… or a proverbial brick wall! If you can help with further information please contact us.
Early in 2016 with some waiting time on my hands, I ventured into the Victor Harbor Antiques Shop on Eyre Street. Typically, it’s crammed with old stuff. As I browsed I noticed at floor level a dusty but charming old framed photo of two young boys, both with Victorian wide lace collars. One lad, standing, is dressed in knickerbockers and the other in a dress, is sitting on a bicycle/tricycle. I turned the frame around and found an inscription: Frank and Alex Read.
Now, my dog Pip’s favourite walk is on the beach adjacent to the G S Read Reserve on the Esplanade. One of the members of our Encounter Bay Family History Group researched George Septimus Read and wrote his story as part of our Who Were They? project 2010-2013 which tells the personal family histories of those after whom our parks and reserves are named. George Septimus Read’s story is included in this website under the tab Local History.
As I was leaving the premises I thought it only polite to speak to the proprietor seated at her cluttered desk in a dark corner. I mentioned the photograph and commented that Read was a significant figure in the early history of Victor Harbor. ‘Oh,’ she said. ‘There’s another one.’ We walked back to the place where I had spied the first photo and she turned around another one, similarly framed, of an elderly gentleman, seated, with two young boys, one of whom was obviously the younger one of the first photo. Could this be George Septimus Read with grandsons? Sale price for the photos was $40 each.
Digging through Digger revealed one Read grandson, Frank Victor, but no Alex or Alexander with a credible family link.
I explained the mission to members at the next meeting of EBFHG and returned to let the shop proprietor know the investigation was ongoing. She insisted I take the photographs on appro. I displayed them at the following meeting. Members agreed that we purchase the photos and two members were delegated to negotiate a price. In the event, we had to pay the full price but at least the photos were in hand.
I also looked for Alexandrina Read now because some members were suggesting that the boy on the bicycle was in fact, a girl. Certainly, the bow in the hair seemed odd for a boy, however young and dressed.
George Septimus Read died in 1900. I booked into a History Month session at Strathalbyn with an expert on dating old photographs. I took ours along and was able to confirm that these were indeed taken in the late 1800s.
In the meantime, one member had made contact online with the wife of a direct descendant of GSR. She was very interested in the photos and sent information and photos from her research.
By now I was beginning to doubt the photos were in fact (touched up) photos, but possibly drawings/paintings. I took one (two boys) from its frame but found no inscription. I was consequently loath to remove the second frame (grandfather and boys). Time to consult with ArtLab!
The Senior Book and Paper Conservator confirmed that they were indeed photographs using silver nitrate processing and good examples of this technique. She removed the frame from the second photo which was inscribed ‘With every good wish’. But some joy: she revealed the name of the photographer, Ernest Gall and his address, 11 Alma Chambers, Grenfell Street, Adelaide.
Ensuing research at the State Library of SA uncovered a wealth of Adelaide and country town streetscapes, and photos of a few prominent citizens of his day taken by Gall from about 1880 to 1910. But delve as I have, there seems no extant collection, list or index containing a mention of our photos.
Conclusion: While my first reaction that these photographs might be locally historically significant I have as yet no proof. An EBFHG member is going to contact the Sunday Mail for help through their pages. The Read descendant has expressed interest in acquiring the photographs.
Update 3 August 2016: One of our members submitted the photos to a Can You Help page in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail and received several responses though nothing helpful.
I extracted faces from three photos we have, two of which we know are of George Septimus Read, and the consensus seems to be that they all could be of one and the same person. The interested family member from interstate expects to visit later in the year.
Still needing proof!
Keep watching this space!
Update March 2017
I continued to have correspondence during 2016 with the wife of the descendant of George Septimus Read. In early 2017 the EBFHG requested the project be finalised. Our client had consulted various cousins and relatives and they believe that these photographs are indeed of their family, probably of Henry Joseph Tite, another of Encounter Bay’s pioneers. Tite married GSR’s daughter Anne, and descendants believe that the photos are of him and Tite children. The client agreed to reimburse us for the photos and postage. In the event, we also gratefully accepted a donation.