[CAIRE, Nicholas John, attributed]
Large group of men photographed outdoors on New Year’s Day, 1874. Possibly Sandhurst (Bendigo) area, Victorian goldfields.
Very large format albumen print photograph, 215 x 270 mm; dated in manuscript in negative lower left ‘1 Jan 1874’; the verso has a contemporary inscription in pencil ‘No. 1’ and a straight-line wet stamp in green ink whose lettering is unfortunately indecipherable; the print has three vertical folds, with a short tear at the bottom edge of the central fold; the photograph is preserved in the previous owner’s archival mat, on which she wrote in pencil ‘Nicholas Caire mount’ – presumably, this is a reference to the remnants of a mount that must have perished.
The scrubby, scarred landscape certainly makes it possible that this fabulous outdoor group portrait was taken somewhere on the Central Goldfields. Nicholas Caire was living and working in Sandhurst (Bendigo) at this time.
There was a surprisingly large number of social events held in Bendigo on New Year’s Day, 1874 – in fact, if truth be told, there was probably more entertainment on offer than there would be today. We believe the men in our photograph could have been attending the Oddfellows Picnic on the Campaspe River near Runnymede, to the northeast of Bendigo. A clue to their identity, though, might be found in the presence of the distinguished Indian gentleman who is prominent in the centre of the back row.
On that morning – 1 January 1874 – a journalist in the Bendigo Advertiser gave a summary of all the local events that would take place in the day and evening:
‘ODDFELLOWS PICNIC. The Oddfellows hold their annual picnic today, on the banks of the Campaspe, at Runnymede, and as the place is easily attainable by rail, and is a very pleasant place, and numerous amusements are to be provided, it is expected that there will be a large attendance. EAGLEHAWK FRIENDLY SOCIETIES. The Friendly Societies, of Eaglehawk, hold sports at the Botanic Gardens’ reserve, Eaglehawk. A procession of the societies will start from the Town Hall for the Gardens in the forenoon. Innocent sports and games of all descriptions will be provided, so that visitors will have every opportunity of enjoying themselves. PROMENADE CONCERTS AND BALLS There is to be a promenade concert at the Sydenham Gardens given by Nicholl’s fine band while in the Oddfellows’ Hall in the evening, Hallas’s City Band will give a promenade Concert. At Nissen’s European Hotel, the Bendigo Deutsche Liedertafel hold their first anniversary ball in the evening. THEATRES. … At St. James’ Hall Miss Blanch Stammers’ and Mr. Garner will appear in the elegant comedy of ” The Happy Pair,” and this will be followed by the pantomime of “Robinson Crusoe.” At the Theatre Royal there will be a varied entertainment, concluding with the pantomime of ” Beauty and the Beast.” THE NEW YEAR’S RIFLE MATCHES The annual meeting of the Bendigo Rifles takes place to-day at the Back Creek Butts. Firing commences at 9 a.m., and as there are five distinct matches, shooting will not conclude before 6 p.m. From the number of entries made for the handicap matches there will, no doubt, be a large gathering of our riflemen at the Butts. That portion of the public also who take an interest in shooting will, it is expected, pay a visit during the day to the convincing ground. The Ladies’ Trophy, which was subscribed for by the ladies of Sandhurst, consists of a handsome silver tea and coffee service, and is on view at Mr. M. W. Bent’s, Pall Mall. The firing for this, the principal prize, will commence about half-past one o’clock. Prizes of the total value of about £35 are to he competed for.’
Provenance: Private collection of Joyce Evans OAM (1929-2019), Melbourne.