There are many thousands of historic photographs of Christmas Island but these two photos, shown below, are quite unique in their subject matter. They came from an old photograph album (origins unknown) that was most unfortunately being broken up in the UK.
The earliest days of Christmas Isle
Friends posing with a drink
Ghosts of long gone men
Unwavering gazes that do not blink.
Bound together were they
Forgotten for many a year
Until their prison was opened
And then they did they appear.
Now finally released
It’s plain to see they’re back
So much closer to the Island now
It’s been a long winding track.
The photos look staged with the glass and bottle being props? I find these images fascinating. I wonder about the other identities and what became of these men. They date between the years 1900-1902. This is known because, like the kongsi photos, Koah Seng Kim who was the Towkay (local Chinese manager) appears in these too. (He was on the island between the years 1900-1902.)
It is also quite possible that the photos were taken by Lewis Clayton who was the District Officer and also on the island between those years. He died, aged 48, on the 29th September 1921 in Lucerne, Switzerland. So if these photos were indeed taken by him and kept in his or someone’s private album, then they have travelled from Christmas Island to the UK (via other countries in between?) and now Australia to be shared back to Christmas Island. Indeed, a long winding track!