Jack Burnley

The photographs of Ralph Snowball are not only technically proficient, but are masterful in their choice of subject and composition. This month’s photograph, from 1908, was taken at the northern end of Regent St in New Lambton, looking towards Braye Park hill in the distance.

In the background, two coal wagons of the Lambton colliery portray the wealth and scale of modern industrial coal mining. In the foreground, a horse, cart and wooden shed reveals a more humble employment.

In the centre of the photo stands John Burnley, age 20, known to family and friends as Jack. A hand painted sign above him proclaims him as a bottle dealer, the artefacts of his trade arranged around him like a decorative picture frame. Bottle dealers collected empties from hotels and sold them on wherever a profit could be made. The word “licensed” a reminder that the “Bottle-ohs”, as they were called, had an unsavoury reputation and the state parliament felt the need to pass legislation in 1906 to regulate the industry.

These were uncertain and sorrowful times for the Burnley family. Jack’s older brother had died in 1901 aged just 22. His father had died two years earlier in 1906. Jack, being the only son, was left to care for his widowed mother.

War came to the world, and in January 1916, Jack enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 34th Battalion as a bugler and embarked for Europe in November. Tragically, within a year, he was killed in the battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, 100 years ago this month.

One final detail to note in Snowball’s photographic portrait of Jack Burnley … a bugle, perched atop the brake lever of the cart. A poignant foreshadowing of Jack’s untimely death on the battlefields of the Western front nine years later, it is also a reminder to us that the prosperity and safety we enjoy now, owes a measure of debt to the sacrifice of others back then.

J Burnley, Bottle Dealer, New Lambton, NSW, [January 1908]. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The memorial inscription to Jack on the Burnley family headstone in Sandgate cemetery.

The article above was first published in the October 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional information

A close up view of Jack Burnley’s bugle perched on top of the brake handle of the cart.
A map of New Lambton, showing the location of the  property of Arthur Burnly (Jack’s father) at the northern end of Regent St.
War service records showing that Jack enlisted in January 1916 as a bugler, and proceeded to France in November 1916.
Name:Jack Burnley
Death date:12 Oct 1917
Death place:Passchendaele, Belgium.
Memorial site:Sandgate Cemetery
Memorial Long,Lat :151.70494,-32.87022 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burnley family grave site, Sandgate cemetery.

Burnley family grave site, Sandgate cemetery.

Bottle dealers

The NSW government in Act No. 30, 1906, passed the “Second-hand Dealers and Collectors Act, to

“provide for the licensing and regulation of second-hand dealers in and collectors of certain old wares; to regulate the sale of second-hand articles and old wares”

wherein “old wares” was defined to mean …

“partly-manufactured metal goods, second-hand anchors, cables, sails, old junk, rags, bones, bottles, syphons, syphon tops, old copper, old iron, old brass, old lead, old muntz metal, scrap metal, broken metal, defaced metal goods, old wearing apparel, old boots, second-hand furniture, second-hand tools, second-hand drapery goods, second-hand jewellery, and old stores of every description.”

The low regard that people had for bottle dealers comes out in the second reading of the Bill, where Mr Wade says …

“Bottle-dealers and others of that stamp, from whose ranks many of the criminal class are drawn, and who, in their itinerary, are ever on the alert for what they can steal, will, under the bill, require to be licensed.”

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
29 Apr 1901
27 Apr 1901
Death of Charles Abraham, (half?) brother of Jack Burnley, aged 22.
11 Jul 1906
10 Jul 1906
Death of Arthur Burnley, Jack's father, aged 53.
15 Nov 1906Second reading of a bill providing for the licensing and regulation of secondhand dealers.
13 Oct 1919Memorial notice inserted in the paper by his mother, two years after Jack's death.
"In loving memory of my dear son, Bugler J. Burnley, killed in action Passchendaele October 12, 17.--Dead, but not forgotten.--Inserted by his loving mother, Mrs. A. Burnley, Regent-street, New Lambton."
26 Jun 1924
25 Jun 1924
Death of Sarah Ann Burnley, Jack's mother, aged 70.

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