Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dont you just love a mystery?

Ok....about two years back we visited Tintern Abbey. I love that area, the Wye Valley is a place I hope I can visit again soon, every time we go there's something about the place that draws you in. Anyway...there are a couple of antique shops in Tintern, and one has lovely old postcards for sale. I spent a happy half hour just looking through the old photos of far off places in the dim and distant past, and the portaits of Victorian couples and their children....and I came upon a card that just drew me in.

So, I bought it....put it in a book to keep it flat and then when we came home, not wanting to have the card bent, I put it away for safekeeping. And promptly forgot where I put it.

It's been driving me mad, if you've ever been haunted by the loss of an object you'll know what its been like....until a few days ago when my daughter found a cookery book that I can't remember ever using!

Now this card is a bit special. It's a scene of a military parade. A HUGE military parade....but I had to buy the postcard because of one person in that picture. Amongst the throng of the crowd there is a girl...standing alone....looking directly at the camera. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I can get obsessed, but this girl has really been haunting me. Who is she, why was she there...WHERE was she, and why is she standing there on her own??

After a little bit of research I *think* I know where the photo was taken and when. The dress of the people is Edwardian(ish), there are trams, there are horse drawn carriages, there are tropical trees, a huge square and a garden. There is a church on the left of the picture in the background. Then there are the soldiers and the flags.

I may be wrong, but I think this was a parade around the time of the Boer War through Durban, South Africa. I've come to this conclusion by looking around and found some photos of Durban that may fit the era. The circular "pond" is the same as those in Durban.

But if any of you know any more, or even just want to tell me I'm wrong, please tell me. This scene really is haunting me. Seriously. I need to put a time and a place to this postcard. Two years ago I wrote a "novel" during NaNoWriMo because a snippet from The Times in the 1870s, about a murder in the centre of Paris, had been haunting me in a similar way...I never did find out what happened (but that's another story...literally...I wrote my novel around it and laid the ghost to rest by writing the story).

I may have to do something similar with this....yup....I may have to write the story about "The girl in the crowd". But for the time being....if there is anyone out there who knows the real story I would be very happy to hear it.'s the postcard...and yes I've watermarked it....through bloody-mindedness and not wanting anyone to pinch it ( does happen). 
Can you spot her??


  1. Past life, dearie. Could! What a lovely hat! She looks almost like a ghost already in that white/light dress, and well-to-do, I imagine. Good luck in your search. It'll make a good story as well. Maybe her dad is an officer in the parade.

    1. hehe could be Joanne ;)

      I must try to find out more, she does look out of place, she's not going to see the parade from where she is, and does she know the photographer is there?

      I love an enigma...oooh for a time machine so I could go and talk to her!

  2. Regarding your photo, I must say that it is quite an acquisition. A number of such photos showing events during royal visits to Malta are not uncommon, mainly taken by renowned photographers such as Ellis, Critien, Borg and others.

    I can confirm that the location in your photo is the area now occupied by the Triton fountain, just before entering Valletta through the bridge. In the distance, the troops are lining the street on the side of the Mall in Floriana, which was afterwards named King Edward VII Avenue, precisely following the visit of King Edward VII to Malta on 14 April 1903. Lintorn Barracks and the parade ground can be seen to the right. However, I cannot come to any conclusion on how to identify any of the regiments whose soldiers are lining the streets.

    Just as you had indicated and from the Regimental Museum’s site, the other two photos are of the 1st Btn. The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), who were stationed in Malta at the time. One photo is at Pinto Wharf and the other is at Floriana with the old parish church in the background.

    Other British infantry regiments on the island at the time were the 1st Btn. The King’s Royal Rifle Corps (1902–1905), the 2nd Btn. The King’s Own Light Infantry (South Yorkshire Regt.) (1902–1904), the 2nd Btn. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers (1902-1903), the 2nd The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (1903–1904) and the 2nd Btn. The Hampshire Regt. (1903–1905).

    To these, one must add the presence of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, then still divided into regiments of Field Artillery and Garrison Artillery, the Royal Engineers and Malta’s own regiments in the British Army, the Royal Malta Artillery and the Royal Malta Regiment of Militia. The latter regiment was renamed the "King's Own Royal Malta Regiment of Militia" in 1903 following the King’s visit to Malta after the request to become Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment.

    As to the helmet,‘General Order 40/78’of May 1878 stated that the new Universal Pattern or Blue Cloth Helmet was to be introduced for the British Army. Another version for hot climate was the white cork or Foreign Service Pattern or White Cork Helmet, which was much worn in Malta until the first decade of the 20th century.

    As to the girl in the photo dressed in white or a light coloured dress, she could be anyone. This type of dress with large wide brimmed hats, decorated with flowers, worn by young ladies, was quite common at the time. She could be either from some British family of some distinction or level, the daughter of a British officer, or from a Maltese family of similar status.

    Your page on Malta is much appreciated.

    Denis A. Darmanin
    Valletta, Malta

  3. Thanks Denis ...

    I'm glad I finally figured out where the photo was taken, it's a challenge to put a date and place to a postcard, but they are fascinating. I really couldnt pass this one by. I visited Malta once as a child, and would love to visit again, it's a very special place.

    I really appreciate your reply, it's good to get a second opinion.