My Favourite Photograph

The Edward Family

The photograph was taken around 1907/1908 as the baby in his mother’s arms, Edward Scorgie, was born in October 1907.

So why did I choose this as my favourite out of the many in our family albums?

I love the fashions especially the hat on baby Edward and the beautiful lace collar on Beatrice, my grandmother, front left.

The absence of men intrigues me, we have matriarch Jean in the centre with her daughters Mary and Agnes and five of her grandchildren surrounding her.

However, this is also one of my favourite images because all is not quite as it appears.

At first glance, it shows a respectable family, comfortably well off. Little David Watt holds a toy yacht and the children are fashionably dressed. But how many of these were studio props? A closer inspection shows Beatrice and David’s shoes to be scuffed at the toes.

In truth, the family had already experienced scandals with two illegitimate grandchildren including Beatrice, and heartbreak as two of Jean’s daughters Susan and Elizabeth had died from TB. The family scraped a living on what could optimistically be called a smallholding.

Son Dave (who had emigrated to Alaska and the gold mines before this photo was taken) was soon to be called home to help provide for the family as his father was no longer able to labour on the land.

The disparity between image and truth doesn’t really matter to me, nor the fact that we may never know why this photograph was taken or who paid for it. It captures a moment in my ancestors’ lives when they stood proudly in front of the camera as a united family group.

It also encapsulates the challenge of all research – take nothing at face value. Always question the source be it a photograph or document and always set the material within the context of what you already know.

“The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.” – Anne Geddes