Billy Billy Mary and two other Aboriginal men photographed at Cloncurry, northwest Queensland, 1913.
Gelatin silver print, 40 x 60 mm, laid down on a section cut from an old travel album page, with the photographer’s racist inscription beneath the image in white ink, dated at Cloncurry, 1913; the photograph is in good condition, with enough clarity to enable us to read the name ‘Billy Billy Mary’ on the brass breastplate worn by the man on the right.
This tiny but highly significant amateur photograph was taken with a private camera by an American visitor associated with a travelling circus troupe that toured New South Wales and Queensland in 1912-13; hence the use of the offensive American epithet in his/her caption.
Judging by the men’s attire, all three would have been working as stockmen on a local pastoral property. Billy Billy Mary’s face is hidden in the shadow of his akubra, but we can just make out his grey-white moustache. He does appear to be a decade or so older than his companions.
A full blood Aboriginal man by the name of Billy Billy died at Woorabinda, west of Rockhampton, in 1929 (Chief Protector of Aborigines: Register of Aboriginal Deaths), but it is by no means certain that he was the same man as the one pictured in this snapshot proudly wearing his king plate.
What is certain is that this image is a unique survivor, and an important document for research into the history of race relations in the Cloncurry district.