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To Lake St Clair with car and camera

Starting out from the Ouse River in the Hupmobile, 1914-15 trip. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.

It was the first motor trip to Lake St Clair. In 1915 pioneering motor tourers Ray and Edith McClinton mounted a two-week expedition from Launceston to the highland lake, with ‘Nina’, social pages and women’s editor of the Weekly Courier newspaper, as their guest. The Hupmobile party, towing an additional 120 kg of motor boat engine and luggage, battled rocks, ruts, rain and button grass up the Derwent Valley, breaking their trip at Ouse, the Ellises’ house near the Dee River, Weeding’s at Marlborough and Pearce’s at the Clarence River.[1]

McClinton, a San Francisco dentist who with his wife lived in Launceston 1904–28, would soon become one of Tasmania’s great tourism ‘boosters’.[2] Like fellow Launceston rev-heads Stephen Spurling III, Fred Smithies and HJ King, McClinton worshipped both nature and technology. He wanted to crash deep into the highlands, breaking down the physical and virtual isolation with carburettors and cameras. He was also imbued with fervour for worthy objects and the nineteenth-century tradition of public education that made him a consummate lantern slide lecturer on anything from x-raying teeth to colour photography.[3] Soon he would turn those skills to promoting Tasmania’s scenic wonders. Visiting Lake St Clair was one of the foundation stones of his eventual campaign in support of plans for a Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair national park.[4]

The Hup party at the government log cabin, Cynthia Bay, Lake St Clair, 1914-15 trip, with the unmistakable figure of Paddy Hartnett closest to the camera. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.
The motorboat and Paddy Hartnett in the lake, 1914-15 trip. Ray McClinton photo from the Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.18.

Already there was rudimentary infrastructure at the lake. The Hup party took advantage of the government-built three-room log cabin at Cynthia Bay. On foot at last they crossed the Cuvier River on a rustic bridge. McClinton attached his engine to the boat at the lake, enabling communication with the Perrin party —a pedestrian party—camped near the Narcissus at the northern end of the lake. Highland guide Paddy Hartnett had led them to Lake St Clair via the Mersey River.[5] ‘Nina’ marvelled at the reflections in the Narcissus River and the gambolling of a platypus. She made even the ‘perfume of petrol’ mingle poetically with the ‘sweet scent of the woods’, as the first propeller churned the waters of Lake St Clair. A storm disrupted the return journey down the lake but, with the aid of axe, saw, lamp and candles, McClinton soon fashioned ‘Nina’ a comfortable bower in the forest:

‘Imagine myrtle trees towering over a hundred feet high, and their branches interlaced, so that only patches of sky could be seen above, and only glimpses of the lake between. Then picture tree-ferns all around, and green moss for a carpet. Add to his a vision of remnants of fallen trees of age untold, coated with moss inches thick, like green plush. The imagine crystal streams trickling down the mountain side … The whole scene was fairyland …’[6]

But who was ‘Nina’? She was an outstanding journalist called Kate Farrell, better known by her pseudonyms ‘Nina’ and ‘Sylvia’. Her literary career spanned 33 years and included both Launceston dailies, the Daily Telegraph and the Examiner, plus their respective weekend newspapers, the Colonist and the Weekly Courier.[7] The scale of her anonymity can be tested quite easily by searching the Trove digital database: during her literary career c1894–1927 the name Kate Farrell has only 7 hits, while ‘Woman’s World’ by ‘Sylvia’ occurs 1933 times.[8] ‘Woman’s World’ was generally frocks, recipes and home hints. In 1914 Farrell published her 96-page Sylvia’s cookery book.[9] During World War One she turned her attention to bringing comfort to those at the front, and she was also a ‘booster’, penning tourist guide The charm of the north in 1922.[10] Farrell had been motor touring with the McClintons for years, having accompanied them to Lake Sorell in their Winton Four and on Edith McClinton’s one-woman non-stop run from Launceston to Richmond in the Hupmobile. [11] Farrell preceded Ray McClinton as a tourism ‘booster’, and at Lake St Clair she quickly got into her stride:

‘The beauty of the scene is inexpressible. One can imagine the crowds of tourists who would visit Lake St Clair if the road were made. A number of small chalets built, with a caretaker in charge, and a motor boat available for the use of visitors, would help matters along considerably. I hope it will not be long before such dreams come true’.[12]

Stuck in a wash-out near Ellendale, 1916-17 trip, King and McClinton in action. HJ King photo courtesy of Daisy Glennie.
The Hupmobile, containing the two ladies, and McClinton in the ‘Baby Grand’ Chevrolet, posed as if tackling the corded track, 1916-17 trip. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.
‘The darkroom at Lake St Clair’, HJ King despairs over the photographic facilities, 1916-17 trip. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.


The 1916-17 party at Bushy Park, Sir Philip Fysh with the white beard, the McClintons at centre, with Kate Farrell fourth from left. Bushwalker and park administrator WJ Savigny is second from left. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

The McClintons and Farrell repeated their Lake St Clair excursion two years later, this time with the established amateur photographer HJ King. While King drove McClinton’s faithful old Hupmobile (registration number 586), the dentist was at the helm of his new ‘Baby Grand’ Chevrolet (number 4465). Both vehicles survived—but, in the true tradition of motor touring, it was a near thing for much of the way. The government accommodation house had been destroyed by fire in the intervening two years. However, rather than repeat herself, Farrell minimised her tourism boosting and concentrated on describing the route taken and the social pleasantries of a visit to former premier Sir Philip Fysh’s Bushy Park estate.[13] The real reporter was King. McClinton deferred to the superior shutterbug, allowing him to be the official tour photographer, and many King photos from this trip appeared in the Weekly Courier during 1917, including his light-hearted ‘Lake St Clair Darkroom’.[14] King’s keen eye captured the logistical difficulties of the corrugated track, with block and tackle deployed near Ellendale, some pick and shovel work on the Sandhill at Lawrenny and rescue by a bullock team near Derwent Bridge. McClinton also appears to have had a long stint with a hand saw clearing a fallen tree. One of the most interesting images from the trip was McClinton, the ex-patriate American, recalling his military training by posing with a gun upon his shoulder, as if guarding the beauty of Lake St Clair.[15] How far they were from the European War (King was a conscientious objector, McClinton effectively neutral), yet the connection remained even here.[16]

Ray McClinton posed militarily in front of Mount Ida, 1916-17. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

‘To Lake St Clair with car and camera’ became one of first outings of the McClinton–King lantern lecturing team.[17] Later, with Fred Smithies, they would add Cradle Mountain and the Pelion region to their lecturing repertoire. At her retirement in 1927 Kate Farrell was ‘Launceston’s senior press woman’ and the last of the Weekly Courier’s original staff. [18] The McClintons were there to farewell her, just ahead of their departure from Tasmania.[19] Farrell died in 1933, after a long battle with illness, leaving only King to enjoy the road they had craved, the ‘missing link’—forerunner of the Lyell Highway—between Marlborough and Queenstown.[20] By then Lake St Clair was well on its way to becoming a tourism hub.

[1] See ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 21 January 1915, p.29; 28 January 1915, pp.27–28; 4 February 1915, pp.28 and 29; and 11 February 1915, p.28.

[2] Edith McClinton actually left Tasmania for Honolulu in June 1927 (‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 22 June 1927, p.2), Ray MClinton joining her there in November 1928 (‘Dr Ray McClinton’, Mercury, 8 November 1928, p.11).

[3] See, for example, ‘X-rays and the teeth’, Examiner, 18 June 1925, p.5.; and ‘Local and general’, Daily Telegraph, 5 July 1923, p.4. For Launceston rev-head photographers generally, see Nic Haygarth, The wild ride: revolutions that shaped Tasmanian black and white wilderness photography, National Trust of Australia (Tasmania), Launceston, 2008.

[4] McClinton and Smithies had visited the Du Can Range area in 1913, and may have visited Lake St Clair at that time, but that was a pedestrian trip.

[5] See ‘The adventures of Paddy’s Gang: an account of a Perrin family trip to Lake St Clair guided by Hartnett over the Christmas–New Year period in 1914–1915’, diary in possession of Bessie Flood.

[6] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 28 January 1915, p.28.

[7] ‘Miss K Farrell’s death’, Examiner, 4 July 1933, p.9. Thanks to Ross Smith for identifying ‘Nina’.

[8] The Weekly Courier is not yet indexed on Trove, making it impossible to search on ‘Social notes’ by ‘Nina’. Propriety of the time contributed to this disparity, insisting that she be referred to simply as ‘Miss Farrell’ throughout her life.

[9] ‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1927, p.2. The full details are K Farrell, Sylvia’s cookery book: tested recipes and items of interest, Launceston, 1914.

[10] K Farrell, The charm of the north, Launceston City Council, Launceston, 1922.

[11] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘Camping at Interlaken’, Weekly Courier, 21 January 1909, p.29; ‘Exhaust’, ‘Motor notes’, Daily Telegraph, 9 November 1911, p.11.

[12] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 11 February 1915, p.28.

[13] ‘Nina’ (Kate Farrell), ‘A trip to Lake St Clair’, Weekly Courier, 11 January 1917, p.27. The trip was also written up by ‘Spark’ (Charles George Saul), ‘Motoring’, Examiner, 13 January 1917, p.4. Thanks to Ken Young for identifying ‘Spark’.

[14] See Weekly Courier, 11 January 1917, p.17; 18 January 1917, p.18; 25 January 1917, p.17; 1 February 1917, p.17; 15 February 1917, p.17; 22 March 1917, p.20; 5 April, pp.17, 20 and 21; 31 May, p.21; 13 September, p.17; 18 October 1917, p.17; and 1 November 1917 (Christmas issue), p.22.

[15] Ray McClinton performed military training 1900–02 in California, film no.981549, MF4:2, National Guard Registers v.61, 1st Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Enlisted Men, 1883–1902, California, Military Registers, 1858–1923.

[16] McClinton supported the Allied war effort, but America did not enter World War One until April 1917.

[17] See ‘Spark’ (Charles George Saul), ‘Motoring’, Examiner, 3 February 1917, p.4; ‘Plug’, ‘Motor notes’, Daily Telegraph, 13 February 1917, p.6.

[18] ‘Journalist honoured’, Examiner, 24 May 1927, p.7, ‘Social notes’, Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1927, p.2.

[19] The McClintons’ names were accidentally omitted from the Examiner’s story of this event. See the correction, Examiner, 25 May 1927, p.7.

[20] ‘Miss K Farrell’s death’, Examiner, 4 July 1933, p.9.

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‘Take her with you!’: Lucy King, the lady in the sidecar

‘The darkroom at Lake St Clair’, HJ King despairs over the photography facilities, 1917. HJ King photo, courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

The young Herb (HJ) King was a rev-head with an artist’s eye, a man beguiled by cameras and carburettors. The frontage of his father’s motorcycle shop, John King and Sons, which he eventually took over, remains a landmark of the Kingsway, off Brisbane Street, Launceston, long after it closed. In 1921 the rival Sim King’s motorbike shop at the other end of Brisbane Street ran an advert for machines with ‘double-seated’ sidecars: ‘Take her with you!’[1] That is exactly what Herb King was already doing, the sight of his wife Lucy in the sidecar of his Indian motorbike becoming a signature of his photography in the period 1919–25.

It was perhaps King’s conservative Christadelphian faith that determined that he marry young, have children and place the role of family man before all else. He married Lucy Minna Large in Hobart in December 1918. Lucy recalled that King drove her father from Hobart to Launceston. Alighting from the car, Charles Large said ‘Oh, my boy, it’s a long way’, to which King replied, ‘Yes, Charles, what about letting Lucy and I get married at Christmas, instead of waiting?’ She was eighteen years old. He was 26.[2]

Lucy in the sidecar at Moina, just off the Cradle Mountain Road, 1919. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

After this, before their first child was born, Lucy was a feature of King’s photography, accompanying him on most of his photographic trips. King got to Cradle Mountain slightly ahead of his nature-loving friends Fred Smithies and Ray McClinton. In December 1919 Herb, Lucy, her sister and a friend started for Cradle on motorbike and sidecar. After staying a night at Wilmot, they had Christmas dinner at Daisy Dell, Bob Quaile’s half-way house, with Lucy making a success of her first Christmas pudding. The track from Daisy Dell across the Middlesex Plains to Cradle Valley was so rough that Quaile bore most visitors along it on various horse-drawn wagonettes. Lucy recalled that on this occasion he was equipped with a two-seater:

‘He could only take one passenger and himself, and he had a horse for other people to ride. I had grown up on a farm and I was happy to ride, but my sister wouldn’t get on, and my husband got on one side and got off the other, and said ‘That’s all I’m having’. We arrived at Cradle Mountain with pounds of sausages around someone’s neck because it had rained and washed the paper off … ‘[3]

This was King’s first meeting with Gustav Weindorfer, the proprietor of Waldheim Chalet at Cradle Valley, who was then campaigning to establish a national park at Cradle Mountain. Weindorfer guided the Kings to the summit of Cradle, and it was there, with numerous peaks and Bass Strait spread out before him, that King’s plan to map the country by aerial photography was developed. ‘It was a glorious day’, King recalled, but the ‘progressive’ man of machines was impatient with foot transport:

‘ … as the afternoon was now getting on, we made a laborious descent over the great boulders and across the plateau to Waldheim. How slow the travelling was!—nearly three hours to cover a short three miles—but amidst such scenery we made light of it. We said to ‘Dorfer’ (as he afterwards became known to his friends): ‘Just fancy; if we had a ‘plane we could do the distance in under three minutes …’ Afterwards we talked as we sat inside the great fireplace of the possibilities of preparing an aerodrome in Cradle Valley, and of landing in Lake Dove with a seaplane’.[4]

Car trouble for McClinton on the road to the Wolfram mine, Easter 1920, with (left to right) Paddy Hartnett and Fred Smithies helping out; Lucy King ensconced in the Indian sidecar; and either Ida Smithies or Edith McClinton blurred in motion in the foreground. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.
Lucy looking distinctly unimpressed on the road to Pelion at Easter 1920: was it the rough ride or the close attention that dismayed her? HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

Lucy’s passive role in King’s photos belies that she could not only ride a horse, but was the first Hobart woman to own a motorcycle driver’s licence. She proved her mettle as a walker, too, when at Easter 1920 the Kings visited Pelion Plain and the upper Mersey River, with Fred and Ida Smithies, Ray and Edith McClinton, and Paddy Hartnett as a guide. This was the first time motor vehicles—that is, McClinton’s Chevrolet and King’s Indian—had entered the valley of the upper Forth River. The steep, rutted climb out of Lemonthyme Creek defeated the car until Hartnett cut wooden blocks to support the wheels. The guide also cleared a large tree off the track next day, after the party had spent a night at ‘the Farm’, that is, Mount Pelion Mines’ hut and stables near Gisborne’s Farm. The ‘Bark hut’, 3 km north of the Lone Pine wolfram mine (aka the Wolfram mine), was the terminus for the vehicles. Only Hartnett’s ingenuity and McClinton’s kit bag of cross-cut saw, axe and shovel got them that far. Now they started on foot for the mine and beyond that the Zigzag Track to the copper mine huts at Pelion Plain, a pack horse carrying much of their gear.[5] Lucy recalled walking


‘eight miles in the pouring rain and when he reached the hut at the top nobody had a dry stitch. Fortunately for the ladies there were two trappers there, and they obligingly said, ‘You come into the hut where this fire is, and get yourselves dried out, and the men will go to the other hut and make a fire for the same purpose’. The next morning when we woke up it was one of the most beautiful sights that was possible. There wasn’t a blade of grass that wasn’t covered in snow’.[6]

Mount Oakleigh and Old Pelion Hut, still with their dusting of snow, Easter 1920. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

That view included Mount Oakleigh, which Herb King photographed. Members of the party visited Lake Ayr and the head of the Forth River Gorge before starting on the return journey.[7]

‘The huntsman’s story’, taken in the mine workers’ hut at Pelion Plain, with (left to right) Ray McClinton, Paddy Hartnett, Lucy King, HJ King, Ida Smithies and Fred Smithies. HJ King photo courtesy of Maggie Humphrey.

Although Paddy Hartnett never used the media, he was equally significant as Weindorfer in the development of a Cradle Mountain‒Lake St Clair National Park. Hartnett’s Du Cane Hut, also known as Cathedral Farm and Windsor Castle, was effectively his Waldheim, a tourist chalet among the mountains. King’s treks to Cradle Mountain and Pelion with their respective guides were transformational in the sense that, although he never became a hardened bushwalker like his fellow photographers Spurling, Smithies and McClinton, he did become a promoter of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park proposal. McClinton photos from this trip appeared in the Weekly Courier, and he, Smithies and King lantern lectured about the proposal.[8]

A slide survives of King promoting himself as a nature photographer, suggesting that he toyed with the idea of turning professional. Presumably, he decided it would not pay. The Kings were a very conservative family. His grandmother, said to be the first Christadelphian in Tasmania, was reputedly disgusted by King’s spending on photographic materials. Perhaps family influenced his choice of career. It is possible that the family motorcycle business seemed a safer bet, or that he felt obliged to follow in his father’s footsteps. Ultimately, people, family and faith meant more to King than any machine or any gadget. It was probably not just for artistic purposes—the compositional need for a foreground—that he placed Lucy in so many of his images. It signalled that she was foremost in his thinking.

[1] See, for example, Sim King advert, Examiner, 2 July 1921, p.14.

[2] Lucy King, transcript of an interview by Ross Case, 18 March 1993, OH18 (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery [hereafter QVMAG]).

[3] Lucy King, transcript of an interview by Ross Case, 18 March 1993, OH18 (QVMAG).

[4] HJ King, ‘A flight to the Cradle Mountain’, Weekly Courier Christmas Annual, 3 November 1932, p.12.

[5] ‘Motors, cycles and push bikes’, Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1920, p.5.

[6] Lucy King, transcript of an interview by Ross Case, 18 March 1993, OH18 (QVMAG).

[7] ‘Motors, cycles and push bikes’, Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1920, p.5.

[8] See Weekly Courier, 15 July 1920, p.24. McClinton’s photos of the Easter 1920 trip with the Kings, Smithies and Hartnett was used here to illustrate part one of George Perrin’s account of a January 1920 trip into the same country with his wife, Florence Perrin, their friend Charlie MacFarlane and Hartnett (‘Trip to Tasmania’s highest tableland’, Weekly Courier, 8 July 1920, p.37).

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The disappearance of Joshua Anson, Tasmanian landscape photographer

Joshua Anson's 1877 and 1896 mug shots, from GD128-1-2, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO).
Joshua Anson’s 1877 and 1896 mug shots, from GD128-1-2, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO).

Reinvention is part of the Australian convict story. Many convicts transported to the antipodes reinvented themselves as respectable society figures after serving their sentences. Joshua Anson’s surname was a byword for convictism, Anson being the name of a convict hulk which for years was stationed in the River Derwent, Tasmania. Born in Hobart with a hint of the stigma of convictism already attached to him on 29 October 1854, he would not only serve time and reinvent himself twice but he would pioneer convict tourism, making him almost a post-Modernist of the post-transportation era.

The second of three brothers born to Joshua Anson senior and Eliza Anson née Smith, Joshua Anson grew up to be a physically small man with large ambitions.[1] Unfortunately, his ambition as a landscape photographer shamed him before it famed him. In 1875, at the end of a three-year apprenticeship, 20-year-old Anson was placed in charge of his employer Henry Hall Baily’s Liverpool Street, Hobart shop, and offered an interest in the business. Anson was already a keen photographer, habitually rising at 5AM in order to utilise the morning light, and processing his own prints in his spare time in his home workshop.

About eighteen months after graduation as a ‘photographic artist’, however, Anson came under Baily’s suspicion. Four of the latter’s missing Souvenirs of Tasmania view albums were eventually found in Anson’s workshop. Further police searching revealed landscape and portrait prints, mounts and negatives stolen from Baily. Testimonials to Anson’s good character, including one from the photographer Samuel Clifford, failed to save him from a two-year gaol term for ‘larceny as a servant’.[2]

A shot of Port Arthur rebranded by Beattie. Joshua Anson was marketing the old penal settlement before Beattie began work as a professional photographer. Courtesy of TAHO.
A shot of Port Arthur rebranded by JW Beattie. Joshua Anson was marketing the old penal settlement before Beattie began work as a professional photographer. Courtesy of TAHO.

He served eighteen months—not at Gothic Port Arthur, but at the Hobart Gaol in Campbell Street. In July 1879, after his release, Joshua and his brothers Henry (1853–90) and William (1857–81) Anson established a photographic studio at 132 Liverpool Street, Hobart.[3] This had been Clifford’s address until 1878, and the Anson brothers seem to have acquired the Clifford photo stock. Joshua’s experience with Baily and his own previous photographic efforts presumably gave the brothers a head start in this new enterprise. He set to work with a series of 26 10-inch by 8-inch views of the Hobart and Launceston regions, including Silver Falls, Mount Wellington, Hobart and Launceston Main Line Railway Stations, Launceston’s Princes Square, People’s (City) Park, St Joseph’s Church and School (in Margaret Street, Launceston), Corra Linn and Cataract Gorge.[4] The immediate purpose of this exercise was probably submission of a dozen scenic prints to the Sydney Exhibition during August 1879.[5] The ultimate purpose would have been to establish a souvenir trade in Tasmanian scenic views. The Tasmanian newspaper reported that Anson would supply his new images to the public at a moderate price, and suggested that ‘if he would mount them in convenient portfolios, they would become popular with strangers, as souvenirs of their visit to Tasmania’.[6]

Beattie comes aboard ... and so does the Mount Bischoff tin mine, in Just the Thing III, the Anson Studio advertising album from 1884. Edward Ash was a Hobart chemist and amateur photographer who not only set up a Waratah branch but started a newspaper in Waratah. This photo could have been taken by Ash or by Beattie. Courtesy of TAHO.
Beattie comes aboard … and so does the Mount Bischoff tin mine, in Just the Thing III, the Anson Studio advertising album from 1884. Edward Ash was a Hobart chemist and amateur photographer who not only set up a Waratah branch but started a newspaper in Waratah. This photo could have been taken by Ash or by Beattie. Courtesy of TAHO.

This is exactly what the Anson Brothers did. However, their biggest coup was recruiting Scottish immigrant John Watt (JW) Beattie, who became not only the shop manager but the firm’s leading landscape and portrait photographer. The Ansons needed help. All three were epileptics. Twenty-three-year-old William Anson died as the result of a swimming pool accident in 1881; Henry Anson, a married father, would eventually leave the firm but rely on Joshua’s financial help up until his death in 1890, aged only 36.[7]

Beattie has been credited with pioneering convict tourism in Tasmania, but the Port Arthur penal establishment was a subject of Anson photography from 1880, when it appeared in the firm’s Just the Thing photo album. The assumption that Beattie, who joined the Anson Studio two years later in 1882, infused it with his appreciation of history ignores the historical impulse that already existed among Hobart’s professional portraitists. It was almost obligatory in the 1860s and 1870s to photograph or paint the ‘Last of the Aborigines’. In 1880 Ansons photographed a 60-year-old pencil sketch of Hobart Town, featuring Aborigines, and both their ‘Photographs of Hobart and Surroundings, Huon Valley’ (1880?) and Tasmanian Views (1883) albums opened with a photo of the recently deceased Truganini, the former album giving her King Billy (William Lanne) as a consort.[8] . In 1884 ‘Mr Anson the photographer’ stepped off the fishing smack Surprise at Carnarvon, the sanitised name for Port Arthur, where he was reported to have shot several more Port Arthur images.[9]

Browning Falls (Russell Falls) on the Russell River, probably shot for Anson Studio by JW Beattie and later re-branded as his. From Anson Studio's Picturesque and Interesting Tasmania album (1890), courtesy of TAHO.
Browning Falls (Russell Falls) on the Russell River, probably shot for Anson Studio by JW Beattie and later re-branded as his. From Anson Studio’s Picturesque and Interesting Tasmania album (1890), courtesy of TAHO.
Anson Studio advert from Picturesque and Interesting Tasmania (1890), courtesy of TAHO.
Anson Studio advert from Picturesque and Interesting Tasmania (1890), courtesy of TAHO.

Joshua Anson’s offer of partnership to his shop manager JW Beattie in 1890 not only demonstrates the high regard in which the latter’s services were held, but also Anson’s financial problems. Like many a businessman, he became bankrupt during the economic depression of the early 1890s. Court proceedings in April 1892 revealed that Anson had been in serious financial trouble for at least five months, struggling even to pay rent at his lodgings. [10] Part of his downfall was his speculation in shares in the Zeehan–Dundas mining field which had collapsed with the closure of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land. He claimed to have little idea of the true state of the books until advised by an accountant, although this could have been a ploy to try to avoid culpability for his debts.[11] It was at this point that Beattie bought the Anson Studio, and with it the rights to all the Anson brothers photos taken not only by himself and Joshua Anson but the stock secured from Samuel Clifford. Many Anson Studio photos were re-branded ‘JW Beattie’.

Having lost his studio and his back catalogue, and still being subject to bankruptcy proceedings, Anson tried to re-establish himself as a photographer. Perhaps the strain showed when in March 1893 he was hospitalised with a head injury after collapsing during an epileptic episode in Collins Street.[12] He offered unsuccessfully to photograph lighthouses for the Marine Board of Hobart in July 1893.[13] He was finally discharged from bankruptcy in September 1893.[14]

How did Anson make a living? It is possible he worked for Beattie in his old studio, their positions reversed. In October 1895 he failed in an application to recoup £25 from the government for some Tasmanian tourism photos which had been displayed in the Agent-General’s Office in London years before.[15] With that effort to start afresh defeated, Anson made no further public appearances until May 1896 when he returned to the dock after nineteen years on a charge of robbery from the person. He was alleged to have stolen almost £33 from Strahan storekeeper Charles Perkins at the bar of the Royal Hotel. Anson, who was arrested at Mrs Hanson’s boarding house in Collins Street, appeared in court with bruises on his face resulting from two epileptic fits suffered while in custody.[16] Two months later he was found guilty of receiving and sentenced to twelve months’ gaol.[17]

Anson’s rap sheet records the legacy of epilepsy, noting scars on both side of his forehead. He also had a disfigured left thumb and was missing a second toe from some mishap.[18] When it seemed things could get no worse for Anson, while he was in gaol a newspaper advertisement was run threatening to sell his uncollected clothes.[19] He was released on 26 July 1897: ‘freedom’ was the single word recorded on his rap sheet.[20] Whereupon he disappeared. There is no record of Anson living or dying in Tasmania after that date, although of course he could have changed his name. Forty-two years old, he had plenty of time to start a new career if bankruptcy and two prosecutions for dishonesty could not be held against him.

It is possible that he re-established himself in Western Australia. In November 1897 a John Anson proceeded against a photographer named Flegeltaub for wages due in the Police Court in Perth, Western Australia.[21] In July 1898 a ‘Mr Anson, a photographer engaged by the government to procure photographs of the district for railway carriages etc’, visited Bridgetown in southern Western Australia.[22] Two months later he was on a similar mission at Albany, procuring photos of the harbour, King Georges Sound, the Denmark forests, and in the York area. His employer was named as the Under Secretary of Railways.[23] Taking scenic tourism photos for the government would have been a familiar task for Joshua Anson, and mimicked Beattie’s on-going role as photographer to the Tasmanian government. In October 1904 a John Anson was initially named as one of seven people who went missing when a yacht called the Thelma disappeared in a squall off Fremantle. The men had set out with the intention of visiting Garden Island.[24] However, later reports of the same incident omitted Anson and put the toll at only six people. Joshua Anson may well have become Joshua Anon, reinvented itinerant landscape photographer, posthumous portraitist, a man without a past in a post-convict world.

[1] Birth registration no.1476/1854.

[2] ‘Supreme Court: Second Court’, Mercury, 11 July 1877, p.2; ‘Supreme Court: sentencing’, Mercury, 12 July 1877, p.3.

[3] The Hobart Assessment Roll, Hobart Town Gazette, 1 January 1878, p.36 places Clifford at 132 Liverpool St; whereas Charles Hartam is both owner and occupier of that property at 1 January 1879, p.35. Anson Brothers first advertised their 132 Liverpool St ‘(LATE “CLIFFORD’S”)’ studio in the Mercury on 30 July 1879.

[4] ‘Photographic views’, Tasmanian, 19 July 1879, p.11.

[5] ‘For the Sydney Exhibition’, Mercury, 22 August 1879, p.2.

[6] ‘Photographic Views’, Tasmanian, 19 July 1879, p.11.

[7] ‘Fatal accident at the Domain Baths’, Mercury, 16 February 1881, p.2; ‘The accident in the Domain Baths’, Mercury, 24 February 1881, p.3; ‘Sudden death’, Mercury, 26 March 1890, p.2.

[8] Charles Woolley, for example, submitted portraits of Tasmanian Aborigines to the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition (Mercury, 25 September 1866, p.3), while HH Baily painted Truganini, the so-called ‘last queen’ of the Aborigines (‘Pictures for the Sydney Exhibition’, Mercury, 5 August 1879, p.2). For the pencil sketch, see ‘An interesting relic’, Mercury, 2 April 1880, p.2.

[9] ‘Carnarvon’, Tasmanian Mail, 19 April 1884, p.20.

[10] ‘Bankruptcy Court’, Launceston Examiner, 14 April 1892, p.3.

[11] ‘Supreme Court’, Mercury, 24 May 1892, p.4.

[12] ‘Hospital cases’, Mercury, 17 March 1893, p.2.

[13] ‘Marine Board of Hobart’, Mercury, 29 July 1893, p.1.

[14] ‘Application in bankruptcy’, Mercury, 2 September 1893, p.3.

[15] ‘House of Assembly’, Mercury, 12 October 1895, p.1.

[16] ‘Alleged robbery’, Tasmanian News, 29 May 1896, p.2.

[17] ‘Second court’, Mercury, 29 July 1896, p.4.

[18] GD128/1/2, p.257 (TAHO).

[19] ‘Late advertisements’, Tasmanian News, 4 August 1896, p.4.

[20] GD128/1/2, p.257 (TAHO).

[21] ‘City Police Court’, West Australian, 9 November 1897, p.7.

[22] ‘Bridgetown’, Bunbury Herald, 2 July 1898, p.3.

[23] ‘England’s fleet’, Albany Advertiser, 13 September 1898, p.3; ‘York Municipal Council’, Eastern Districts Chronicle, 10 September 1898, p.3.

[24] ‘Disappeared in a squall: seven men missing’, Evening News (Sydney), 26 October 1904, p.4.