every picture tells a story

Middle aged woman - gravesiteOften when you come across old photographs, it’s difficult to find any detail to add to an understanding of the subject matter.  In this out-of-copyright photograph (a glass negative) via The State Library of Victoria (ca 1888-1894), the gravestone inscription provides some clues.  The young man, Mark Marston, was almost 19 years old when he died from the effects of a snake bite.

It didn’t take much sleuthing in Trove’s Digital Newspaper collection to find a number of reports echoing the news of this sad event in the Sunbury district in Victoria.  Here’s one of those as noted by The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 18 March 1880.

Mark Marston - report of his death by snakebite

The photographic record describes “a middle-aged woman standing beside headstone and grave, iron fence surrounding headstone and fairly well-established garden”. One might surmise that this woman is his mother. A search of Ancestry.com provided the following information.

Frederick MarstonMark’s parents (Thomas and Elizabeth Marston (nee Beeson) emigrated from Lincolnshire shortly after their marriage.  They had six children, the eldest of whom was a daughter who died in the first year of her life. At the time this photograph was taken, Elizabeth would have been in her mid-late fifties.

Mark was not the only son who pre-deceased Elizabeth and Thomas.  Another son Frederick (a railway worker) died at the age of 31.  The Argus of 30 September 1893 reported this inquiry into his accidental death.

The unctuousness of hog’s lard

Hog’s lard (the pig’s rendered stomach fat) was a popular commodity in 19th century Australia.  The Colonist of 2 May 1840 reports 75 keg loads arriving on the barque Will Watch.  The South Australian Police Department had a bladder of hog’s lard  in its inventory of items to purchase by tender.  (South Australian Register – 22 April 1843).  Bushrangers stole it – The Sydney Herald – 16 Oct 1837.

This recipe for a water repellent for boots required hog’s lard (and bees wax, turpentine and olive oil).  (Sydney Gazette – 16 March 1806)

Just in case a cautionary note is required, this snake bite treatment in the Sydney Gazette 16 December 1804 is 200 years old and not supported by contemporary medical authorities as an appropriate way to respond.

bind it up, with no other dressing than a “pledget” (a small piece of lint), dipped in oil, or spread with hog’s lard, batter, or any other unctuous dressing