Who was Kath?

Earlier this year a photograph album was left at a public library in Sydney's northern beaches, by a donor who gave only her first name. She explained that the album belonged to her grandmother and she did not want it returned. The librarian passed the album onto the State Library. 

The album of photographs captures images of young women in the 1920s, possibly on holidays in Austinmer  and Terrigal. A photo of the beach on the last page is captioned ‘Austinmer 1930’. Little information is recorded apart from these two locations. We have dated the photographs in the album from the clothing and hairstyles. Only one name is recorded -  Kathleen (or Kath) Begbie -  written on the back of nearly every photograph. These brief references provide her position in each group of women; eg. “Kath Begbie, second from left”.

This intriguing labelling raises many questions – why is Kath the only person named? Was she the owner of the album? Was it owned by a family member, or an admirer?

Researching the Library’s collection for clues, I found some brief references to a Kath Begbie who would be of a similar age. The Library holds four albums of photos taken by Alice Haigh from 1910 – 1923, and there are three captioned photos of Kath Begbie in the album titled, Photographs of people I have met.

I compared these images with the photos in the Austinmer and Terrigal album, and it is quite possibly the same woman (see ‘Kath Begbie in the garden’ by Alice Haigh). Unfortunately Haigh does not provide any further information other than the name.

A Kath Begbie is also mentioned three times in the World War I letters of Eric Susman in the Middle East War Zone to Dr M.P. Susman, 1914-1916 (Transcript).

The dates of the references to Kath Begbie are consistent with a woman aged in her mid-to-late 20s in the 1920s. It is possible that the subject in the photos was Kathleen Begbie (1894 – 1984), born in Sydney, who moved to Queensland after her marriage to Daniel Allen in 1930. She was a niece of the well-known Reverend H.S. Begbie, Canon of St Andrews Cathedral.

Although we can’t be sure who took these photos, or the identities of the women appearing in them, this album is a fascinating record of holiday activities enjoyed by young women in the 1920s. It portrays popular holiday destinations of coastal areas near Sydney. The women are clearly enjoying their walks on the beach, swimming, and staying in holiday cottages. The album contains many beautiful images of women’s fashion in the 1920s, including bathing suits, swimming caps, dresses, hats and sun umbrellas, as well as the popular short bobbed hairstyles of the period. You can view the digitised album online.

Jane Gibian, Librarian, Information & Access

 


Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 9
About this item: 

This album portrays leisure activities undertaken by young women, presumably from the Sydney area, who holidayed in popular coastal areas of the South Coast (Austinmer) and Northern Beaches (Terrigal), New South Wales. Recreational activities illustrated include walking on the beach, swimming, walking along coastal tracks above beaches, and staying in holiday cottages or guesthouses. These photographs provide evidence of women’s fashion in the 1920s, including bathing suits, swimming caps, dresses, hats and sun umbrellas. The shorter bobbed hairstyles popular in this period are also evident.

Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 9
ca. 1920-1930
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
View collection item detail
Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 12
About this item: 

This album portrays leisure activities undertaken by young women, presumably from the Sydney area, who holidayed in popular coastal areas of the South Coast (Austinmer) and Northern Beaches (Terrigal), New South Wales. Recreational activities illustrated include walking on the beach, swimming, walking along coastal tracks above beaches, and staying in holiday cottages or guesthouses. These photographs provide evidence of women’s fashion in the 1920s, including bathing suits, swimming caps, dresses, hats and sun umbrellas. The shorter bobbed hairstyles popular in this period are also evident.

Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 12
ca. 1920-1930
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
View collection item detail
Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 26
About this item: 

This album portrays leisure activities undertaken by young women, presumably from the Sydney area, who holidayed in popular coastal areas of the South Coast (Austinmer) and Northern Beaches (Terrigal), New South Wales. Recreational activities illustrated include walking on the beach, swimming, walking along coastal tracks above beaches, and staying in holiday cottages or guesthouses. These photographs provide evidence of women’s fashion in the 1920s, including bathing suits, swimming caps, dresses, hats and sun umbrellas. The shorter bobbed hairstyles popular in this period are also evident.

Album of photographs of women vacationing at Austinmer and Terrigal, New South Wales, ca. 1920-1930 - Page 26
ca. 1920-1930
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
View collection item detail

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