I have been meaning to post this photograph for some time. I came across it quite a few years ago now, whilst searching the State Library of South Australia photographic collection online. The interesting thing is that I used to work at the State Library, and at the time, in what was the Archives. The State Archives has now been relocated to an outer suburban area, but I wonder if this photograph was there all the time. It is part of a collection by a photographer called Robert Mitchell, who took a series of photographs of the Beltana area, and included some amazing photographs of the Afgan cameelers, who lived in the area and worked with camels, used at the time due to their ability to withstand the heat and lack of water. I will write a further post about their role in the building of the north of South Australia. Back to the photograph of James and Mary Ann. I ordered this to be printed and when I collected it, there was a beautiful A4 size black and white photograph, with so much detail, and the first real photograph I had seen of my great great grandparents that showed me who they were and how they had lived. Having been to Beltana a number of times, with my father, and when I was younger, my memories of that hot barren landscape swept over me, and once again I wondered, how did these people from the green country areas of England manage to not only exist, but flourish, and live long healthy lives in our harsh environment.
James and Mary-Ann Heneker at Beltana, South Australia 1897, Robert Mitchell, Photographer, Pictorial Collection B 47483 ONLINE, State Library of South Australia, accessed by Vicki Lovell on 09 April 2015
Unfortunately the above photograph doesn’t replicate as well when cut and pasted into this blog, however it hopefully still gives a good idea of the bare and isolated land that my great great grandparents emigrated to and thrived in.
The same house in 1951 (photographer unknown). The trees sadly have gone, which must have made the property much hotter in the middle of a hot Australian summer.
A story that was handed down to me, has been that James Heneker had a love of gardening. The story continued that in the creek that runs somewhere through or around Beltana, was a place where James planted a tree. And the tree became known as the Heneker Tree. I am not sure where he would have planted the tree, as outback creeks are prone to “flash floods”, and usually the way you can tell there is water around (when in the outback) is to look for a line of trees, as it will mean a creek bed. Whether there is water in the creek is another thing of course!