Trove Tuesday: Solving the Mystery of That Photo – almost!

I always enjoy reading other bloggers Trove Tuesday posts so it is probably fitting that my first family history post relates to the fabulous resources on that site.

This photo has puzzled me for some time. It was obviously an important occasion as most of the people depicted are quite formally dressed. Many of the individuals are difficult to distinguish, unfortunately.

Picknickers at Clontarf, Middle Harbour, Sydney 2nd June 1870
Picnickers at Clontarf, Middle Harbour, Sydney, 2nd June 1870

The letter on the back provided some clues, the most important of which was the date of the picnic: 2nd June 1870

The very formal style of the letter seems to indicate that the writer and the recipient were acquaintances rather than family or friends.

My dear Sir
I send you a photo, not certainly a very perfect one, of our picnic held at Clo?lar? Middle Harbour on the 2nd inst.

Thos Ri?h??

Reverse side of photo of Picknickers at Clontarf, Middle Harbour, Sydney 2nd June 1870
Reverse side

The first word in the location confused me at first as it might have been Clonlary or Clounlar? or a number of other possibilities. Middle Harbour was much clearer but still wasn’t much help as I was looking for a site in Victoria. Eventually I did the sensible thing and checked Google Maps. Easy! There is a place called Clontarf on Middle Harbour – in NSW not Victoria!

‘What’ and ‘Where’ now solved, I needed to try to work out ‘Who’ and ‘Why’. A Trove newspaper search for ‘picnic Clontarf June 1870’ came to the rescue:

section of article published by Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 4th June 1870
section of article published by Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 4th June 1870

ANNUAL PICNIC OF GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE EMPLOYEES – The third annual picnic of the employees of the Government Printing Office was held on Thursday, at Clontarf, whither the excursionists were conveyed by the steamer Breadalbane, which left the Circular Quay and Woolloomooloo Bay at 9 30 and at 11 o’clock a.m. There could not, when friends and visitors are included, have been less than six hundred people present. Among the visitors were the Hon. the Colonial Treasurer (Mr Samuel), Captain Hix??n, and Mr Cracknell. The pavilion was occupied by a number of dancers who, to the strains of a band provided for the occasion, enjoyed them selves for several hours. But the chief attraction of the day was a programme of athletic sports, got up under the supervision of a sports committee. In the first race – a handicap for youths under 17 years of age, distance 100 yards, the first prize was won by T. Chapman. The second was a handicap race for 150 yards, for £1 1s, presented by Mr Wright, of the Australian Type Foundry. This race was run in two divisions. In the first division Foster came in winner, and in the second, Matthews. For the third race-picking up apples to the number of fifty at one yard a part, there were only two entries, the prize fell to the lot of Mr. Bennis. The fourth race, a handicap for 125 yards, was also run in two divisions, in the first of which Bond, and in the second Foster, were the prize takers. The fifth race, for the Government Printer’s prize -competed for by youths under 17 years of age, was won by T. Chapman. The married men’s race for 100 yards, was won by Bond, who started from scratch. Foster also won the seventh race for youths under 21 years of age, distance 100 yards handicap – as also the final heat of the second race At this portion of the programme, the excursionists sat down to a well-served luncheon prepared in Compagnoni’s best style. The chair was occupied by the Government Printer, Mr. Richards, who proposed the health of her Majesty, which was drunk with all the honours. “The Prince of Wales and other members of the Royal Family” was followed by “His Excellency the Governor,” both of them being loyally received. “Our Guests” was next proposed by the chairman, and, being warmly received, was responded to by the Hon. Colonial Treasurer, who proposed the health of “The employees,” to which Mr. Dowling responded. The toast of “The Government Printer,” on the proposal of Mr Thrum, was also duly honoured and replied to by Mr. Richards. To the toast of “The Ladies,” proposed by Major Raymond, Mr. Bushelle responded. The party then retired to finish the races on the card. The Superintendent’s Prize for apprentices – given in a handicap race of one hundred yards, was run in two divisions, in which respectively Matthews and Foster came in first. Throwing cricket ball at wicket – thirty yards – ten entries, Swift took the prize. The final heat of the fourth race was won by Foster, and in a one-mile handicap walking match – three entries. – S. Chapman who started from the scratch, carried away the prize. A final heat of the ninth race – that for apprentices-will come off to-day. After spending a pleasant day the excursionists arrived in Sydney safely.

The Sydney Morning Herald. (1870, June 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from 

This explains the ‘Why’ and gives me clues about the ‘Who’

Who: Photo probably sent by Thomas RICHARDS (NSW Government Printer 1859-86) to my great great grandfather John FERRES (Victorian Government Printer 1851-78, 1881-7)
What: Photo of the annual picnic of employees of the NSW Government Printing Office
When: Thursday, 2nd June 1870
Where: Clontarf, Middle Harbour, Sydney, NSW

After John FERRES emigrated from Bath to Port Phillip in 1848, he lived the rest of his life in the Melbourne area. I had no idea he had been to Sydney.

Lesson learned: Even though an ancestor is known to have lived in one State, they may have visited another.



8 thoughts on “Trove Tuesday: Solving the Mystery of That Photo – almost!”

  1. Congratulations on your blog. I hope it brings you lots of ‘new cousins’. And I totally agree with your words of wisdom, ‘Even though an ancestor is known to have lived in one State, they may have visited another.’ I have been trying to get that message across ever since I indexed Queensland’s hospital records and found that thousands of the patients were from interstate!

  2. Congratulations on your first post, Maureen… Welcome to the blogging community. There are really only two rules… Have fun and remember, there are no rules. This is your space, do with it what you will.

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