Tuesday, 4 January 2011

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

ExplorersHappy New Year!

Late last year, I noticed that the Palestine Exploration Fund had put up a lot of photographs onto Flickr. Apparently, they have a collection of 40,000 images dating from 1850 right up to the present day; their Flickr photo-stream comprises 162 items, mostly from the 19th century.

One photograph (reproduced here) caught my eye. It shows "a group of explorers", the members of the Jerusalem Survey Team, relaxing on the evening of 15 August 1867. But this is truly a league of extraordinary gentlemen.

Introducing the Gentlemen

The fine figure in the centre, looking uncannily like Michael Palin from the Ripping Yarns television series, is the Reverend Dr Joseph Barclay (1831-1881), who became the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem in 1879, two years before his untimely death. He had come to Jerusalem in 1861 as head of the London Society Mission, but resigned in 1870 in disgust at the organisation's poor standards of management. In 1867, when this photograph was taken, he was presumably still an enthusiastic representative of the Mission.

Seated on the right is Corporal H. Henry Phillips of the Royal Engineers, who is credited as the photographer. The Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, which began in 1864 with the stated aim of improving the poor sanitation and water supply in the city, was carried out by volunteers from the Royal Engineers. It was in direct connection with this that the Palestine Exploration Fund was set up in 1865. Corporal Phillips recurs as Sergeant Phillips during the surveys of the 1870s.

The reclining figure in the foreground is Mr F. A. Eaton, M.A. (1836-1913), later Sir Fred Eaton, joint author of The Royal Academy and Its Members, 1768-1830 and sometime Secretary to the Royal Society.

Duffer Warren

Most interesting of all, though, is the figure seated at the left. This is Lieutenant Charles Warren R.E., later General Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927). After working for the Palestine Exploration Fund (1867-70), surveying and excavating in Jerusalem, he returned to Britain to further his career. In 1882, he was sent to Sinai to discover the fate of the Palmer expedition, and in 1886 became Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. In late 1899, aged almost 60, he took command in the Boer War, during which he bungled the relief of Ladysmith and was responsible for the massacre at Spion Kop. His incompetence was rewarded with promotion to Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Engineers.

What amazing stories are concealed in the peace and tranquility of this photograph.

The photo can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/palestineexplorationfund/5226247909/

No comments:

Post a Comment