Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Montague Glover

Montague "Monty" Charles Glover (1898-1983) was an English freelance architect who is best remembered as a private photographer whose images chronicled London’s homosexual underground during the first half of the twentieth century. It is notable that Glover's photographs and personal relationships crossed strict social class barriers of the time, since he was primarily sexually attracted to working class men. His work documented rough trade, the male prostitutes of the period, and members of the military. Glover himself served with distinction as an officer in the British Army during WWI, being awarded the Military Cross for bravery. In the photo above, Glover is on the right, offering shoulder support to another WWI soldier.

Glover's work as an architect mostly involved projects for the British government. Monty had numerous affairs with working class men, to whom he was particularly attracted. These liaisons were with builders, road-workers, dockers, laborers, young military men and even rent-boys in Trafalgar Square

However, Monty is also remembered for his daring photographic record of his partnership with Ralph Hall (1913-1987, portrait at right), providing one of the rare documented examples of a long-term homosexual relationship prior to the legalization of homosexuality in Britain in the 1960s. The two met in 1930, and Monty subsequently employed Hall as his manservant, in order to provide a socially acceptable alibi for two men living together. Their relationship lasted for more than 50 years, surviving WWII (Hall was drafted into the Royal Air Force in 1940).

Hall was himself a cheerful working-class lad from London’s East End, fifteen years younger than Glover. Every year of their life together was documented in loving snapshots. Ralph was poorly educated, but absolutely devoted to Monty. The strikingly good looking Hall posed for Glover in outdoor settings, yielding photographs that were so suggestive that they could not be shared with the general public. While Ralph was serving for four years in the Royal Air Force, he sent Monty hundreds of love letters – the same sort of letters that countless boys sent to their sweethearts back home to bolster their spirits during the war. Ralph preserved them, and they were published after his death.

Much of their later years were spent at Glover's country house in a village near Coventry, where his sister lived with them until her death in the 1950s. Glover himself died in 1983 at the age of 86, leaving Ralph Hall as his sole heir. Hall died four years later after suffering a gradual decline in health. Friends of the couple described Monty as "charming, if somewhat reserved", and Ralph as an "outgoing cheerful cockney".

Montague's possessions were put up for auction in 1988 by Hall's heirs. One lot was a box that contained a collection of negatives from Glover’s photographs taken since serving in the trenches during WWI, as well as journals and correspondence from his many lovers spanning a period of several decades. Among them were letters from Hall written during his air force  service in WWII. Much of the collection was published in a book with text by James Gardiner – A Class Apart: The Private Pictures of Montague Glover (1992), and it gives great insight into the underworld of gay British society in the early twentieth century. Many of the photographs are sexually charged, but stop short of being pornographic. Any Internet search for Glover's photographs will yield dozens of examples.

A portrait of Glover's lover Ralph Hall is shown on the book's cover.

Special thanks to blog reader Michael for bringing this photographer to my attention.

Monty Glover's partner Ralph Hall (below):

Two boys in Victoria Park in London's East End (1930s):

Necktie and salaciously tight shorts:

London delivery boy (1920s):

Rough trade in the then notorious cruising ground of Trafalgar Square, London:

Another portrait of Monty's partner, Ralph Hall:

1 comment:

  1. FIFTY YEARS of Ralph Hall? I could live with it. Absolutely adore lewdness and exhibition when it is so naturally nonchalant. Well, this I am jealous of, and I'm usually not. Must get hold of that book--getting love letters from this gorgeous boy, and when with him, hearing his sweet Cockney talk of one kind of another from wherever. Montague would have been totally blessed if even this were all he was distinguished for. I think I see the pictures as natural pornography, though, surely more than just suggestive...