|A Group of Friends at Kilmarnock, circa 1880.|
John Humphrey's Photo.
[From my own collection]
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]
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
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',|
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',|
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|
- Watson family photographs (held by the writer)
- Various Internet resources
- Family Search