flagg was a remarkable photographer and historian who pictured and researched the town she loved during times of huge social change.
"But it was the pictures showing the trauma around her and the effect of the air raids on South Shields which marked a defining moment in her life and gained her much respect and recognition. Through her images she captured the human spirit of those tasked with clearing up the damage.
"Amy was also an incredibly generous and selfless person, who donated much of her time volunteering in her local community. It's only right that Amy and her story of courage and determination is honoured with a blue plaque."
Amy Flagg was a shy, quiet and gentle person. Fascinated by the town's changing landscape, she joined the South Shields Photographic Society in 1930 and started photographing the house clearances along the riverside as a social record of its development.
Sadly, Amy lost her father in 1936 and her mother died during the war. With her life and her beloved town crumbling around her, her work photographing and documenting the bomb damage to buildings during WWII gave her renewed strength and purpose. The photos, which she processed herself in her dark room in Chapel House, have come to be an important and unique record of the impact of the war on the town.
In addition to her love of photography, Amy had a passion for researching the town's history. Amy took copious notes about its shipbuilding heritage which were later published in 1979 many years after her death.
Amy also volunteered at Ingham Infirmary and South Shields Public Library and enjoyed her garden at Chapel House. In 1962, she gave the grounds of Chapel House to the South Shields Corporation to enable the expansion of the Marine and Technical College.
On her death in 1965, she left a substantial sum of money to the infirmary and bequeathed her extensive collection of photographs and notes to South Shields Public Library. The collection is still available today at the Family and Local History section of The Word and continues to be an important resource for present-day historians.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture and Leisure, said: "We have a rich and proud heritage in South Tyneside. Through the blue plaque scheme, we can honour the life and work of those wonderful individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Borough's cultural, industrial and civic legacy.
"We are delighted to be able to celebrate Amy Flagg's life and work with a blue plaque at her former family home. It is particularly fitting that this takes place on International Women's Day, an important day to recognise and celebrate the incredible achievements of women.
"As one of very few female photographers working in the UK and being a single woman, Amy Flagg was ahead of her time during a period when a women's role was defined as being a wife and a mother. She will forever be remembered as one of the town's most important photographers and local historians and for the incredible legacy she left behind."
The blue plaque is one of three being unveiled this year. They are part of a scheme in South Tyneside in which members of the public are invited to nominate individuals and structures for recognition for their importance to the history and heritage of the area.
Eileen O'Shaughnessy, educator and first wife of George Orwell, and Gary Gillespie Davison, entertainer, choreographer and showman, are also set to be commemorated over the coming months.
For further information about the blue plaques in South Tyneside visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/blueplaques