BALLANTYNE, John (compiler)
Album of pressed seaweed specimens collected at Queenscliff, Port Phillip, 1850s.
Folio (410 x 280 mm), original half leather over cloth covered boards (heavily worn, loss to some of the leather on spine and at corners, front hinge split), patterned endpapers, the front free-endpaper with ownership inscriptions ‘John Ballantyne’ recto and ‘John Ballantyne / Queenscliff / near Melbourne / Australia / 1858’ verso; containing 209 pressed marine algae specimens on paper sheets mounted recto of leaves; five of the sheets are annotated by Ballantyne ‘Queenscliff July 1858’, the remainder are without captions; at the rear of the album are five loose sheets with mounted pressed fern specimens collected in Melbourne and Tasmania 1889-92, all with manuscript captions or labels giving full collection data, and two extraneous specimens (presumably of family significance) from Stow in Scotland and Elswick Cemetery, Newcastle-on-Tyne; Ballantyne pressed and mounted his collected specimens with a considerable level of expertise, and as a result the vast majority are extremely well preserved and the mounts are free from foxing.
This substantial and rare collection of seaweed specimens is an outstanding example of one of the nineteenth century’s most popular collecting manias. It is also of great significance in terms of its potential value to Australian marine science research.
A crucial clue to understanding the background of the seaweed collector John Ballantyne is provided by the pressed fern from Stow in Scotland at the rear of the album. Stow is a small town in the Scottish borders, in the vicinity of Melrose. The following notice appeared in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus, 17 February 1855, which would seem to confirm Ballantyne’s arrival at Port Phillip from Scotland: ‘UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. – The Synod has recently received a considerable accession to its numbers by the arrival per the James Baines, of the Rev. Alexander D. Kininmont of Leith, the Rev. James Ballantyne of Edinburgh, and the Rev. John Ballantyne of Lilliesleaf, near Melrose.’
Fellow first-class passengers arriving on the James Baines were a Mary Ballantyne and a James Ballantyne, senior: it is possible that all four Ballantynes on the ship were from the same family.
On 3 March 1855, an extract from a sermon delivered by John Ballantyne at Geelong was published in The Argus: ‘There are many motives to induce persons to leave their native land: health, scenery, usefulness. Beautiful as no doubt many parts ol Australia are, those who have come from climbing the mountains and walking the wild glens of Caledonia will join with me in saying that they would not come for scenery. I come for usefulness. I deeply empathize with the emigration movement of the present time. It is now that the primal law to people the world is emphatically saying to the millions of England and Scotland, and other parts of the world, go forth to people the untenanted wilds, and build cities where there are no habitations….’
Within a few months, John Ballantyne had been appointed minister of the Presbyterian Church in South Melbourne. This notice appeared in The Argus, 28 July 1855: ‘EMERALD HILL. INDUCTION OF THE REV. JOHN BALLANTYNE. On the evening of Thursday, the 26th inst., the Rev. John Ballantyne, formerly of Lilliesleaf near Melrose, in Scotland, was inducted into the pastoral charge of the newly-formed United Presbyterian Congregation at Emerald Hill….’
On 22 July 1855 we know that Ballantyne was in Geelong once more to conduct a religious service. From The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 20 July 1855: ‘UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Special Services will be held in the Geelong Assembly Rooms, on Sabbath next, 22nd July. Rev. John Ballantyne, from Melbourne, will preach in the forenoon, at eleven o’clock….’
It is clear that even though he was based at Emerald Hill, Rev. Ballantyne was a regular visitor to Geelong in the 1850s, which must have provided him with frequent opportunities to collect his seaweed specimens at Queenscliff on the nearby Bellarine Peninsula.