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Dinah Heywood

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There are two copies of this photo in the Shaw family albums and both have captions added by Mary Shaw probably in the 1960s. Mary identifies the subject as her great grandmother, Dinah Heywood . The copy shown here is from an album originally owned by Mary’s aunt Lavinia Shaw. The other copy is from an album compiled by her uncle and aunt Herbert and Caroline Shaw.

The back of this copy shows writing in what looks like a number of different hands. At the top is “Mrs Dina Heywood” which may be in Lavinia’s hand (see “Mother” on the back of 003_003B, Hannah Heywood).

In the middle are the words “Granny Heywood” in what looks like Mary Shaw’s handwriting. Above that “Mrs Tucker” seems to be in the handwriting of a third person. The words to the right look like “& Miro”and seem to have been added at the same time as “Lavinia Shaw” below. If you look hard at the bottom right corner “Grannie Heywood” can just be seen. The handwriting is not Mary’s – possibly Lavinia’s.

There were two Mrs Tuckers close to the Shaw family in the 1880s. Rebecca Thomas was Lavinia’s cousin who lived next door until at least the 1870s and who married Ernest Wallis Tucker in 1888. The dress of woman suggests an earlier era and what’s more we probably have Rebecca in another photo from the 1880s looking nothing like this. Another possibility is Rebecca’s mother-in-law to be, Susannah Tucker. She would be more the age of the woman in our photo and probably moved from the country to St Kilda in about 1881 after the death of her husband.

Both cards are from Federal Studios of Collins Street East. The back of the one above gives the photographer’s name as “F. E. Elliott, Photographic Artist” of “George & George’s Federal Studio, 11,13,15 & 17 Collins St East. “The Mechanical Eye” has mention of this business but unfortunately doesn’t provide dates for its operation.  A search of the Trove newspaper archive returned a number of advertisements indicating that Elliott operated at this address between 1880 and 1886.

This presents us with a problem. Dinah was born in 1806 so in 1880 she would have been about 74, much too old to be the woman in the photo. It seems unlikely that Lavinia would have incorrectly identified her grandmother who lived close by until her death in 1884 when Lavinia was 21. It seems doubly unlikely that the same photo would appear in Herbert Shaw’s album next to his childhood Nanny if the subject wasn’t someone important to him.

Weighing this up, the most likely explanation seems to be that the Elliott cards were used as backings for reproductions of a much earlier photo of Dinah with “Mrs. Tucker” being the original subject of a previous photo on the first backing (if so it must have been removed as there is no photograph below this one).

It’s unlikely that we’ll find any other photos of Dinah to confirm it absolutely but the back of the second copy may reveal something more and there may be more to be learned from similar photos in the albums.

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