Alfred Lodge was a well-known character on the streets of Leeds in the early 20th century. He sang and played his concertina to entertain people around the Commercial Street corner of Lands Lane and in Briggate for over 40 years.
At the age of 9 he decided to start making his own way in life, having seen how his parents struggled to feed all their children and was determined not to be a burden on his family. He took a whistle and Bible and began reading and playing outside Arthur’s factory.
Once he could afford it he bought a concertina (although his obituary in 1928 mentions that on occasions “when the fates were unkind, the concertina was missing, but it was not long before Alf had acquired sufficient money to regain it again from the custody of the pawnbroker”).
He was also able to play the piano, harmonium and fiddle. Above all he was noted for his “voice of peculiarly deep timbre, which he turned to advantage in his misfortune”.
Alf lost his sight three weeks after he was born. When interviewed by the Yorkshire Evening Post on 24 November 1921 he said “I have not wanted sight, though there were things I should have liked to have seen”.
His ambition was to appear as a music-hall singer and he did make several appearances at the Leeds City Varieties, particularly in the revue “Hello! Leeds” during the First World War.
In 1922 he wrote and published a patriotic hymn called “The Call to Duty”.
In the 1921 interview he noted the changes he had witnessed in Leeds despite his lack of sight. He noted that the noise of the streets and traffic had increased. Horses were now almost non-existent and Commercial Street had become much busier. He had made notes of these changes in a book he had written using his braille frame.
Another change he noted is that people had become more generous (possibly as he became a familiar figure to his regular customers) and he appreciated their loyalty especially during difficult times such as the coal strike of 1913.
He appears to have been conservative in his musical tastes, learning most of his songs from opera and disliking modern fads such as ragtime!
He died of a stroke aged 61 in 1928, and was buried in Burmantofts Cemetery.
By Kitty Ross, Curator of Social History