Carte de Visite  

This fascinating article has been written by Geraldine, Member No FM04


A friend of mine has been a lifelong fan of auctions and over the years he has picked up some interesting things in box lots.  Recently he has been doing a bit of clearing out and he came across a photograph album which he had picked up about 30 years ago.  He asked me if I could find out something about it.  As you can see it is not in great condition.



The photographs inside are what is known as Carte de Visite.  These were photographs on a piece of card the size of a formal visiting card.  They were patented by a French photographer called Disdéri in 1854 and became very popular in Victorian portrait albums.  People kept albums not only of Royalty but also of places and people they knew.  The back of the card usually had the name and address of the photographer and their insignia.

This particular album had the name Hannah Martin written on the inside cover.  It also had a photograph of Raughlan House, the home of Francis Fforde, Bachelor, who died in 1870.  In his Will, among a lot of other bequests to family members he said “I leave my honest faithful servant Henry Martin £100.  I leave his son Henry £150.  I leave his daughters Catherine and Eliza £25 each and in the case of the death of either of the girls their share go to the survivor.”


On following this up I discovered that a Hannah Martin had been born on 11 March 1869 at Raughlan to Henry Martin, 40, a widower and Deborah, 25, spinster  (formerly Humphries).  Henry had been married before to a Catherine McClaverty, Moira in 1847, possibly the mother of Henry, Catherine and Eliza.


Henry and Deborah appear to have moved to Kilvergan and had more children called Thomas, Minnie and John.  Unfortunately Hannah, whose name appears on the inside cover of the album, died aged 15 on 23 September 1884 and Henry died on 16 January 1893.


There are 48 items in the album and most are photographs which have the photographer’s details on the back and date from the latter half of the 19th century.    Some of these photographers, for example A J Melhuish, have photos in museums such as the National Portrait Gallery and the Paul Getty Museum.  Local photographers are Arthur G Massey, 32 Market St, Lurgan;  McIlmurray, Lurgan; Patterson, Portadown; Plummer, Belfast; Trimble, Dungannon; McKay & Co, Armagh.  Others are from Melbourne, Eastbourne, Dublin and Sandhurst.  There are also some clippings from newspapers, including 4 of royalty. The last item is a poem clipped from a newspaper with a handwritten note which says “Please accept this little bouquet with forget me not intermixed”.

But who are these people?  Does anybody know?  A small number of the photographs are badly deteriorated, but most are OK. If anyone recognises any of the local people or photographers, please email!