Monday, 22 May 2017

In Search of "A. Totin", A Late 19th Century Portrait and Landscape Artist


"Die Ersten Rosen" & "In Die Blühtezeit"
by A. Totin
[From my own collection]  

Since 1992 I have owned two very large approx 66 x 55cm gold framed late 19th century oil portraits of a rather attractive young woman and it is these paintings shown above which form the subject of this blog. My apologies though for the slight parallax in the images. But frustratingly I know nothing of the specific provenance of the paintings before I purchased them, only a name for the artist, with the paintings having a German title without identifying the name of the sitter. They were sold to me by a picture framing business in Arrowtown New Zealand, being sold on behalf of an elderly lady in Invercargill but no other information on their history was known or made available to me. But being elderly I would imagine the lady and / or her family had at least owned them both for some years.

So firstly, what do we know of the artist? We know at least that the artist has clearly signed his paintings "A. Totin" in the bottom right hand corners as well as on small plaques affixed to the frames - but that is all. Totin's name is not quoted in any art books. The titles given to the paintings are in an old style of German which is at least a clue. This would indicate that Totin could have been German, French-German (ie Alsace-Lorraine), Swiss-German, or even Austrian. Narrowing this down any further would appear to be impossible without further specific clues. The name Totin does however appear to have origins in northern France. And where did Totin study art?


"A Lady With White Rose",
by A. Totin
[Source : International Art Centre, NZ]

Secondly, are any other works by "A. Totin" known? Well, on the positive side yes. A 67.5 x 54.0 portrait titled (probably informally) "Lady With White Rose", was sold by the 'International Art Centre', in Auckland New Zealand on the 5th May 2011 for USD$633.00. This is also of a similar size to my own two portraits. And is it a mere co-incidence that my two portraits and "Lady With White Rose" were both found in New Zealand?

"Personnages Sur La Grève À L'entrée Du Port"
by A. Totin, dated 19th - 20th century.
My apologies that this is a low resolution image.
[Source : Findartinfo.com]

Additionally, in December 2006 the Paris auction house of 'Lombrail-Teucquam' sold a circa  31.5 x 53cm late 19th - early 20th century Totin beachscape entitled "Personnages Sur La Grève À L'entrée Du Port", the hammer price being a commendable 1,750 Euros (previously passed in at two previous auctions). This title roughly translates to "people standing on a flat area covered with sand or gravel at the entrance to a harbour". Totin's name appears on the lower right, the same as on my paintings. But being a French auction house, they may also have added the title but no location for the beachscape is given. While we still cannot assume that Totin was French the fact that this painting was sold in France at least helps to confirm his European origins.    


"Die Ersten Rosen" - The First Roses,
by A. Totin
[From my own collection]

Now, what do we know of my portraits? In both cases the sitter is definitely the same woman but her identity is unfortunately unknown. In the second portrait she additionally wears a pearl and gold ring on her wedding finger which does not appear on the first portrait where she only wears a gold wrist band. The face would, I believe, be considered reasonably well executed and with some obvious talent while the the clothing and background are much less detailed, the latter being either done in haste or in such a way as not to detract from the main subject of the painting. The shadowy background on one of the portraits includes a Church spire.

Pasted on the back frame of both portraits I could just read obviously original titles hand written in ink in German language, being "Die Ersten Rosen" [the first roses of the season] and "In Die Blühtezeit" [literally "in the blooming time"]. I would have photographed these but for the difficulties of single-handedly lifting such large and unwieldy framed portraits off a stairwell wall. That no name was given to the actual sitter made me wonder if Totin may have painted these for an exhibition of his work in a gallery rather than being specifically commissioned to paint a portrait of a client. The fact that Totin's name is also painted in black on the small gold plaques affixed to the bottom of the frames would support this scenario. Additionally, even at the time the solid and really very heavy plaster and gilt wood 90 x 76.5cm frames would have been at some cost. While roses appear to have been a favourite accessory for his subjects they were in fact a very common accessory for portraits of this era.

"In Die Blühtezeit" - In the Blooming Time,
by A. Totin
[From my own collection]

But how did no less than three of Totin's portraits end up half way around the world in New Zealand? Digitized New Zealand newspapers make no reference to this name nor do official death and marriage records so I think we can safely discount any direct New Zealand connection to Totin unless there is a connection to the sitter.

I fully appreciate that there were many obviously talented and as well as 'run of the mill' portrait and landscape artists around in this era who produced a prodigious number of paintings but never reached the echelons of becoming a 'known' artist. But what makes these paintings special to me is that they are an attractive pair which have not been separated and I do hope that they shall remain together in the future. I have never had them professionally appraised though as I have never considered that their value would justify the expense. The sale price of "Lady with White Rose" is probably an accurate representative base figure.

So, while not valuable and in need of a professional clean to renew darkened varnish as well as requiring some restoration of the gold painted and gilt frames I have always loved and appreciated my own "Junge Dame Mit Rosen" [Young Lady with Roses] which have elegantly graced my large stairwell for the past 23 years. In fact, when I bought these portraits I didn't at the time even own a house that particularly suited such large paintings let alone a place to adequately display them. I simply fell in love with them and knew I would never have this opportunity again.

If anyone should have a Totin portrait or landscape or in fact knows anything more about the elusive "A. Totin" I would be very pleased to hear from you. My email link appears in the right hand menu bar or you can leave a comment below with your email address. I moderate all comments so this will remain private.


Copyright : 

Unless otherwise stated, all images are from my own personal collection and may be freely copied for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Images may not be used for commercial purposes without my express written permission.


Monday, 15 May 2017

"Boghead" - The Story of a House and a Family on the Taieri


"Boghead" [Duddingston] as it appeared circa late 1890's
[From my own collection]

"Boghead" - or "Duddingston" as it is now known - is an attractive and historic two-storied colonial era home built on the Taieri Plains of Otago New Zealand and has held a well deserved Heritage New Zealand Historic Places Category 1 rating since 1983.

This blog is an attempt to weave together information about the house and the Oughton family who built and first resided at "Boghead" through to 1900, some of it being from published sources and some from unpublished personal and extended family records and photographs. This story also has a connection to my own family hence my holding some Oughton related photographs.

The Heritage New Zealand [HNZ] report written by Melanie Lovell-Smith in 2003 states that David Wilson Oughton, an early Otago settler, built "Boghead" at North Taieri, in 1865.

The house, being built in an "L" shape, is of brick with with dormer windows to the front and rear, decorative barge boards with finials, corrugated iron roof, and a small verandah with the rear including a lean to. The HNZ note that "The 70,000 - 80,000 bricks used to build the house were purchased from neighbouring Salisbury estate, where Donald Reid... had them fired in his own kiln and sold them to Oughton". All but the bricks on the porch have subsequently been covered with a concrete wash as a form of protection but are visible in the above 1890's photograph.

But firstly, what do we know of David Wilson Oughton? David, one of a family of ten children, was born in Roslin, Parish of Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland, the son of John Oughton, "Vintner [Roslin Inn], Roslyn" and his wife Margaret Wilson, on the 21st October 1831. The former Roslin Inn on "College Hill" and built in 1660 is still extant, being located just a short 20 meters from the historic Rosslyn Chapel on the present day Chapel Loan.

David Wilson Oughton 1831 - 1869.
Copyrighted Photo
[Source : David & Pamela Oughton]

We next find that on the 23rd November 1851 and aged just 20 years, David Oughton arrived at Port Chalmers in Otago, New Zealand on the 597 ton "Simlah" from London via Wellington. This puts him only three years after the first organised influx of European settlers in 1848 and is acknowledged as one of the earliest European land owners on the Taieri Plains. Accompanying him were fellow emigrants "Mr and Mrs [Andrew] Todd and three children" from Largo in Fifeshire, Scotland. It would be Andrew's 20 year old daughter Jean [known as Jane] Todd that the 24 year old David Oughton would marry on the 1st November 1855. The extended Todd family also became very well known and established residents and agriculturalists on the Taieri.

David Oughton truly appears to have been the model of an ideal settler, becoming fully involved in the local community including being a member of and supporting the local East Taieri Presbyterian Church, a member of the East Taieri School and District Education Committees,  a member and later convenor of the Taieri Agricultural Societies, a member of the Otago Agricultural Society, actively supporting political candidates, representing settlers in land matters pertaining to "the Otago Scheme", representing settlers in matters of public interest and making representations on their behalf to the Otago Provincial Council, and generally supporting local social events in general. The generous nature of the settlers, including Mr Oughton, is evidenced by their often being noted as assisting new settlers with a day or two of free ploughing.

David Oughton initially lived at "Janefield" [click for link] on Factory Road, East Taieri, having built this also still extant and listed property around 1852 and naming it after his wife Jane Todd.

John & Georgina Oughton
of "Roslyn Lea", Southland,
Taken 1890's.
[From my own collection]

On the 15th November 1855 a happy reunion would have occurred when David's brother John Oughton, his wife Georgina Wallace, and their three children arrived from Scotland, eventually settling at "Roslyn Lea" near Invercargill. I have included their photo as I can see a family resemblance between John and his brother David.

But tragedy would strike David and his family in March 1860, when after only five years of marriage, Mrs Jane Oughton née Todd aged 24 years died of consumption [tuberculosis] at "Janefield", East Taieri. Jane left behind two children, James Sinclair Oughton born 14th September 1857 and Annie Todd Oughton born 10th July 1859.

Surprisingly, the Toitū Otago Settler's database note that as of the 10th September 1861 David Oughton held Miner's Right No 1388 and that he was then a miner resident on the Tuapeka Gold Fields of Otago. The finding of gold at Gabriel's Gully had been made public on the 8th June 1861 and it would appear that David was keen to try his own luck. This was along with 14,000 others who flocked to the Tuapeka and Waipori goldfields. How long he spent here is unknown.

We next find that David Oughton sold his plant and stock at "Janefield" by auction on the 24th September 1862. On the 3rd October 1862 friends entertained him to a dinner "prior to his departure for the home country". In a farewell speech, David stated that "he had passed the happiest period of his life in the East Taieri" and "that he hoped, at no very distant day, to return to the Taieri, which he would always consider as his home." An obituary for his son James Oughton published in 1902 states that the latter suffered a fall (presumably from a horse) in his youth which resulted in a permanent lameness and that "His father took him to the Old Country for expert advice, but without much result".  

By February 1863 plans were afoot by David's brother in law, Mr James Todd, who advertised for tenders for erecting a barn and stable for Mr D.W. Oughton at "Boghead Farm". North Taieri. There is no earlier specific reference to the name "Boghead". Heritage NZ state that David Oughton had purchased two pieces of land along North Taieri School Road as early as 1861. It would have no doubt been 'in the rough' and I daresay the name given to the farm was in fact a reflection on the nature of much of the land in this area until adequate drainage turned it into reasonably productive farm land. The Rev William Will, the first Presbyterian Parish Minister on the Taieri, had initially only been able to negotiate the boggy land between Mosgiel and North Taieri by stepping on tussock heads in order to avoid the muddy water logged ground.

David Oughton, taken around 1863-64.
The lady on the right is believed to be his 2nd wife
Janey Hunter Oughton (with ring on hand), &
son James Sinclair Oughton. The lady on the left
could be a sister, possibly Margaret Hunter.
Presumed taken in Scotland.
Copyrighted Photo
[Source : David & Pamela Oughton]

David Oughton appears to have spent his time in Scotland back in his home Parish of Lasswade. On the 7th March 1864 David, then aged 32 years and residing at "Moat" farm just out of Roslin Village, married Wihelmina Jane Hunter (known as "Janey") aged 30 and also of Lasswade Parish. Janey was related to my own paternal family through her mother, Jane Hunter, née Cochrane. This union led to a close family friendship with the Oughtons which would endure for many subsequent years. The Oughton, Hunter and Cochrane families were all from Roslin so thus knew each other but were now additionally connected by marriage. On the 4th July 1864 David, along with his family and 2nd wife Janey, arrived at Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand on the 1,100 ton "Vicksburg" from Glasgow.

HNZ state that "the adjacent piece of land [on North Taieri School Road] became his under a crown grant of 1865 and he settled here and built a house on his return to New Zealand". So we can be fairly sure that the present dwelling of "Boghead" [now "Duddingston"] was constructed in 1865. There is however no published record of a tender being advertised. Meanwhile, David again continued to support political candidates to the Legislature (including the still well known Julius Vogel) as well as pursuing such interests as supporting North Taieri and Taieri Ploughing Matches and being an active member of the Taieri Agricultural Society.

On the 7th March 1865 we note the birth of their daughter Jane Hunter Oughton at "Boghead" followed in 1868 by a son, William Hunter Oughton. All seemed set for a secure future for David and his family until tragedy would strike yet again. On the 20th February 1869 David Oughton himself died of bronchitis at "Boghead", aged just 37 years, the burial taking place at the East Taieri Cemetery on the 24th. The legal Executor of his will, Mr W.B. Ogilvie of the Crown Grant [Land] Office, duly advertised for any outstanding debts to the estate.

With a young family comprising of James aged 12, Annie aged 10, Jane aged 4 and William aged 1, Janey Oughton was now faced with a difficult decision. What she decided to do was to return to Scotland with her family and lease the 87 acre property at "Boghead" including grassed paddocks and "a superior seven-roomed brick house", as well as arrange a new lessee for "Janefield", the former 183 acre property David Oughton had purchased around 1852 at East Taieri. Tender offers were to be sent to the above Mr Ogilvie, the successful tenderer for "Boghead" being Mr Robert Miller. All stock, plant and household furniture at "Boghead" were then sold by auction. Janey and the children departed on the "Rangitoto" for Melbourne on their way to Scotland on the 22nd June 1869.

Part of Janey's plan involved her step-son James being sent to "Hillend" to learn farming. At the age of 20, and with sufficient farming skills, James Oughton returned to New Zealand on the 1,702 ton "Dunnottar Castle", departing from Gravesend, London on the 29th January 1879, arriving at Port Chalmers, Otago on the 8th May 1879 after a 98 day port to port voyage.

But accompanying James on the voyage out as his travelling companion was my 28 year old paternal Grandfather who appears to have been swayed to come out to New Zealand instead of Canada after no doubt hearing first hand accounts of the country from the Oughton family. My Grandfather, who had also learnt his farming skills in Scotland, later worked for a short time for Mr William Todd at "Willow Acre", East Taieri and later with another of their relatives at Tuturau so the extended family connection by marriage was certainly put to good use whilst agricultural work was scarce during the general economic slowdown.

James Sinclair Oughton,
taken after 1879
[From my own collection]

Upon his return to Otago in 1879 James Sinclair Oughton then took over "Janefield" farm, the house and property having been specifically left to him in his late father's will upon him reaching the age of 21 years and with a life rent payable annually to his mother Janey of fifty pounds, "Boghead" would remain leased. Upon David's other children reaching the age of 21 years. David had directed his trustees to sell his other remaining property and to distribute the funds between his children but excluding James who of course would inherit "Janefield". But it appears no sale took place until 1900 when "Boghead" was eventually sold although the estate may have come to some prior arrangement. Under the will Janey would also receive no further benefit other than the £50 pound annual payment from James.

Meanwhile, and in May 1879, Janey moved, along with her family and her 80 year old mother Jane Hunter (my relative as above), to "Avenue Cottage" in Juniper Green, a pleasant leafy suburb out of Edinburgh. The 1881 census confirms two children as still attending school, travelling into Edinburgh by train for their schooling. Janey's step-daughter, Annie Todd Oughton, then aged about 19, acted as one of two witnesses at the marriage of my Grandfather's sister Ann (who lived nearby) to Mr Robert Lawson in a local Church on the 19th June 1879 which again demonstrates the close connection with my own family.

But a letter from a family relative in London to his sister in Nelson New Zealand dated the 21st February 1881 includes a worrying reference to Mrs Oughton :

Mrs Oughton, that is Jane Hunter, is still at Juniper Green, and is I believe very well, but says her mother is getting very feeble and doited [faculties impaired by age], she just sits by the fireside and never goes out… I believe Mrs Oughton has suffered some loss lately by the defalcation [mis-appropriation] of one of her trustees at Otago, for which I am very sorry.”

I can however find no published reference to this "defalcation" but all of David Wilson Oughton's original trustees would appear to have been fine upstanding members of the community, (1) Mr William Ogilvie, for many years Chief Clerk of the Dunedin Land Office; (2) Church Elder and farmer, Mr Robert Somerville of "Riccarton", East Taieri; (3) and David's own brother in law, Mr Robert Todd of "Johnstone" farm, Mosgiel. But I do note that Mr Ogilvie lost his legal position when the Otago Provincial Government was abolished in 1876 and thereafter sought "station life" on the Maniototo. Additionally, Robert Somerville died in May 1879. So two new but unknown trustees must have been appointed after 1876 or 1879 but the trail has unfortunately gone cold as to who was specifically responsible for the said misappropriation.

A grainy image of Janey Oughton sitting knitting on the
porch at "Boghead", most likely with her granddaughter
Annie Oughton (a daughter of William and Mary).
Taken circa late 1890's
[From my own collection]

Mrs Janey Oughton, along with her family returned to New Zealand on the 1,196 barque "Embleton" from Glasgow, arriving at Port Chalmers on the 24th September 1883, her elderly mother apparently having died prior to this date. By January 1885 Mrs Oughton is noted as residing back at "Boghead". Over the ensuing years she appears to have farmed it with her son William Hunter Oughton. The latter married Mary Jane Shaw, also of North Taieri, in August 1895.

Another family tragedy occurred when Janey's 33 year old step-daughter Annie Todd Oughton died at "Boghead" on the 29th March 1893, the funeral service being held at the house before departing for the East Taieri cemetery.

James Sinclair Oughton with his wife
Jeanie Couper and children.
Copyrighted Photo
[Source : David & Pamela Oughton]

James Sinclair Oughton, who continued to farm the 150 acre "Janefield" property, married Jeanie Couper, a teacher of "Rosebank" East Taieri, in September 1887. In April 1899 he offered it to the Government for "close settlement purposes" under the 1892 Land Settlement Act, the sale price being £4,888.34 James thereafter moved to "Monte Cristo" at Wright's Bush in Southland with the intention of developing this new and larger property. But fate would soon deal another unfortunate hand.

Just the following month, Wilhelmina (Janey) Oughton died at "Boghead" on the 15 May 1899 aged 66 years. Her death was then followed on the 22nd December 1902 by her step-son, the above James Sinclair Oughton, who died at Wright’s Bush in Southland after a short period of ill health at the age of 45 years and leaving behind his wife Jeanie and nine now fatherless children. Janey's own daughter, Jane Hunter Oughton, who remained a spinster, died in April 1941 aged 76 years. All are buried in the family plot in the East Taieri cemetery, including both of David's wives which I find rather touching. The headstone is fairly weathered but legible close up.

Sale of "Boghead",
2 June 1900
[Source : Papers Past"]

On the 2nd June 1900 David's youngest son, William Hunter Oughton, finally sold "Boghead" to an adjoining landowner, Mr Robert Smellie, a native of Lanarkshire, Scotland, the former having purchased a larger farm. I note that the house then comprised of seven rooms, with a laundry, scullery, and dairy attached. A "men's house, stable, barn and byre" were included in the sale. The Smellie family would subsequently own the property for over 80 years.

It was after this sale that "Boghead" was renamed "Duddingston" after Duddingston Loch in Edinburgh, no doubt being considered a more appropriate name than a reference to a local peat bog! William Hunter Oughton, the last surviving child of David and Janey Oughton, died on the 16th December 1942 aged 74 years, his wife Mary having died in 1917 aged 49 years. Both are buried in the Calcium cemetery in Southland,

"Duddingston" [previously known as "Boghead"],
taken 1998 with the kind permission of the owners.
[From my own collection]

Today, "Duddingston" is a very attractive and well cared for colonial era home set in pleasant wooded grounds, being partially visible from the road but easily missed. According to historian and writer Lois Galer, the home includes original interior features including exposed pit sawn kauri beams in the living room (formerly the kitchen), with all woodwork and doors also being of kauri. The original pantry survives, complete with one inch thick slate shelves. I have myself been inside the house which I remember was modernized in places but I could still feel the sense of history that went with this now very historic and much loved home.

The Gravestone of David Wilson Oughton
and Family in the East Taieri Cemetery
[From my own collection]

Copyright : Unless otherwise stated, all images are from my own personal collection but may be freely copied for academic and non-commercial use provided this site is acknowledged. Commercial reproduction is prohibited without my specific written approval. Any reproduction of images owned by the Oughton family will require their specific approval.

Sources :

- Family papers and photographs (held by the writer)
- The late Helen Whelan, Nelson
- Pamela & David Oughton, Titahi Bay, Wellington
- "Houses and Homes", by Lois Galer, 1981
- "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand" (Otago and Southland Provincial Districts) [from my own collection]
- "Old Roslin", Roslin Heritage Society, 2003
- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- Toitū Otago Settler's Museum Archives Database (compiled by Bob Matthews)
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Dunedin Public Library / Ka Kete Wānaka o Otepoti
- Hocken Collections / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Scotland's Places website
- Scotland's People website

Monday, 8 May 2017

"Tintype" Memories of a Visit to Kilmarnock


A Group of Friends at Kilmarnock, circa 1880.
John Humphrey's Photo.
[From my own collection]

Today I am featuring an apparently unremarkable and slightly faded CDV (carte-de-visite) studio portrait of nine men taken in a photographer's studio in Kilmarnock, Scotland sometime around 1880. But unremarkable? Well, as I have discovered, perhaps not.

It was only a couple of years ago while I was slowly cataloguing my large collection of old family photographs and inputting the information into an Excel database that I made a surprising connection with this photo. But I still don't know why these nine rather dapper looking friends from around neighbouring Dalserf and Stonehouse Parishes in Lanarkshire visited Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire. While this was a distance of only some 25 miles by the Caledonian and Glasgow & South Western Railways from Stonehouse to Kilmarnock via Darvil it must still must have been to attend an unknown event. I do note some of the men have what appears to be a flower in their lapel buttonholes. But if one specifically wanted to have a special photograph taken then nearby Hamilton or even Glasgow would have been the logical choice and other photographs in my collection support this.

Without a known date or some other clue solving this mystery is probably beyond my normally successful research skills. But it was certainly not unusual to be professionally photographed while away from home, And of course people wished, as they still do, to have a record of a special occasion or of their visit as a personal memory and gifting a photograph to friends and relatives was also commonplace. But it was more unusual to travel some distance in a group.

The dates and places where Humphrey is known to have been in business are 123 King street Kilmarnock from 1864 until 1867 (in partnership with James Paton) then on his own account at 127 King street from 1868 until his death in March 1889. My photos are taken during this latter period. Judging by the age of a relative who appears in the photograph I would say no later than around 1880, give or take a year. My relative left for New Zealand in January 1882 so it is definitely taken prior to this date.

I also note that Humphrey's name is spelt "Humphry" on the tintypes below. Although I note both spellings as being common in Kilmarnock census returns, John Humphrey always appears to have traded with this latter version of his surname. It may be a throwback to an older phonetic spelling of the surname and the printer inadvertently assumed this to be correct. A Humphrey family descendant in Canada cannot explain this use of different spelling and had not been aware of this before. Nor had he been aware of 'tintypes' produced by this studio from such a late period. So, another mystery!

Names Recorded on Rear of Group Photo.
John Humphrey Photo, Kilmarnock.
[From my own collection]

Although I could recognise my young looking Great Great Uncle James Watson among the group, my Great Aunt has usefully recorded all the names on the back of the photograph, probably identified in latter years by her elderly mother as it is the latter's writing on the back of all the "tintypes". Most are residents of Dalserf Parish and in and around Stonehouse. At least two are related to each other (Watson and Muter).

Back Row Standing (left to right) : Francis [Frank] Struthers ('Broomfield', Dalserf'); James Watson ('Muirhead', Dalserf); Alex. Baird ('Canderside', Stonehouse); [..?..] Wilson (Buck's Head Inn, Stonehouse); Mungo Shearer (Stonehouse?).
Front Row Sitting : Thomas Shearer ('Yards', Stonehouse); William Thomson ('Netherburn'?); William Muter ('Watston', Stonehouse); Gavin Baird ('Canderside', Stonehouse & 'Gartliston', Coatbridge).

But what makes this photograph different?

Scattered throughout two large photo albums of period photographs are novelty "Tintype" individual and very clear portraits apparently taken on the same visit of no less than five of these men, one being my above Great Great Uncle James Watson.

Rear of a "Tintype" clearly showing
not only the almost octagonal shaped
small metal support for the photo but
also the propensity to rust

What is a "Tintype"?

"Tintypes"  (also known as "Ferrotypes") were "made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion."

They were inexpensive and easy to process and thus became popular at fairs and carnivals. They were most popular around the 1860's and 1870's but persisted for many years later. As they had a solid metal support they could be prepared, exposed, developed, varnished and dried within a matter of minutes and handed to the waiting customer. But I would discount these being taken at a fair as I also hold the matching studio portrait, same people, mostly wearing the same clothes except two who appears to have changed to a lighter jacket and bow tie, and of course the same photographer.

Another interesting point to mention is that unlike the above carte-de-visite studio portrait, tintypes were "direct positives", in other words there was no negative so that each image is unique. This also means that each person normally appears as a mirror image of themselves. If you compare the photograph of Francis Struthers below with his image in the group portrait above you will see that his button hole flower has swapped sides from left to right. "Tintypes" do need to be kept in a dry and stable environment free of damp as they have a propensity to rust as can be seen in the image above.

Close-up of a "Tintype" of Francis Struthers
showing the clarity of the image

These photographs were obviously purchased by or for my young looking Gt. Gt. Uncle who appears in the main photo and himself as a tintype. Knowing that the 'tintypes' were the cheaper option it is very interesting to note that they are in almost original condition whereas the albumen print has faded, suffers from 'spotting', and had been touched up (note James Watson's and Mr Baird's eyes). But the advantage of the albumen print photo was that a glass negative existed from which any number of copies, including an enlarged print, could be made from the original negative which was retained by the photographic studio.

The Five "Tintypes" With Short Biographies

So, here are the five individual tintypes which have been placed in colourful card mounts, there being three variants in style and colour. It will be interesting to see if any descendants recognise family members and of course the photographs you see below could not be duplicated so are, as noted above, unique. Please do let me know if you see any of your relatives and / or can add any additional information, even if you also hold a photo relating to this 'snapshot in time' commemorating the visit by a group of friends to Kilmarnock. My email link appears in the right hand menu bar.

James Watson, 'Muirhead', Dalserf

James (Jimmie) Watson of 'Muirhead Farm', Dalserf and 'Meadowbank Farm', Heddon Bush, New Zealand. Born 1st October 1859, the son of Thomas Watson & Helen Dougall, emigrated to Southland New Zealand January 1882, Died 26th November 1935 aged 76 years, never married. Interred in the old Winton cemetery, Southland, New Zealand. [Link]

William Muter, 'East Watston',
Stonehouse

William Muter, born 'East Watsone Farm', Stonehouse, 28th October 1847, the son of John Muter and Elizabeth Letham, Farmer at 'East Watstone Farm' Stonehouse residing with his brother in law, Archibald Steele as Head of House and family, never married, died 19th September 1921, Buried in St. Ninian's Churchyard, Stonehouse. William appears in a lighter jacket and white bow tie in the group photo. 

Francis [Frank] Struthers, 'Broomfield',
Dalserf

Francis [Frank] Struthers, born 'Broomfield', Dalserf, born 6th January 1861, the son of Allan Struthers and Catherine Weir, Married Isabella Black, had issue, died 4th June 1926 in Dalserf Parish, aged 65 years, buried in Dalserf churchyard. 

Gavin Baird, 'Canderside', Stonehouse
& 'Gartliston', Coatbridge

Gavin Baird of 'Canderside Farm' Stonehouse and Gartliston, Coatbridge. Born in Avondale Parish 3rd December 1859, the son of William Baird and Ann Kirkland. Married Ann Fleming, had issue, Died Townhead Road, Coatbridge 27th August 1926, aged 66 years (cancer).

Thomas Shearer, "Yards", Stonehouse

Thomas Shearer, a Farmer on own account of 'Yards' Farm, Stonehouse, born 22nd September 1861, the son of James Shearer and Mary Lamond, married Elizabeth Hamilton, died at 'Yards' Farm, Stonehouse, 4th May 1931 in his 70th year, buried in Stonehouse cemetery. Thomas appears in a lighter jacket but the same shirt and tie in the group photo.


Sources :
- Watson family photographs (held by the writer)
- Various Internet resources
- Family Search

Monday, 1 May 2017

A 1930's Album of Deerstalking in the South Island of New Zealand


A collection of "Trophy" Red Deer Antlers including a Stag's Head
and antlers in centre with an impressive 7 x 7 (14 point) trophy head.

British settlers first liberated red deer in the South Island of New Zealand during the latter part of the 19th century, firstly near Palmerston in Otago in 1871 and then in the Rakaia in 1897. The herds gradually spread to cover much of the New Zealand high country. While protected by law until 1923 the sheer numbers of deer and the damage they wreaked to the delicate New Zealand high country tussock lands and the erosion this caused led to the ending of such protection. By 1932 "game seasons, licences, bag limits and other restrictions were dropped. The scene was set for a war against the ‘deer menace’." They were now firmly declared "noxious animals" and deer stalking and shooting became a popular sport. My family and their friends enjoyed going on deer stalking expeditions and I can recall the impressive multiple pointed stag antlers hung up in my father's old barn, having been shot by him, mostly up the Eglinton and Lillburn Valleys around Fiordland.

Friends At Camp.
Bill Andrews appears standing at rear in the centre.
Note the clothes laid out to dry and the small barrel
which I suspect would be "something stronger"

By the 1920's trophy hunting had become a very popular sport. The photographs shown on this blog appear to cover the 1930's period, at least to 1938. All I know is that these images, not all being shown here, were collected by the late William (Bill) Lowe Andrews of Heddon Bush in Southland (died 1941 aged 59 years) and placed in a small album. Many of the photos have his name on the back. I don't believe any of my family were actually on these particular hunting expeditions but the album was found among old family photographs after my late uncle's death in 1982. Perhaps it was given to my family after Bill's death as both had been neighbours and good friends and I am fairly certain that my father and Bill would have gone deer stalking together on occasions as they obviously shared the same passion. Bill appears in at least one photo shown above but does not seem to appear in any photos taken in the mountains so may have taken a less active role by this stage, perhaps just helping out at the campsites.

Men and Pack Horses with at least one trophy head

Unfortunately the locations of the most of the photographs is not recorded. My guess is that some do relate to Fiordland but also some taken up in the high tussock country of Northern Southland or inland Central Otago. One photograph is dated 1938 and marked "Mount Cook" which is almost invisible away in the distance across the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps. I believe most of those showing snow country would be taken at the same time, probably up one of the alpine valleys south of Mount Cook. Based on the photo a mountaineer might have a better idea of exactly where this might be taken.

Up in the High Tussock Country.
Deer on the Ridgeline?

Culling of the Red Deer population as a form of sport is still very popular today, being a necessity in order to alleviate high country erosion with considerable damage to tussock lands as well as native forests. Government sponsored culling effectively ceased in 1987 and Regional Deer Stalking Associations assist in regulating this sport [Link].

A 6 x 6 (12 point) Trophy Head.
Note the ammunition belt  


A High Country Canvas Tent Campsite


"Mount Cook" (almost invisible on the horizon)


Hunters Surveying the Snow Capped Mountains in the High Country


A Tarn or Mountain Lake Formed by Glacial Activity


Crossing a boulder strewn stream in the mountains


Spot the Deer


Up in the Mountainous Snow Country


A nice 6-pointer


Time for a snack and a cuppa


A Trophy Head up in the Tussock Country


Boiling the Billy's for a Meal at a Tent Camp
(possibly Bill Andrews on the right)

A Good Collection of Trophy Stag Antlers at the end of
a hunting expedition. Is the lady a resident of the house?


Sources :

- Family Photographs (held by the writer)
- Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- The New Zealand Deer Stalkers' Association. Inc.

Friday, 21 April 2017

ANZAC Day Remembrance 25th April 2017 - A Serviceman's Story


Henry George Edward Simpson 8/2132
Note the badges shown below.
Wakefield's Photo, Chiswick & Brentford
[From my own collection]

ANZAC Day, the 25th April 2017, "broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served."

As a tribute to these men and women I am, by bringing together artefacts, photographs and information from a variety of sources, telling the story of a New Zealand World War One serviceman with a strong connection to both Otago and Southland, being Henry George Edward Simpson 8/2132.


14th South Otago Rifles Regiment Badges
belonging to George Simpson.
The bird is a New Zealand Kea.
[From my own collection]

Being my Grandmother's cousin and with both being brought up by a mutual Aunt in the small Southland district of Wreys Bush they kept in close contact, along with my Father, Uncles and Aunt, until George's death in 1950. This means that I have inherited a number of items relating to George (as he was known) including, as I only discovered last year, his 14th South Otago Rifles Regiment hat badge and one shoulder badge. This was a surprise even to me considering they had been in my possession since 1982 but I had incorrectly assumed they belonged to my late Uncle. The scanning and placing online of military records finally led me to be able to correctly attribute them to George, the sole family member who had served with this regiment. And as if to confirm this attribution beyond doubt, I then noted the self same badges in George's photo above.

While I do not hold his war medals I do however also hold a number of photographs and postcards which he wrote to my family while overseas. Together with his digitized military record this has enabled me to built up a picture of his war service which includes, Egypt, Gallipoli, and the Western Front in France. So ANZAC Day provides me with the perfect opportunity to bring all these items together and give a brief overview, as best I can, of a soldier whose record of service to King and Country would otherwise likely continue to be forgotten. This also shows how a combination of sources of information, where little else is known, can be used to build up a useful picture of a person's life and, in this case, war service. When a detailed family history was professionally commissioned by the extended family some years ago no further information on George was discovered other than what is quoted here.

George, the son of William Henry Simpson and Agnes Brown was born at Havelock in the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island on the 13th September 1877. But in 1882 his mother died and he was then separated from his brother Albert and sent south to Wrey's Bush in Southland to live with his Aunt, attending the local Annandale Public School. Initially moving to Invercargill and working as a railways employee, George had by 1907 changed careers and entered the teaching profession working for the Southland Education Board, initially at Raes Junction School then in 1910 at Woodlands School.

On the 12th February 1915 George, and at the age of 37, enlisted as a Private with the 2nd Batallion of the Otago Infantry (14th South Otago Rifles Regiment). His overseas service commenced on the 13th June 1915 and he would spend a total of one year and 336 days overseas, returning to New Zealand in May 1917 before being discharged, his total war service being 2 years and 118 days.

His quite detailed Army Casualty Form gives the most accurate listing of his various placements in the various theatres of the war. Additionally, his postcards confirm this information and give confirmation of various dates.

We know that George was initially posted to Egypt and to Zeitoun Camp near Cairo. While the postcards may appear somewhat vague and lacking in detail one must remember that all mail had to pass a censor to ensure that no information was divulged which could prove useful to the enemy. But the frustrating thing is not having a clear record of his week to week postings, day to day life, and what specific enemy action he may have been engaged in such as at Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme. This can only be estimated from regimental records but his own personal observations would have been invaluable.


A postcard from Zeitoun Camp,
Egypt dated 1st August 1915
and sent to my Aunt.
[From my own collection] 

"Zeitoun [Camp near Cairo, Egypt] 1st Aug 1915, We do most of our training in the mornings and evenings, as it is too hot during the day. It never rains..."

By the 9th August 1915 George had been posted with the ANZAC's to the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign but was admitted to hospital on the 2nd September due to "dysentry" before being transferred to a hospital in Malta via H.M. ship "Nile" so it must have been quite serious.

"Panorama of Floriana, Malta"

A Postcard from Malta,
and sent to my Aunt,
Sept - Oct 1915
[From my own collection]

"Dear Dott, You have a post card of one of the best parts of Malta, some of the parts where the poorer people live are very squalid, while some of the hovels in the country are miserable almost beyond description. I have not been able to have a look round Malta yet, but I would like to. I am getting better now...

Entrance to Grey Towers Barracks, Hornchurch, England
[From my own collection]

On the 8th October he was transferred by H.M. ship "Italia" to the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth in England, being classed as "slightly sick", then on the 7th February 1916 we find him at the NZ Base Depot at "Grey Towers" Barracks in Hornchurch, Essex. He left here to re-join his unit on the 1st March.

George Simpson, no date
[From my own collection]

On the 13th March George joined the 14th Company Battallion of the Otago Infantry Regiment at Moascar Camp near Ismailia on the Suez Canal. The Ottomans had attacked nearby in February 1915, hence no doubt, the strategic placement of a camp here.


A postcard sent from "The Desert, Egypt"
to my Father, dated 2nd April 1916
[From my own collection] 

"The Desert, Egypt, 2nd April 1916, ...We are out in the desert among the flies, the heat and the sand and we enjoy life immensely...".

But his time in the desert would be very brief as on the 9th April 1916 George embarked from Alexandria for France on the 'Llandovery Castle'. After the Gallipoli withdrawal the New Zealand forces had been re-organised into the newly formed New Zealand Division prior to leaving for France and the Western Front.

While serving at Houplines (near Armentieres) in Northern France, he was reported sick on the 31st May 1916 and sent to hospital but rejoined his unit on the front line on the 4th June. This was during an initial three month period where the New Zealand forces guarded a quieter section of the front in order to gain valuable front line experience.

A silk embroidered postcard sent from France, 12th July 1916
[From my own collection] 

A postcard sent from France, to
my Aunt, dated 12th July 1916
[From my own collection] 

"July 12th, 1916, France. Dear Dott, I hope you are all well, the morning note [?] and the daily strafe are tiresome at times but they will soon end..." [By "morning note" I am unsure if George is referring to a morning bugler. Any suggestions are welcome!]

But on the 13th August he fell sick again "In the Field", being attended to by the 3rd NZ Field Ambulance before being admitted to the 8th Casualty Clearing Station the same day. His affliction this time was a hernia which indicates heavy lifting. From here he was admitted to the 35 General Field Hospital in Calais on the 15th August. It is likely he was operated on here. From here he was transferred yet again, this time to the No1 Convalescent Depot at Boulogne on the 19th August but was "Discharged to Base" the following day.

On the 23rd August 1916 George joined the New Zealand forces "In the field" at Etaples on the 28th August, having been transferred from the 14th Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment to the 14th Company of the 1st Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment".

Early September 1916 had seen the New Zealand forces enter the 'Battle of the Somme', taking part in the third great push to break the enemy lines. It would be during this extended battle that George was wounded. By the end of September a decisive breakthrough had not yet been made but already at a huge cost in lives and injuries.

"Eighteen thousand members of the [New Zealand] division went into action. Nearly 6000 men were wounded and more than 2100 lost their lives. Over half the New Zealand Somme dead have no known grave".

After being "Wounded in action" on the 16th September George was attended to by the No1 NZ Field Ambulance then taken to the 38 Casualty Clearing Station the following day. On the 18th August he was admitted to the 23rd General Hospital at Etaples before embarking for England on H.M ship "Dieppe" on the 24th September. After just over three weeks at the 2nd London General Hospital at Chelsea he was then transferred to the Convalescent Camp at Hornchurch on the 17th October 1916. His service record only states "GSW [gun shot wound] elbow-severe". But from around this period George appears to have a wound to his head which may have been caused by flying shrapnel. Thus he was probably very lucky not to have been killed from this event alone.  At this point his active service was effectively over.


Servicemen recuperating from war injuries at the New Zealand
Convalescent Hospital at "Grey Towers" Hornchurch, England,
an unpublished photo taken circa late 1916 - early 1917.
George Simpson is the 3rd man from left at rear.
Unfortunately no other men are named.
[From my own collection]

A close up of the above photograph
showing George Simpson at the back

A folder of printed images of Hornchurch
sent by George Simpson in late 1916
to my Aunt in New Zealand.
[From my own collection]

On the 22nd January 1917 George Simpson was classified as unfit, "placed on NZ Roll", and transferred to Codford Camp on the Salisbury Plains before departing for New Zealand on H.M.N.Z.T. "Maunganui" on the 17th March 1917, his discharge being on the 11th June 1917. "Discharged in consequence no longer physically fit for war service on acct of pre-enlistment disability aggravated by active service." At all times during his service his rank had been that of a Private. He completed his military service with a completely unblemished record.

Henry George Edward Simpson 8/2132
Wakefield's Photo, Chiswick & Brentford
[From my own collection]

After the war, George was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After George's death in 1950, and with the lack of an immediate relative, these were, with the approval of the Secretary of the NZ Army in Wellington, and indeed the Minister of Defence, sent by the Public Trustee to his niece Miss Jean Simpson. All I know is that Jean married John Dennis Daly, a veterinarian, in 1965 but had no children. It would be good to track down the current whereabouts of George's medals and to ascertain if any other records pertaining to George's military service may exist.

George Simpson,
taken at home, circa 1950
(The lady is unknown)
[From my own collection]

Returning to teaching George is known to have been at Winton Primary School in 1919 then appears to have lived in Dunedin from at least the 1930's but often visited and stayed with my family in Southland as they did with him in Dunedin. He retired to 62 Signal Hill Road in Dunedin where he died on the 14th December 1950. George appears to have been an intelligent man with, I note, a great love and appreciation of English poetry. With no immediate family of his own he requested in his will that the bulk of his estate be paid over to the Anglican Melanesian Mission.

I know that at least one photo that had been in George's possession at his death came to our family as my Uncle mentions this in a letter. There may have been other items but specifically how his 14th South Otago Regiment badges ended up with my family is not recorded. Late last year I donated these badges (under his name) to the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin as I felt they should stay in Otago, the province he had represented in war, and to be somewhere where they would be appreciated and have some significance in future. I feel sure that George would approve. Although they still have to go through an acceptance process, the curator was very keen to get them to fill a gap in their collections.  

Gravestone of Henry George Edward Simpson,
Havelock North cemetery
[Image : Hastings District Council] 

Despite living most of his life in the south George Simpson chose to be buried with his parents, brother Bert, and family members in the Havelock North Cemetery. 

Copyright : 

Unless otherwise stated, all images are from my own personal collection and may be freely copied for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Images may not be used for commercial purposes without my express written permission.

Sources :

- Family papers and photographs (held by the writer)
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Simpson Family History, 2006
- New Zealand History / Nga korero a ipurangi o Aotearoa
- Hastings District Council Cemetery Records

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...