Family Treasures - The Gorilla Hunters

The Gorilla Hunters R.M. Ballantyne

Recently I've been tidying up around the house attemping to put into action the Fly Lady's tidying philosophy. Three piles - one to put away, one to give away and one to throw out. On our TV stand there was a copy of a book belonging to my husband's grandfather Patrick Brennan. Naturally this went in the put away safely pile.

To celebrate Empire Day on May 24th 1912, 13 year old Patrick Brennan, son of William Brennan and Annie Ryan of Enmore, near Armidale was given a copy of the book The Gorilla Hunters (A Tale of the Wilds of Africa) by R.M. Ballantyne.

Inscription to Patrick Brennan 1912

Inside is the following inscription.

Empire Day May 24th 1912
Presented to
Patrick Brennan
Groses Creek
Provisional School
Harry H Wharton

Flower pressed in the book

Like a lot of my posts I want to see what other evidence this item can lead to. What further questions can I investigate?

  • Who was R.M. Ballantyne?
  • What was Empire Day and why was it celebrated?
  • Where exactly was Groses Creek Provisional School?
  • What happened to the teacher Harry H Wharton? 
  • There is a small sticker inside the book advertising Mallam & Co, Booksellers Armidale. When did Mallam & Co operate in Armidale?
  • What type of flower was pressed between pages 80 and 81? Who pressed it?

  • Information about Ballantyne can be found here.
  • Empire Day was celebrated on 24th May each year after the death of Queen Victoria. School children were fortunate as they had a half day holiday. In 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day.
  • Groses Creek is about 6km southwest of Enmore where the Brennans lived. Enmore is to the east of Uralla, N.S.W. State records have two administrative  files for Groses Creek School - one pre 1939 and the other post 1939. Unfortunately a copy service is not available for these files.

Groses Creek would close to the two blue markers
  • I'm not sure what happened to Harry H Wharton. I've looked at NSW BDM and electoral rolls but haven't found a Harry, Henry or Harold who I can be certain is the right man.
  •  I don't know how long the Mallam's had a bookstore in Amidale. Another member of the family, Henry Guy Mallam is best known as a chemist in Armidale. Mallam House at 94 Rusden Street forms part of a tourist drive around the town. It is an example of a mid Victorian house which was built in 1870 and restored in 1991.
  • Now I'm no flower expert so I have no idea about what type of flower this could be. 
The following quote is from R.M. Ballantyne. I'm sure boys must have enjoyed reading his adventure books as long as they had time to sit still instead of enjoying adventures of their own.

"Boys [should be] inured from childhood to trifling risks and slight dangers of every possible description, such as tumbling into ponds and off of trees, etc., in order to strengthen their nervous system.... They ought to practise leaping off heights into deep water. They ought never to hesitate to cross a stream over a narrow unsafe plank for fear of a ducking. They ought never to decline to climb up a tree, to pull fruit merely because there is a possibility of their falling off and breaking their necks. I firmly believe that boys were intended to encounter all kinds of risks, in order to prepare them to meet and grapple with risks and dangers incident to man's career with cool, cautious self-possession... -R.M. Ballantyne, The Gorilla Hunters


  1. What a great family treasure - and as always, a whole new list of questions!
    And you've reminded me, I really need to get back on FlyLady's wagon... I fell off months ago.

  2. Amy I'm finding lately that none of my research can be ticked off as complete. There are always more questions to ask.


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