Hoots from the Archive - The Photographs of Ernest Hollowell

Posted by Rachel Kneale on 13 Jun 2024

Modified by Rachel Kneale on 13 Jun 2024

Rest Room Biology

The MGS Archives holds a good selection of photographs taken from the 1900s onwards, many of which are formal form photographs taken by professional photographic companies. However, we owe a debt of gratitude to the many pupils and staff across the years who have taken their own informal shots on camps, treks and trips and of everyday school life. One teacher who was particularly prolific, Ernest Hollowell, taught at North Manchester School (one of the MGS prep schools) between 1915, and then on the closure of the prep schools in 1940, moved to MGS and was Head of Art until 1956.

Many of the more informal images that appear in Ulula during this time were taken by Hollowell. For example, this photograph of the School in snow featured in the Spring 1954 edition of the magazine:

This evocative photograph of boys taking the entrance exam in the Art Halls was snapped by Hollowell for Ulula

This image of boys in the "rest room" in the Rectory is typical of a Hollowell image:

A particular focus for Hollowell was to capture the many DramSoc productions that were staged during the period he was at the School. Many of the photographs in the Drama archive were taken by Hollowell, including this image of a production of Aristophanes "The Frogs":

This photograph of a young Alan Garner playing Hamlet's father shows the high quality of Hollowell's images:

This image of the Pedagogues in action was taken in 1955:

Hollowell also seems to have taken a large number of the sports team photographs that have made their way into the archive, but was also adept enough to take engaging action shots of pupils:

                                                                                                      The Harriers First Team, 1955

                                                                                   Old Boys and Staff vs Rugby 1st XV match, 1959

On the retirement of Douglas Miller in 1945, Ulula published a Hollowell photograph of the outgoing High Master which has been used frequently since:

In 1955, Ulula began to publish appreciations for all members of staff retiring or moving on, and Hollowell took numerous excellent portraits to accompany the articles:

                                                                                                       Tommy Stott, Geography

                                                                                                         William Mason, English

                                                                                                     Robert Crawshaw, Swimming

                                                                                                        Tom Sutton, Head Porter

                                                                                                             Bob Bunn, History

Unsurprisingly, the man behind the camera does not appear in many images, but this photograph of Hollowell teaching an art class was taken in 1944:

He was also captured in 1950 when photographer Bert Hardy visited the School to take images for an article in Picture Post magazine:

Hollowell seems to have been well-liked by his pupils, and was known affectionately as "Ernie Boller" or “Bolly”. On his death, John Bell, who succeeded him in the Art Department wrote:

Devoted husband and father, fiercely loyal to his boys and to the School; that was Ernest Hollowell, the gentle schoolmaster, who rejoiced and gloried in God's created world.

He was close friends with renowned artist and fellow Art Master Charles Tunnicliffe and during the war years they shared night fire-watching duties at School. Hollowell featured on the caricature of masters that Tunnicliffe produced, and is shown at the top of the image carrying the tray of drinks:

Hollowell is said to have introduced Tunnicliffe to Anglesey, where the artist would later relocate, and the pair spent much time on the island together, with the artist drawing and the photographer snapping images of church architecture. Hollowell's interest in architecture led him to lead a number of school trips, and of course, his camera came too. This image was taken on a trip to Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, in July 1952:

A trip to Shropshire in 1951:


When Hollowell died in 1978, Ulula published an obituary referencing his photography:

There was Hollowell the brilliantly sensitive photographer— in the mind's eye one sees him over the years, camera slung over his shoulder, marching along with that quick purposeful stride, with a party of boys on a ramble in Cheshire, or by himself round the School at Rusholme, with that eager, searching glance for a new picture that made us aware of the beauty around us. I have no idea how many photographs he gave me. Several hundred have passed into the Dramatic Society archives. John Caff as Hamlet, Alan Garner as " thy father's ghost " and Harold Rottesman as Bluntschli—they are all there. Many more photos are in the Common Room albums. His informal studies of his colleagues will be hard to equal. My favourite one shows the Staff, gowned and hairbrushed, preparing to have their picture taken. The rest of his photos must be in every drawer in his friends' houses.

Whilst we have a good number of photographs that Hollowell took, some featured in this article are simply reproductions from Ulula. Are there more originals out there? If any Old Mancunians have some Hollowell photographs lurking in attics or drawers, we would be delighted to see them.

Rachel Kneale


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