When cleaning out my parents’ house I found these travel diaries and photographs. Ironically, they had previously been found decades earlier by somebody else undertaking a similar task in a different house. Sent by an obscure uncle somewhere to his mother and passed down to whoever inherited her estate, the boxes had been stored away, and by the mid-1980s nobody had the slightest interest in them.

My father, who had a ute, was frequently roped in by friends-of-a-friend to take rubbish to the tip. I remember him telling me years ago he had salvaged some papers and photographs that some unknown person had put together hoping to make a book. But I didn’t expect to find three cartons full!

Whose papers?

From internal evidence in the manuscript I have been able to identify the people involved and work out a few details of their lives.

There are plenty of photographs of the photographer’s travelling companions, and among the 900 or so images I eventually found a slightly distorted picture of the man himself.

The Mysterious Uncle

Edward Abbott Wallace and Roza Soares were both born in Hobart, Tasmania. Edward was employed as a civil servant when they were married at the Congregational Church, New Town on October 12, 1910. Their first child, Lois Roza, was born in August the following year, and they went on to have three sons, Geoffrey, Philip and Donald.

Mr Wallace left the public service to work for Burroughs Adding Machine Company (later Burroughs Corporation) and eventually became the manager of its Wellington agency in New Zealand.

He died in Wellington on 30 January, 1953 aged in his late sixties.

The Photographer

He was a keen amateur photographer, and when he was asked to drive to Napier a few days after the devastating earthquake in 1931 he took his camera along. You can see his photographs and his account of the experience on my website Digging Around in History.

On 17 March 1938 the Wallaces left Phil and Geoff to run the business and departed on the S.S. Wanganella for Sydney. They had travelled back and forth across the Tasman several times over the previous ten years, but this trip was special. They were realising their dream of making a world tour.

Mr Wallace gleefully described the amount of packing his wife and daughter had to do for the trip, but he was not travelling light, either. He took along a good supply of chemicals, film and papers and developed his photographs on board ship in the evening. I imagine this was no mean feat in the cramped space of a shared bathroom.

The Travel Diaries of Mr Wallace

Although he addresses this manuscript to his mother, the presentation of the photographs neatly enlarged, mounted, numbered and captioned, and the text laid out in chapters and professionally typed up, suggests he really hoped for a wider audience. A generation later he would have been organising Slide Nights. Today he would be enthusiastically sharing his trip on social media.

I agree absolutely with my father. It seems a shame to waste all Mr. Edward Wallace’s effort, so this is his blog, with a slight eighty year delay.