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Posts Tagged ‘old photographs’

The last items I unpacked after the move from Byron were the family photos, some of which I knew had broken glass. It was no surprise, I suppose, that I didn’t get around to them until now. The glass in a couple had been broken for years, but I’d lacked the motivation to open the bag, let alone do anything about it.

Having unpacked everything else and feeling particularly strong one day, I tackled the family photos. Only two had glass that needed replacing — the large oval one of my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Claire (Donovan) Doyle, and the small A4-sized one of the wedding of Uncle Frank my mother’s younger brother (there were 12 children in that big Irish family) to a lady called Daphne.

Doyle wedding c. 1937
L to R: George Donovan, Mag Doyle, Frank Doyle, Daphne Doyle, Joe Doyle

Looking at the wedding photo of Frank and Daphne Doyle, it suddenly hit me that I had no wedding photo of my parents. There was nothing. Now why was that?

Part of the reason for this was probably because my mother who was, of course, Roman Catholic, was marrying my father, who was not. In 1936, this meant no church wedding. Indeed, it was something of a scandal in which even Archbishop Duhig became involved. Having been heavily involved in the education of Great Uncle Con’s two children after Con dropped dead in the cow yard at the age of 35, Duhig must’ve felt he had the right to a say in my mother’s life as well. And so he sent a special emissary to Toowoomba to state the case against.

Imagine it. My mother had left school at thirteen. She was a young uneducated woman working as a housemaid in a hotel in Toowoomba. But she resisted the pressure.

And so they were married. On Christmas Eve 1936 without a church service, without a proper wedding, just a tiny affair to which my mother, I’m told wore a blue street length dress she could use later. Both were poor and had few if any savings. My father worked on the foundry floor at the Toowoomba Foundry.

In those days, getting your photograph taken was a Big Deal. One booked a session at a photographic studio and that photo would be the only one you had of yourself for that year. When I was a child we knew of rich families (well, we thought they were rich) who could afford to have a family photograph taken every year. Amazing, we thought; we could only manage such a thing for very special occasions. Still, there were street photographers who roamed the city carrying their heavy portable cameras “Take your photo, sir?” and for the poor, these impromptu shots were often the only photographs they possessed.

But my parents were married on Christmas Eve. I imagine there would’ve been plenty of people for the street photographers to capture, and they didn’t hang around the Registry Office as they usually did. And so there are no photos of my parents’ wedding. Nothing. Zilch.

FOOTNOTE: Frank and Daphne lasted only a few years before she took off with someone else. My parents stayed together until my father died in 1972.

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