The photograph shown above is one of a pair of postcards that we have recently bought on ebay. The message on the back is fairly straightforward: ‘The show was a very large one and fine weather. Sorry you did not come. Hope you are all keeping well. Willie will know this place – “Craggs”’ – G. Graham’ The card is addressed to Mrs William Graham, Oxton and has a Edward VII stamp, postmarked Yetholm and probably dated 24th October 1904. The other card, written by the same person, addressed to the same person and dated 24th November 1904, shows a view of Cherrytrees taken ‘from our kennels’ and adds ‘Severe snowstorm here just now hope all well. Do not send the Russian cat or you come down G.G.’
Leaving aside the mystery of the Russian cat, where are the ‘Craggs’ shown in the picture? The card was almost certainly produced and written by one of the sons of John Graham, gamekeeper, who lived on Yetholm Law. John and his family are present in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. John was born in Yetholm and began life as a stone mason, but became a gamekeeper in the 1870s.
The only house on Yetholm Law can be seen on the 1863 map below, marked with a red arrow. Beside the house is a building labelled ‘kennels’ – it must be from here that the photograph of Cherrytrees was taken. The image shown above must then surely show ‘Tod Craigs’, marked with a blue arrow, which could be reached by a footpath from the gamekeeper's cottage.
Tod Craigs are above a steep and dramatic cleugh which runs through the side of Yetholm Law. This hidden valley is seldom visited today and probably was little visited in around c 1910 (which, judging by the stamp and the costume of the girl sitting below the crag, must be when the photograph was taken). There are no other postcards known which show this secluded place – and, in fact, it is probably wrong to think of these cards as commercial postcards. Rather, they would appear to be personal images which, as often happened at this date, were printed up as a postcard. Who, then, took the original photograph?
The censuses show that John Graham had several children, including two sons, one called Gilbert and the other George. In the 1901 census Gilbert, aged 20, is described as a gamekeeper – presumably assistant to his father – and George is aged 13 and a ‘Scholar’. The family are untraceable in the 1911 census, so what became of both George and Gilbert is unclear, but could one them be the 'G. Graham' who sent the cards? In 1904 Gilbert is gainfully employed, but could he have had an amateur interest in photography? George is rather young at that date to be able to afford a camera, but the Kodak Box Brownie camera was launched in 1900 at a very low price, so it's not inconceivable that a keen teenager might be able to save up enough to buy one. A recent book - Photographers in Edinburgh & the Lothians to 1914, by D Richard Torrance – lists a George Graham as a photographer based in 75 Princes Street, Edinburgh, and active 1914-15. Could this man be John Graham’s son, George? Could this photograph be an early example of his work? More investigation needed …