Mystery surrounding a historical photograph collection sparked fervent debate among members keen to identify the baffling images during a Society meeting in 2014.
The digitised Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection generated lively discussion as members speculated about various places and people captured in the old black and white photographs.
None more so baffling than a turn-of-the century blurred image captioned “Eltham – R.C. Priest” depicting a cleric posing next to an early-model car sporting a top hat with another two unknown figures.
Furious email exchanges ensued in the following days between members who eventually identified the motorcar as a Unic Taxi built in the United Kingdom purportedly about 1908 – although the actual manufacturing date too fueled yet more speculation.
Attention soon turned to the priest wearing the top hat, long coat and a clerical collar (a good clue) while members surmised the man wearing the bowler hat near in the foreground was the taxi driver, expected to sit exposed to the elements while passengers remain protected inside the cabin.
Our resident super sleuth Maureen Jones soon identified the priest as the Reverend John P. Carney born c1880 in Ballaghaderreen, County Mayo, Ireland. He was ordained at All Hallows College, Dublin, Ireland before arriving in Melbourne in 1902 where he would go on to serve as a priest in the Melbourne Archdiocese.
He started as assistant priest at St. Francis, Melbourne followed by Castlemaine and Gordon before establishing the new mission at Diamond Creek where he would spend the next five years doing “fine pioneering work and put the parish on a good working basis”. He spent his later years serving congregations in Footscray and later Yarraville.
Who said there is no mystery in local history!!