The Photographs of Archie Chisholm

It was with interest recently that I spotted a little link in a mailer from Street Level Photoworks / Photo Networks Scotland, that author Michael Cope would be doing a talk (last week) in Uist about his new book on The Photographs of Archie Chisholm.

I wasn’t aware of the name Archie Chisholm, or of his photography, and on following a few links, and a few emails, Michael Cope (and his publishers Thirsty Books) generously shared a pdf of the new book, and have allowed us to reproduce below an introductory text to the photographic works of Archie Chisholm along with a few of his images. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

 

The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: a unique documentary source for the Outer Hebrides in the Late Victorian and Edwardian eras

 

 

Archibald Alexander (‘Archie’) Chisholm (1859-1933) was the Procurator Fiscal in Lochmaddy, North Uist during the years 1881 to 1913. Outside of his professional life Archie had many other interests including archaeology and natural history, field sports, especially fishing, and, importantly, photography. What or who sparked Archie’s interest in photography? It is interesting to speculate that he developed his interest through his friendship with Erskine Beveridge the renowned archaeologist, antiquarian and photographer who also lived in North Uist at the same time. We know that in the preface to his book North Uist: Its Archaeology and Topography Beveridge acknowledges Archie as ‘among friends who have been most helpful’.

 

Archibold Alexander ‘Archie’ Chisholm, 1859 – 1933.

 

Archie’s photographic archive comprises nearly 300 images taken in the years 1892 to 1905. The images, taken from Harris to Barra, range from landscapes to portraitures, especially of the working and crofting communities, and from aspects of trade and commerce to the means of transport and communications. As such this is a unique documentary source of the life and times in the Inverness-shire part of the Outer Hebrides during the two decades at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Importantly all the photographs are attributable to one person – so providing continuity across a wide variety of themes not usually seen in other compilations.

Archie’s earliest photograph is dated 1892 and the first public exposure of his work was a series of plates contributed to W.C. Mackenzie’s book History of the Outer Hebrides in 1903. In the same year he provided some images to a series of picture postcards published by the Scottish Home Industries Association. In 1904 he published his own edition of 140 picture postcards known as the Cairt Phostail series.

 

A whale’s tongue, Harris [Cairt Phostail series postcard: 2005; scan courtesy of Norman Hudson].

 

Shipping a Uist pony at Lochmaddy Pier [Cairt Phostail series postcard: 2165; scan courtesy of Norman Hudson].

 

Archie was keen chronicler of events with many of his photographs taken in and around Lochmaddy to include local celebrations at the annual cattle markets and fairs and a rare glimpse into the festivities surrounding Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in this remote corner of the realm. Also in the late 1890s he produced the contentious ‘eviction photographs’ which showed at least two families being evicted from their houses in Lochmaddy. Archie was active in upholding the rights of crofters and probably saw these events, very close to where he worked and lived, as a way to embarrass the estate owner at the time.

 

Distressed women and children at an eviction scene. [Original Archie Chisholm photograph reproduced from lantern slide collection of Margaret Paterson: 1931].

 

Family researches have gathered together all of Archie’s known photographic images from various museum archives, published pictures and postcards and family and other private collections. As far as possible all the original locations of the images have been established and present day photographs of the same places have been taken to highlight the changes, or lack of them, over the intervening hundred or so years; approximately three-quarters can be properly located.

These researches have been collated in the recently produced book The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: Life and Landscapes in the Outer Hebrides 1881-1913 by Michael Cope, published by Thirsty Books, Edinburgh.

An exhibition featuring Archie’s photographs is being planned for display at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, Lochmaddy in 2020.

 

With many thanks to Michael Cope, and Sean Bradley at Thirsty Books.

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