# 37095

Photographer unknown.

Patrons outside the original Criterion Hotel, Kanowna, Western Australia, ca. 1896, with proprietor Mick Donellan and his wife pictured in the doorway.

$1,800.00 AUD

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Printing-out-paper gelatin silver print, 140 x 200 mm; no photographer’s imprint; a fully contemporary inscription in pencil on the verso reads: ‘Menzies, or any back block township’; note, however, that the signage on the building in the photograph clearly reads ‘Donellan’s Criterion Hotel’ and ‘Michael Donellan, Licensee’, which suggests that whoever wrote the inscription probably intended to point out how this Kanowna scene was also typical of other goldfields townships such as Menzies; the print has faded to some extent but still retains a wealth of detail, and is otherwise in excellent condition; unmounted.

An important Western Australian goldfields image, documenting a significant aspect of miners’ social recreation – drinking alcohol together – and also the architecture of the original single-storey Criterion Hotel in Kanowna. We have not been able to trace another copy of this photograph in institutional collections.

Kanowna – now a ghost town – is situated some 20 km east of Kalgoorlie. Gold was discovered in the area in 1893, and the townsite was gazetted in 1894. In its early days the town had several hotels, with most of them, including The Criterion, The White Feather, The Australia, The Occidental and The Black Swan, located in Isabella Street.

Michael “Mick” Donellan (abt. 1864-1941) was the proprietor of the Criterion Hotel. Donellan had emigrated to Queensland from County Clare in 1891. He then made his way across to Western Australia, via Broken Hill, at the start of the gold rush. A report on Donellan’s wedding to Elizabeth Lyons at Guildford on 29 January 1896, which appeared in the Coolgardie Mining Review on 1 February 1896, tells us that Donellan was already something of a popular celebrity in Kanowna by this time and well known as the proprietor of the Criterion:

‘His countrymen bear the reputation of having a quick eye for a pretty colleen, and when Mr. Donellan first met Miss Lyons at Broken Hill, it was all over, and he made up his mind that the future Mrs. D. was before him. The happy couple—they will be happy if good wishes to that end is a guarantee —have our warmest congratulations, and knowing the husband as we do, we have no doubt the name of Donellan will not die out with himself. The Kanowna Hotel, always popular, will be, if possible, more comfortable in every way, under the care of Mrs. Donellan, who is an excellent housekeeper, and a kind and pleasant young lady. Mine host and hostess resume the conduct of business of the Criterion next week, and will be glad to see friends at any time thereafter.’

In the photograph we offer here, there can be little doubt that the photogenic woman standing in the hotel doorway is Elizabeth Donellan (Lyons), and that the man at her side, wearing a large hat, is her husband Mick. The fact that there is no sign of any children, and that the slim-waisted Elizabeth does not appear to be pregnant, helps to date the photograph to around the first half of 1896, fairly soon after the couple’s marriage; their first child, Edward, was not born until 1897.

In November 1897 Mick Donellan was dramatically arrested on a charge of manslaughter.

From The Menzies Miner, 13 November 1897:

The Kanowna Fatality. Kanowna, Tuesday. Michael Donellan, the proprietor of the Criterion Holel, was arrested shortly after noon to-day on a charge of causing the death of Jas. Langham, alias Jas. Conroy, on Saturday last. The police acted cautiously in the matter, but after a full investigation the sergeant in charge of the station deemed it necessary to prefer a charge of manslaughter against Donellan, who is now confined in the lock-up. The accused will be brought before the Warden in the morning; when the police will apply for a remand to the coroner’s court on Saturday next, when a full investigation will be made into the circumstances attending the fatality.’

Fortunately for Donellan – and for his wife, who by this time had young Edward to care and provide for – the coroner reached a verdict of accidental death, and all charges against him were dropped. The Donellans acquired


‘A process common from 1860 to 1940, printing-out-paper (POP) uses strong levels of ultraviolet sunlight to bring out a visible image, rather than the chemical development required by developing-out paper. These papers were contact printed, a method most often associated with 19th-century photography. Commercially prepared printing-out-papers are still made and printed today, although they are considered a specialty product.’ (MoMA, New York)