Some photographs capture far more than a group of people, a place, an event or happening. Such is the case with this marvelous snapshot which my grandfather, William Borthwick, took at his eldest son’s first birthday party in 1922 at the family property, Raeshaw, which is at Fulham, a few miles west of
The dramatis personae are friends, relations, and neighbors, evidently engaging in a friendly tug-of-war between two teams of women and children apparently of roughly equal strength—the kind of happy social exercise in which by all accounts my grandfather specialized.
Ably assisted by my mother, whose memory is good, I have decyphered the highly abbreviated key on the reverse, which consists only of surnames. From left to right, therefore, beginning with the little boy, Cousin Norman “Torch” Gooch (so named for his glowing red hair), the son of Uncle Arch and Aunt Norn (Norma), the rest of the group may be identified as follows.
After Torch comes Airlie Harrison, a friend of Granny’s. The
Leading the opposing side is Alison Reid, a friend from
The three infants in the foreground are (left to right) Master Macdonald, Miss Macdonald (of Armadale—the property, not the suburb of
The Bowman girls’ party dresses, the hats and coats worn by most of the grown-ups—where on earth are all the men?—the neat lawn, those plucky shrubs newly planted by Granny, and the wide gravel drive in the foreground stand in surprising contrast with the flat bleakness of the distant paddocks that descend into the background and the numerous dead trees dotted over them, although these are actually remnants of the aggressive process of land clearing, and not really any indication of severe drought or blight. (The whole of
The Fosters, the Crookes, the Thompsons, Harrisons, Gooches and Pearsons (Granny’s family) could justly lay claim to being the closest thing to a landed gentry that ever existed in
Unfortunately we do not know which of the two teams won the tug-of-war, but I rather fancy that Alison Reid, who was formidable, made sure it was hers.