Ethel Major – A Lincolnshire village murderer?

Not long after we moved into Kirkby on Bain in 2001, somebody said to me something along the lines of “Of course you must know about our famous murderer, Ethel Major”. Of course I had never heard of her, so I did some very superficial research and found that this Kirkby on Bain lady was convicted of killing her husband (a nasty piece of work, allegedly,) in 1934 and hanged in Hull gaol.

A little later Betty Dixon, who was born that year and until recently was one of Kirkby’s oldest residents, kindly lent me a bundle of newspaper cuttings and a book about this case. Like a lot of accounts of past murders, quite a bit of this material was written in sensationalist styles, with little by way of references or source attributions. I also noticed that some accounts were word-for-word copies, apparently lifted from one original newspaper write-up.

During subsequent searches, I stumbled across a real surprise – macabre testimony to the everlasting obsession with murder, a knitted representation of Ethel’s house, made by Jean Arkell, originally installed at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester. Believe it or not there really is a website featuring knitted representations of houses lived in by female murderers. Midsomer Murders scriptwriters, please take note.
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Colin Reiners, documentary photographer

A few months ago, the residents of Pontremoli, a small town in Liguria, were intrigued by an exhibition of large format photographs by Woodhall Spa resident Colin Reiners. This event was one of many spin-offs from a collection of observational photographs Colin has been working on for several years, portraying life our village.

I first heard about Colin’s Italian adventure plans last summer when I bumped into him in the village. It turned out he was trying to work out how to make a box suitable for shipping large photographic prints to Italy.

Ladridignomicolinreiners_560w-200x300I had seen some of Colin’s Woodhall Spa photographs when they were displayed at the University of Lincoln a few years ago, and I thought then that he had captured brilliantly the essence of the place, in all its quirkiness. Where else can you come across a jet fighter in a farmer’s field, afternoon tea on the Petwood Hotel terrace, a wooden cinema which has been projecting movies since the twenties and probably the smallest shoe shop in England – all within walking distance? Continue reading