John Rae in group portrait, c. 1870

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John Rae in group portrait, c. 1870, State Library of New South Wales, SPF/1030,


Owner: State Library of NSW
Source: Flickr Commons
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    State Library of NSW

    • 05/May/2022 03:16:24

    Can anyone help with identifying why this group of people might be posing for this photo? John Rae is to the right in the centre.

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    • 06/May/2022 02:51:07

    I'm just going to describe what I see. There are 47 men gathered. Many of them wearing top hats. There appears to be a stand of pine trees behind them - they look like Norfolk Island pines to me but I'm not an expert on trees. The tree directly behind the men in the middle looks like its deciduous and lost its leaves or foliage. The banding on the trunk is quite distinctive so someone better than me should be able to identify it easily. Could it be a poinciana for example. I'm guessing this is taken in autumn/winter because it is not flowering. The indigenous gentleman seated on the far right is of particular interest. About half a dozen of the gentlemen are wearing white coats. I know very little about fashion of the times but could they be engineers? We need a railway expert's considered opinion. John Rae (2nd row 6th from the left according to the catalogue record for the photo) was born in 1813. It's always difficult to guess someone's age but he looks to be in his 50s to my eyes - maybe early 60s. There's a sketch of him here in 1853 in the illustrated Sydney News His hair is shorter in this photo. Again we would need a fashion expert to date his hair style. The Annual Agricultural Show of 1871 opened on 26 August at Prince Alfred Park. Maybe the men in white coats are judges. Are there Norfolk Pines in Prince Alfred Park? The railway opened in Bathurst on 8th April 1876. John would have been about 63. Could the local historical society help here? The first section of the Illawarra line was opened 18th October 1884 (John would be 71 years old so perhaps this is too late). According to this article after the official opening the party of ministers and dignitaries traveled by bus to Sandringham for lunch after taking the train back to Rockdale and wandered about the shore of the George's River. I can see some Norfolk Pines at Depena Reserve. Hope this helps.

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    State Library of NSW

    • 06/May/2022 05:57:23[email protected] thank you - that's a great start.

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    • 06/May/2022 07:15:07

    John Rae's home still standing at 278 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst …

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    covid convict

    • 08/May/2022 14:37:54

    One possible location (among many) might be 'Clovelly', Sir John Robertson's residence at Watson's Bay... One reason I'm putting this up as a possible is that Robertson evidently had a Maori boatman/gardener as a servant...he went by the name John Blanket...if the location were 'Clovelly', then John Blanket might be the chap on the rhs in the front row... - info on John Blanket here... After Sir John Robertson's death in 1891, 'Clovelly' was evidently left vacant and it fell (further) into disrepair...I gather it was demolished in 1903...just on a quick look, there aren't many good photos of 'Clovelly' in even if the pic was taken at 'Clovelly', just going on the few available/surviving photos, it's difficult to guess where exactly it might have been taken... - this SLNSW pic was evidently taken in 1884... - this SLNSW pic shows 'Clovelly' as a ruin...possibly at about the time it was demolished... - this Historic Houses Trust pic was evidently taken in 1884... All up, as things stand, I'm far from convinced that this pic was taken at 'Clovelly'...none of the items I've linked to are at all conclusive...and another significant point is that Sir John Robertson doesn't appear in the pic, which would have been unusual had it been taken at 'Clovelly'...the white coats also have me puzzled...they tend to suggest the location might have been a hospital or an asylum...or maybe the white coats are just afternoon dress...most of the white coat wearers have pale top hats to maybe it was a fashion thing.... - Robertson appears in this Historic Houses Trust was evidently taken at Vaucluse shortly before he died in you can see he had a very distinctive appearance...

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    covid convict

    • 10/May/2022 01:23:12 - SMH, 15th January, 1878 - 'Picnic to the Employees of The Balmain Steam Saw-Mills'...held at Correy's Tea Gardens at Botany...this is another 'possible'...but apart from John Rae, I can't definitely identify any of the VIPs named in the SMH's article in the SLNSW pic... - Illustrated Sydney News, 12th November, 1875...illustration of Correy's Tea Gardens here...looks like there might have been at least one pine tree...

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    covid convict

    • 16/May/2022 09:06:57

    There's a chap standing a few to the right (viewer's right) of John Rae who resembles E.C. Weekes, a mid/later 19th century NSW politician and business figure, etc... - Weekes appears in this PHM pic of the 1859 Cowper Ministry (standing rhs back row)...