Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sepia Saturday 139: Uncle Farquhar and his faithful hound

Sepia Saturday 139

I have a little catching up to do with reading the previous two editions of Sepia Saturday, so my effort for this week's hasn't been given the attention to detail that I would have preferred. Nevertheless, I hope readers will appreciate the contribution, which I think bears at least a passing similarity to Alan Burnett's image prompt, in the form of a Great War era poster exhorting people to recycle.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Portrait of man and dog by unidentified photographer
Plain paper print (65.5 x 107mm)
Collection of Brett Payne

Judging by the size of this plain paper print (2½” x 4¼”), probably a contact print, it was taken with Kodak 116 film or an equivalent in another brand. The casual pose of the subjects in the informal garden setting suggests this was a portrait by an amateur photographer, using one of the many cheap cameras that became available in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, such as the 1A Folding Pocket Kodak.

A smartly dressed man, complete with a Homburg hat (popularised by Edward VII) and pipe in hand, stands on the luxurious lawn, facing the camera and with his body angled to the right. His is quietly attended by a largish dog which may be a border collie, but I'll leave the identification of breed to those more qualified. In the background are flower beds with a glass-topped cold frame, and some plants growing up a wire trellis, against a wooden paling fence. The latter probably separates the subject's garden from that of the neighbour, whose glass-panelled greenhouse with an open skylight forms a backdrop to the portrait. A three to four metre high tree - perhaps some kind of fruit tree - with a supporting stake, is sited to the left of the cold frame, while some much larger trees are just visible in the background. Since the branches of one of the larger trees are bare, and yet there are still leaves on the young, presumably deciduous tree, I would tentatively deduce that the photograph was taken some time in the autumn.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
"Uncle Farquhar Nov 1914"
Reverse of plain paper print
Collection of Brett Payne

The reverse of the print reveals that it was once pasted into one of the black-paged albums that became very popular in the first few decades of the 20th Century. A good portion of the album page from which it was torn has remained firmly affixed to the back of the print, and it is on this remnant that a later hand has inscribed "Uncle Farquhar Nov 1914" in pencil, a convenient confirmation of my autumnal guess.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
George & Mary Bloye's Photo Album
1860s/1870s style carte de visite album with brass clasps, publisher unknown Collection of Brett Payne

I must at this stage hasten to point out that I was not the vandal, and should also reveal that I found the snapshot amongst a collection of twenty-seven cartes de visite, generally from a much earlier period, inserted within a standard leatherette-covered mid-Victorian carte de visite album that I purchased some years ago - pictured above.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Portraits of Emma Jane Farquhar and Joseph Kent Farquhar
from George & Mary Bloye's Photo Album
Collection of Brett Payne

The album contains a number of annotations in the same pencilled hand that is seen above, both on the backs of card mounts and occasionally on the album pages themselves. There is also a small, slightly damaged label stuck at the top right hand corner of the flyleaf, inscribed "George Bloye Birmingham 1858," although this replaces an earlier, but now erased, inscription which reads, in past, "... Bloye ...ptember 1922," all in the same hand. Also written in pencil on the flyleaf in the by now familiar handwriting, then messily crossed out, is the following: "It was Grandpa's in 1858."

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Inscription on flyleaf of George & Mary Bloye's Photo Album
Collection of Brett Payne

I won't go into too much detail about either the annotations or the individuals mentioned, but wanted to point out that clues like these are vital in determining the integrity and provenance of a photograph album, whether it is from a family collection or purchased, as this one was, on eBay. One must always treat annotations with some suspicion since, as appears to be the case with this album, they are often written a good time after the album was purchased and compiled. However, having done some genealogical research into the names mentioned and marrying up these individuals with the subjects of the photographs, I am satisfied that the collection is largely intact, and not merely compiled by some latter day collector or eBay hopeful.

Notwithstanding the overall apparent authenticity of the collection, it is clear that the album could not have belonged to George Bloye in 1858 - apart from his being only 13 years old at the time, carte de visite portraits - and by extension the albums in which they were accommodated - did not become available to the general populace until 1860-1861. The album was probably produced and sold in the late 1860s or 1870s, when George Bloye would have been in his 20s or early 30s. Indeed it it is quite possible that it was a wedding gift to George and his wife in 1869.

Genealogical investigations have revealed that the subject of this portrait is Joseph Kent Farquhar (1849-1925), brother-in-law to the probable original album owners George Bloye (1845-1922) and his wife Mary née Moore (1844-1922). Joseph's wife Emma Jane née Moore (1849-1933) is the subject of the somewhat earlier portrait on the page opposite to that of Joseph.

So ... the question now arises: What is this portrait of Joseph Farquhar, probably taken in November 1914, and originally pasted into a contemporary album during or soon after the Great War, doing in a mid-Victorian family album? The truth is that very few albums remain in the exact state that they were originally compiled when they are handed down through the generations. George and Emma Bloye both died in 1922, and the album - perhaps together with other photos and/or albums - is likely to have been inherited by one of their two children George Herbert Bloye (1870-1931), a Wesleyan minister, and Ethel Mary Harmer (1873-1952), wife of a Wesleyan schoolmaster.

Ethel died in 1952 without any surviving issue, while George Herbert and his wife had two daughters, Joyce Ethel (1902-) and Winifred Mary (1906-). Being the only grandchildren of George Bloye senior, Joyce and Winfred would have been next in line to receive the albums, and one of the two was almost certainly the author of the pencilled captions. Given that most of the subjects of the photos in the album would still have been alive when the girls were in their youth, they would have been familiar with most of the faces, and probably also inserted some of the newer loose portraits into any empty spaces.

View Larger Map Home of Joseph K. & Emma J. Farquhar in 1911
22 Beresford Road, Rusholme, Manchester

What of Joseph Farquhar himself? The 1911 Census shows him and his wife living with three unmarried daughters in a Victorian terraced house in Rusholme, a southern suburb of Manchester, and it seems likely that this was where the snapshot was taken of him in the garden some three years or so later.

View Larger Map
Home & Garden of Joseph K. & Emma J. Farquhar in 1911
22 Beresford Road, Rusholme, Manchester

A bird's eye view of the present day address reveals what appears to be a paved or concreted back garden, but the cold frame of yesteryear was probably placed against the south-facing northern wall of the property, so as to make the most of the sun.

Image © Copyright Robbie and courtesy of
Dunrossness Methodist Chapel
© Copyright Robbie and courtesy of

Joseph Farquhar was born in the village of Dunrossness in the Shetland Islands where his father was a Wesleyan minister, but moved with his family to England when he was a young lad. He married Emma Jane Moore, daughter of a carpenter, at Birmingham in 1876, and spent all of his working life employed by a hardware manufacturer, initially as a clerk, then later as a manager and agent.

This post turned out a bit longer than I expected. If you've persevered for this long, I hope you've found the journey of interest, and still have some time left to read the other Sepia Saturday contributions.


  1. Uncle Farquhar looks like a man content with his lot, standing in a relaxed pose in the garden, pipe in hand, dog at his feet. He's not wearing his gardening clothes but clearly wants to show off his garden.

  2. It has been a pleasure meeting and getting to know Uncle Farquhar. I believe you are right on about how the "new" photo got mixed in with the old. I found such an album in my first apartment, left behind by "somebody." I was going to take the old photos out and put mine in but never got around to it. A few years ago I decided to try to return the album to someone who might care, and sure enough, I was successful.

  3. A man, his pipe and his dog in a garden - you couldn't get more relaxed than that. Good detective work again, Brett.

  4. So your effort for this week's Sepia Saturday contribution is without the attention to detail that you would have preferred. Hmmm, I wonder how a post looks like where you did :)
    Great post!

  5. Your photo fits very well with the theme!

    The photo album looks very much like the photo albums which belonged to my 2nd great-grandparents. A distant cousin of mine is the lucky descendant who inherited them.

  6. Another splendid example of how to find the disguised clues, Brett. I admire your perseverance to look at a photo from every physical angle and every historical perspective. But alas only Uncle Farquhar knows the name of his dog.

  7. As usual, fabulous. It is photographic archaeology and both you and Mike B are experts at it.


Join my blog network
on Facebook