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Alexander Galloway, Hunter photographer and composer

The entrepreneurial Alexander Galloway was a prolific photographer and amateur musician who composed some popular pieces of music in the early years of last century. He left an impressive legacy of photographic images of the Hunter Region’s Coalfields district, a large number of which were recovered in 2010, in the form of hundreds of glass plate negatives, from beneath a house in Weston. Rescued by the diligent volunteers at the Edgeworth David Museum, these plates have been scanned and are now available through the University of Newcastle’s online database.

Alexander, Amy and William Galloway.

Born on February 6, 1876 in Glasgow, Scotland,  he was the second of seven children of James and Janet Galloway who brought their family to Australia in 1883. Arriving first in Bundaberg, Queensland, they soon shifted to Wallsend and Minmi. The young Alexander worked in a drapery store in Greta before going to Outtrim, Victoria, to work as a coalminer. He soon moved back to the Hunter, and established a photography business in the coal town of Weston in 1905. He married the same year, to Amy Lavinia Butler, and the pair had two sons, William and Graham.

The couple lived at nearby Kurri Kurri, where they opened another studio. Other branches were to follow, at Cessnock and Rutherford – where an army camp was set up as part of Australia’s Great War mobilisation. Like many other photographers of that time Galloway earned good money making soldier portraits. Many of the glass plates rescued in recent years were images of soldiers, and efforts have been made to reunite the unlabelled portraits with the names of their subjects.

An advertisement for The Galloway Studio, circa 1914
The Galloways’ Newcastle East home, Clovelly.

Among his other entrepreneurial activities, Alexander Galloway built the Royal Theatre at Kurri Kurri. Having made good money from his photographic studios and other investments, Alexander Galloway moved to Newcastle, where he lived in the Newcastle East home, Clovelly, and began to cultivate music as a hobby. He learned to play the piano-accordion and composed several tunes, some of which were performed on the 1940s national radio program, Amateur Hour. Two songs (you can listen by clicking the links) were Song of Newcastle and Sailing on to Dreamland (The Song of Beautiful Lake Macquarie), which appeared on record sung by baritone Edward Walcott. It seems his most commercially successful tune was I See Your Face, which was published as sheet music by the firm Nicholson’s.

Alexander Galloway passed away in his home in Newcastle on 31 July 1945. A very good article about him can be found here, on the Hunter Living Histories site.

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