A photographic historian based in Herefordshire recently discovered a collection of old photographs relating to Arbroath while spending a Sunday afternoon wandering around an antique shop in Leominster.
Ela Farrell bought a now faded album of family photographs dating from around the time of the First World War.
She believes that with the centenary of the start of the ‘War to end all Wars’ just a few months away, the pictures might be of immense interest to a local family, possibly the Shanks.
The album contains around 20 photographs showing a family relaxing at what appears to be a large house in the country. Some photographs also show the family fishing on a loch.
She explained what happened next: “The only clue to the family in the photographs was a small label on the first page of the album which said ‘Bennett’s Chemist Arbroath’.
“A friend and amateur genealogist, Sarah Spink, took a look and by pure chance a large house for sale in Arbroath was being advertised on the Internet. It was immediately clear that this distinctive building, Denfield House, was the very same house as the one in the album.
“From there it was a short step to discovering that at the time of The Great War, Denfield was owned by the Shanks family and in particular James Shanks jnr., who is possibly the gentleman seated on the far right in the family photograph.”
Ms Farrell went on: “If the man on the right is James Shanks, jnr., then the woman next to him is possibly his wife, Jane Ann. The woman on the far left is a mother, possibly James’ mother, Margaret, who didn’t die until 1922.
“The other lady seated in the front row and of some importance from the looks of her could be a sister of James jnr. possibly Jean Paterson Mackay, Lady Inchcape; or Margaret Ann Duke or Emily Mary Williamson.
“Margaret Ann Duke, nee Shanks, was born in 1870, the sister of James, Jnr., she married Sidney Duke in Bombay, India, in 1898. Unfortunately Sidney died just under two years later.
“Frederick Shanks, son of James, was born in 1899. Records show he studied engineering at Edinburgh University before being called up in the war. It looks like he initially joined Edinburgh University Officer Training Corps (OTC) before possibly joining the Black Watch in 1916 and ending up in the Inns of Court OTC. He was demobilised in 1919.
“The younger man in uniform in the photos is probably Frederick, as the cap badge and badge he is wearing on his sporran have been identified as those of Edinburgh University OTC.
“The older man is wearing the uniform of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and is possibly a visitor or relative of the Shanks. What can be seen is that the kilt is too short, the sporran worn too low and the Sam Browne fitted wrongly. Therefore was this person just in for the duration? His rank is shown as being a Second Lieutenant.”
Ms Farrell concluded: “I specialise in researching the history of photographs I find discarded in junk shops and returning them to families where possible
“It would be lovely to find out more about the Shanks family and possibly reunite the album with their descendants. It is likely the album found its way to Herefordshire via auction due to probate or a house clearance.”
Ela Farrell can be contacted by telephone on 07975900055 or by e-mail at elafarrelKZBsurfree.co.uk