1862 photo of famed Scottish painter George Henry discovered in Riverton

Project Ark collection photographer Eve Welch, left, and technician Sam Chandler with an ambrotype, an early family photograph of famed Scottish painter George Henry discovered in Riverton.

Delivered

Project Ark collection photographer Eve Welch, left, and technician Sam Chandler with an ambrotype, an early family photograph of famed Scottish painter George Henry discovered in Riverton.

When searching an old microfiche, a cardboard package with vulnerable writing was found in the old courthouse vault in Riverton.

Tucked away in the package was an ambrotype photograph of the Fisher family, with “Mr. & Mrs. GE Fisher at the back” written on the back.

Of the six people staring through the black and white photograph, the youngest happened to be the celebrated Scottish painter George Henry, of the cohort of artists known as the “Glasgow Boys”.

Project Ark collection photographer Eve Welch said that after finding out that the couple in the back were George and Margaret Fisher, she was eager to find out about their connection to New Zealand.

She only had contact with George Henry when she came into contact with one of George and Margaret’s descendants, Michael Turner, in Auckland.

Earlier Southland Times lead reporter Michael Turner was able to reveal to Welch that the little boy in the photo was four-year-old Henry.

George Henry, 1858-1943, was about 4 years old when the photo was taken.  He is depicted with his mother, grandmother, two uncles and an aunt.

Delivered

George Henry, 1858-1943, was about 4 years old when the photo was taken. He is depicted with his mother, grandmother, two uncles and an aunt.

Turner told Welch that the Fisher couple were his great-great-grandparents and that the couple married in 1862 and probably immigrated to New Zealand that same day.

Both Margaret and George were born in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1839 and worked in the cotton mills.

“Michael told me an anecdote passed down in the family… it’s about George coming to New Zealand; He was walking his family to church on Sunday, and the cotton mill owner stopped by on his horse and buggy on the way to church and splashed them with mud,” Welch said.

“And that was a catalyst for him to think, ‘Well, stop this, things are terrible here, we’re getting nowhere, the person we’re working for doesn’t care about us, we’re leaving, we’re going to have a new life,'” said Welch.

Tucked away in the package was an ambrotype photograph of the Fisher family, written

Delivered

Tucked away in the package was an ambrotype photograph of the Fisher family, written “Mr. & Mrs. GE Fisher in the back’ on the back.

The Fisher couple arrived in Dunedin and legend has it that George walked to Invercargill and Margaret followed in a boat afterwards.

“They worked in Invercargill for a short time and then went around Tuatapere Way,” Welch said.

Welch had no idea what Henry was until she spoke to her colleagues.

“I suppose it’s one of the joys of … family research when things like this come out of nowhere,” Turner said.

Turner had no idea of ​​his connection to George Henry until about 10 years ago, when an American descendant of Henry’s family contacted him.

“You just need to Google the Glasgow guys, and they were quite a famous bunch of painters who… getting fame in Glasgow between about 1880 and 1890 was really their kind of peak time.

‘They challenged the more traditional painters who … lived in Edinburgh, there was some sort of starch, I suppose there was art.

“They came up with their own take on art, and it was pretty innovative at the time,” Turner said.

Project Ark is a project to catalog Southland’s heritage collections and share them online. It is a partnership between Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Gore District Council.

Give a Comment