Best of friends: Emma PITT and Liz O’MEAGHER 1866

SEMIOSIS: deixis
PITT, Emma nee BARTLETT (1847-1899)
PITT, Albert, solicitor (1840-1906)
O’MEAGHER, Liz (1847-1906) and Arthur BELL (1839-1921)
WOOLLEY, Charles, photographer (1834-1922)
EPIDEMIC New Zealand 1906

“I say Captain Mackie is not to show his face in Nelson without you Liz O’Meagher.

Emma Pitt

June 6th 1866”

Subject: a young woman holding a summer hat, wearing a summer dress frilled at the hem.
Standing pose, left hand resting on the back of a studded slipper chair, her gaze directed slightly above and to the right of the photographer.
Photographer: Charles A. Woolley, studio stamp on verso, 42 Macquarie St. Hobart, Tasmania
Location and date: Hobart, 1866
Format: full length studio portrait, sepia print, carte-de-visite
Condition: foxing, surface dirt, torn, fair condition
Provenance: DSFB, Melbourne 2021, sold as ” Studio portrait of a lady identified as Liz O’Meagher. Hobart Town, Tasmania, 1866″
Copyright: © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Private Collection 2021
Verso inscription: “I say Captain Mackie is not show his face in Nelson without you Liz O’Meagher. Emma Pitt June 6th 1866

The cdv: a deictic mystery
The verso inscription on this carte-de-visite – “I say Captain Mackie is not to show his face in Nelson without you Liz O’Meagher” – signed by Emma Pitt, dated 6th June 1866, has created differences in perception as to the identity of the young woman in the photograph, first by the seller (DSFB) on the one hand, and second by the purchaser (KLW NFC Imprint) on the other. Is it a photograph of Emma Pitt’s addressee “you Liz O’Meagher”, (b. Tas 1847- d. NZ 1906) or does it represent the sender Emma Pitt herself (b. Tas 1847-d. NZ 1899)?

The cdv was offered for sale at Douglas Stewart Fine Books (Melbourne) in May 2021 as a “Studio portrait of a lady identified as Liz O’Meagher. Hobart Town, Tasmania, 1866“, so is the young woman in the photograph Emma’s friend Liz O’Meagher, or is Emma sending her friend a photograph of herself? Odd, perhaps, that Emma Pitt should send a precious and possibly unique object such as a photographic portrait by Charles A. Woolley of her friend back to her friend, especially if the photograph was a gift from her friend in the first place. The transaction would look like this : “I” – Emma – am returning to “you” – Liz – a visual signifier of “you” – Liz – which may have been given to “me” – Emma – by “you” – Liz – – and now “I” – Emma – am returning “you” – Liz – to “you” – Liz. Why return a photograph of the addressee to the addressee, which in some contexts could affront the recipient but in this instance, it seems, is a performative act in which the sender Emma hopes to encourage Liz to come visit her on a ship to Nelson – to “here” – from where she is sending her friend the cdv who is “there” in Hobart.

The cdv as a multimodal message is quite complex. Emma’s single sentence is a powerful theatrical gesture in tenor and text. She uses the deictic “you” as a cataphoric pointer forward to the name “Liz O’Meagher” without reference to the photograph itself or to the name of the woman it portrays. “This is you” or “this is me” are absent pointers which could identify the subject of the photograph. Liz O’Meagher is clearly intended as the receiver, the addressee, the “you” in script, in textual form on the verso of the cdv but there is the addition of a visual signifier in the message, the photograph of a young woman on the recto of the cdv, whose identity is not altogether straightforward despite comparisons with extant photographic records taken in the same decade and into the 1880s of – potentially – both young women (see below).  There is, of course, the possibility that the photograph represents another young woman entirely.

To initiate the message, Emma is giving an order to the addressee “you Liz O’Meagher” when she uses  the modal  “I say” to insist that what she is about to say is to be remembered and acted on. If paraphrased, “I say” imports something like “I want you to repeat this, to quote me when I say this, this is not just an opinion, it is what I want, so do what I want, you ought to do this”. Secondly, Emma’s use of Captain Mackie‘s name which stands in for “voyage” is both synecdochic and anaphoric (external) to the message, but since he is nowhere to hear it, Emma performs a promise that exudes flirtatious but ultimately unquantifiable power and a doubtful scenario  – she will not only admonish him personally, should he show up at Nelson without Liz O’Meagher on board, she will banish him from her sight – or, as she puts it, he “is not to show his face” without her. The addressee “you Liz O’Meagher“, who is “without” to Emma, must act on Emma’s message and book her passage with Captain Mackie on his very next voyage to NZ to become inclusive within her social set, to avoid further “finger pointing” or deictic acts just like this one which = I say this to you here so you must do that for me there. 

Assuming that Liz O’Meagher received the cdv, on reading the verso she may have found it amusing, humorous, comedic even in what Emma was proposing to do to Captain Mackie. Then again, Liz O’Meagher may have become anxious while processing her perception of the  photograph’s significance to them both.

Reversing the gaze back onto the sender, this may be a photograph of Emma herself, sealed with her signature and date. Emma Bartlett was married to Albert Pitt by June 1866 when she dated the verso of the cdv, while Liz O’Meagher was still single and would not marry Arthur Bell until February 1867. She would therefore be sending a message in her own image as an example of the happiness to which her friend in Hobart might aspire, with the wish she (Liz) join her (Emma) as soon as possible in New Zealand, perhaps with her groom-to-be for their honeymoon. The photograph as memento of their close friendship would then reflect an image on which Liz O’Meagher might gaze and imagine for herself a similar happy outcome (presumably sans envie).

That both young women were close friends is evident on the marriage registration of Emma Pitt. Born Emma Bartlett, she married solicitor Albert Pitt on 26th January, 1866 at St. David’s Cathedral, Hobart, Tasmania. Her friend Liz O’Meagher was a signatory witness at the marriage. If this photograph does not depict Liz O’Meagher, it depicts Emma. This is “me”, Emma is saying by sending her friend a photograph of herself. Taken by Charles A. Woolley at his Hobart studio, 42 Macquarie Street, Hobart Town (Tasmania) perhaps in the summer of 1866, Emma may have visited Woolley’s studio for a photograph of herself dressed in her best summer outfit for a special occasion. It is not a bridal gown she is wearing, so the occasion was not her wedding day, nor was it a winter outfit suitable for travel in March when she departed Hobart with her husband on board ship to join Captain Hugh Mackie’s steamer the Gothenburg at Melbourne for the voyage to New Zealand. Rather, this photograph, if it represents Emma Pitt, was how Liz O’Meagher might look, Emma is suggesting to her friend, if she were to follow her example.

Emma and Albert Pitt in New Zealand
Captain Hugh Mackie arrived in New Zealand in command of the steamer Gothenburg on March 7, 1866 with passengers Mr and Mrs. Pitt.

Sources: Papers Past NZ, due to return to Melbourne on December 27th 1866.

Subject: Emma Pitt nee Bartlett (1847-1899) or Elizabeth Bell nee O’Meagher (1847-1906)?
Photographer: Charles A. Woolley
Location and date: 42 Macquarie St. Hobart, Tasmania 1866
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021

Emma’s husband, Albert Pitt (1842-1906) was photographed by Charles Woolley at Hobart, possibly earlier than his wedding in 1866, if the studio decor is any indication.

Albert Pitt, Hobart 1866

Subject: Albert Pitt (1840-1906)
Photographer: Charles A. Woolley
Location and date: Hobart 1866
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: AUTAS001126072719W800

Albert Pitt was the sole surviving child of Captain Francis Pitt, Harbour Master and Maria Reardon, who married on 20th July 1833 at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). They lived at Pitt Farm, New Town until retiring to Napoleon Street, Battery Point where Francis Pitt died in 1874. Albert escorted his mother Maria back to Nelson to live with his family. She died there on 29 June 1896, 82 yrs old.

In 1864 Albert Pitt migrated to Nelson, New Zealand, where he started his own law firm, returning briefly to marry Emma Bartlett, daughter of Edmund Bartlett at Hobart, on  25th January 1866.

Marriage of Albert Pitt and Emma Bartlett January 1866

Pitt, Albert
Record Type: Marriages
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Spouse: Bartlett, Emma
Gender: Female
Age: 18
Date of marriage: 26 Jan 1866
Registered: Hobart
Registration year: 1866
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:868047
Resource: RGD37/1/25 no 120

Barely a week after Emma Pitt signed the verso of the cdv she intended to send to Liz O’Meagher on 6th June 1866, her husband Albert was called to appear as an advocate for the defendants, the Burgess gang, who murdered James Battle on 12th June 1866 on the Maungatapu track, south-east of Nelson. Four other men were killed on the same track the following day. Three of the gang were executed, the fourth – Joseph Sullivan – was deported. Read the full account here….

On 12 June 1866, James Battle was murdered on the Maungatapu track, south-east of Nelson. The following day four other men were killed nearby – a crime that shocked the colony. These killings, the work of the ‘Burgess gang’, resembled something from the American ‘wild west’.
The case was made more intriguing by the fact that one of the gang, Joseph Sullivan, turned on his co-accused and provided the evidence that convicted them. The trial was followed with great interest and sketches and accounts of the case were eagerly snapped up by the public. Unlike his colleagues, Sullivan escaped the gallows.
All four members of the Burgess gang had come to New Zealand via the goldfields of Victoria, Australia. Three of them had been transported to Australia for crimes committed in England. They were the sort of ‘career criminals’ that the authorities in Otago had feared would arrive following the discovery of gold in the province. The South Island goldfields of the 1860s offered potentially rich pickings for criminals. Crime was generally the work of individuals, and often a spontaneous act fuelled by alcohol, but there were notable exceptions…. etc etc

Source: ‘The Maungatapu murders’,
URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Aug-2015

The Burgess gang. (Clockwise from top) Joseph Thomas Sullivan, Thomas Kelly, Philip Levy and Richard Burgess, photographed at Nelson gaol in 1866.

In 1868 Albert Pitt entered into partnership with Henry Adams, trading as Adams &  Pitt. With the dissolution of that partnership,  he partnered with Edward Moore, operating as the firm Pitt & Moore. (Source:

The Nelson Provincial Museum has a sizeable collection of photographs of Albert Pitt and members of his family but is there a photograph of Emma Pitt which can compare favourably with the subject of the cdv she sent to her friend Liz O’Meagher dated June 6th, 1866? In other words, do any of these photographs of female members of Albert and Emma Pitt’s family taken from ca. 1880-1889 resemble the woman in Emma Pitt’s cdv sent to her friend Liz O’Meagher?

Mrs Emma Pitt 1889 Nelson NZ

Pitt, Mrs A [sic – as in Mrs Albert Pitt]
Glass Monochrome/Media/Photography half plate/glass plate/
Production date Oct 1889
Photo collection reference number 16408
Collection Tyree Studio Collection

Albert Pitt, 1883
Source: Nelson Provincial Museum (New Zealand)
Object type glass plate negative
Media and materials Glass Monochrome/Media/Photography 4 x 5/glass plate/Format/Photography
Collection W E Brown Collection
Credit line Pitt, Mr A. Dec 1883. Nelson Provincial Museum, W E Brown Collection: 11795

Pitt Family NZ
Photo collection reference number 176235
Description Full length studio portrait of four men, four women and a boy.
Object type glass plate negative
Media/materials description Glass plate
Media and materials Glass Monochrome/Media/Photography 6 x 8/glass plate/
Format/Photography Measurements 6 x 8 inches
Collection Tyree Studio Collection

DEATH of Emma PITT, 1899
Record ID WKCE05046_C
Surname PITT
First names EMMA
Age 52 years
Date of interment 01/09/1899
Date of death 30/08/1899
Gender Female
Cemetery Wakapuaka
Copyright © 2021 Nelson City Council

Albert Pitt’s wife Emma Pitt nee Bartlett was 52 years old when she died in 1899. His will of 1906 named three of their children to inherit his estate in equal measure: his daughters Minnie Constanza Macdonald and Charlotte Emma Georgina Pitt, and his son Wilmot Bartlett Pitt. Albert Pitt died 64 years old on 18/11/1906; Emma Pitt died 52 years old on 30/8/1899. Two of their children predeceased them: Annie Pitt, died 3 months old on 11/4/1871 and Sidney Herbert Pitt died 28 years old on 22/3/1890.


No. 7134 In the Supreme Court of Nelson Wellington District
Be it known that upon search being made in the Office of the Supreme Court at Wellington in the colony of New Zealand it appears that on the twenty first day of December 1906, the last Will and Testament of Albert Pitt, late of the City of Nelson in the Provincial District of Nelson but lately in the City of Wellington both in the colony of New Zealand Barrister deceased who died in the City of Christchurch in the said colony on or about the eighteenth day of November 1906 was proved by the Public Trustee in the colony of New Zealand a corporation sole with perpetual succession and a seal of office the executor named therein and which Probate now remains of record in the said office the true tenor of the said will is in the words and figures following to wit: – This is the last Will and Testament of me Albert Pitt of the city of Nelson and lately of the City of Wellington in New Zealand Barrister I revoke all former wills and other testamentary dispositions by me at any time heretobefore made and declare that this alone to be my last Will and Testament I give devise and bequeath all my real and personal property whatsoever and wheresoever unto my children Minnie Constanza Macdonald Charlotte Emma Georgina Pitt and Wilmot Bartlett Pitt in equal shares as tenants in common I devise all estates vested in me by any trust subject to the equities affecting the same to my Trustee hereinafter named I direct that my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses shall be paid out of my estate I appoint the Public – [Albert Pitt] – Trustee to be the Trustee and Executor of this my Will. In Witness whereof I have hereunder set my hand the 13th day of November 1906 Albert Pitt. Signed by the said Albert Pitt as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us both being present at the same time who at his request in his sight and presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names attesting witnesses E. N. G. Foulton Private Secretary Wellington Kassie Turner Nurse Christchurch In faith and testimony whereof these Letters Testimonial are issued Given at Wellington aforesaid as to the time of the aforesaid search and the sealing of these present this 9th day of April 1907
Seal of the Supreme Court of New Zealand
Ewing & Seager
Sealed 6/6/07
Assets Tas £225 [sig?]

Source: Archives Office Tasmania
Pitt, Albert
Record Type: Wills
Year: 1907
File number: 7134
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1667091
Resource: AD960-1-29 Will Number 7134$init=AD960-1-29-7134_1

Memorial Walk
In Nelson, NZ, at the Bridge Street entrance of the Queens Gardens are the wrought iron Albert Pitt Memorial gates. Albert Pitt (1841-1906) was the Minister of Defence, Lt Colonel of the NZ
Militia and C.O. of the Nelson Military District 1877-1899. The opening ceremony took place on 2nd May, 1914.

Women in the O’Meagher family
So who was Emma Pitt’s friend Liz O’Meagher? She was Elizabeth Ann O’Meagher (b. Hobart, Tas 1847 – d. Kawhia,NZ 1906) , the younger daughter of Elizabeth Anne O’Meagher snr (d. 1879) and William O’Meagher (d. 1849). Her father was chief clerk of H.M. Ordnance Stores, New Wharf, Hobart. She married Arthur Bell (his full name was Arthur Waite Iredale Bell) on 5th February 1867 at St. David’s Cathedral, Hobart. Arthur Waite Iredale Bell (1839-1921) and his sister Kezia Mary Bell (1849-1940) were born in Launceston, Tasmania to auctioneer Joseph William Bell (1793-1870) and Georgina Ford (d. NZ 1909). The elder daughter Mary Frances O’Meagher married Robert Walker on 14 July 1879 at St. David’s Cathedral, Hobart. There were two sons as well as two daughters: Franc Penn O’Meagher and Wm Hudson O’Meagher (d. 1883) who were mentioned in the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Anne O’Meagher snr. A Codicil added to their mother’s will in 1873 requested that another daughter – or daughter-in-law – Elizabeth Frances O’Meagher – be granted an annuity (see will below).


BELL-O’MEAGHER. -On 5th February, at St. David’s Cathedral, by the Rev. F. H. Cox, Arthur Bell, Esq., of, Rockhampton, Queensland, to Elizabeth Anne, youngest daughter of the late W. O’Meagher, Esq., of Her Majesty’s Ordnance. 8f

Source: “Family Notices” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 8 February 1867: 1. Web. 4 Sep 2021

Archives Office Tasmania
Marriage of Arthur Bell to Elizabeth Ann O’Meagher, under 21$init=RGD37-1-26P76


WALKER—O’MEAGHER.—On the 31st August, at St. David’s Cathedral, by the Rev. F. H. Cox, Robert Walker, Esq., of Gipps Land, Victoria, to Mary Frances, eldest daughter of the late William O’Meagher, Esq., of H.M. Ordnance.

Source: Family Notices (1879, July 14). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1.


Bell, Percy Walter
Record Type: Births
Gender: Male
Father: Bell, Arthur
Mother: Elizabeth, Anne O’Meagher
Date of birth:04 Mar 1870
Registered: Hobart
Registration year: 1870
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:972964
Resource: RGD33/1/10/ no 964

Registration informant of the birth of Percy Walter Bell to Elizabeth Anne Bell (formerly O’Meagher) and Arthur Bell on 11th April 1870 was Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth O’Meagher snr. The informant column on the registration clearly states “E. A. O’Meagher, Grandmother, (present at birth) Macquarie Street” [Hobart]. No press notice was published of this birth. An earlier birth of a son born at Rockhampton was published in the Hobart press on 28 February1868. Elizabeth Bell nee O’Meagher, wife of Arthur Bell, gave birth to three sons (Percy born at Hobart in 1870, two born at Rockhampton, Qld) and a daughter in 1873, Josephine Mary Bell, who died at 5 yrs of age at her parents’ residence Athelstane Range, Rockhampton, Queensland. Another son was born in Hobart on 30 August 1878.


  1. Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Friday 28 February 1868, page 1

BELL. -On 4th February, at her residence, Athelstane Range, Rockhampton, Queensland, the wife of Mr. Arthur Bell, of a son.

  1. Rockhampton Bulletin (Qld. : 1871 – 1878), Monday 10 February 1873, page 1

BELL.—On Sunday, the 9th instant, at her residence, Athelstane Range, the wife of Mr. Arthur Bell, of a daughter.

  1. Daily Northern Argus (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1896), Wednesday 9 June 1875, page 3

BELL.—On the 8th instant, at her residence, Athelstane Range, the wife of Arthur Bell of a son

  1. Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929), Saturday 8 December 1877, page 1

BELL.—On the 5th instant, at her father’s residence, Athelstane Range, Josephine Mary, aged 5 years’ youngest daughter of Mr. Arthur Bell.

On 30th August 1878, Elizabeth Ann Bell nee O’Meagher gave birth to another son, Robert Hudson Bell at Hobart, registered by his father, Arthur Bell, hardware merchant, of Battery Point, Hobart, on 3rd October 1878.

Record Type: Births
Gender: Male
Father: Bell, Arthur
Mother: Elizabeth, Ann O’Meagher
Date of birth: 30 Aug 1878
Registered: Hobart
Registration year: 1878
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1093410
Resource: RGD33/1/12/ no 270
Archives Office Tasmania$init=RGD33-1-12-P150



£7250 WORTH!
And similar class of Goods,
Are now offered for Private Sale by the

In consequence of Large Shipments of above Goods having lately come to hand, our Stock has been increased beyond ordinary requirements. We must therefore clear off a quantity of beautiful. NEW GOODS by RAPID SALE, and will do so at

Squatters, Storekeepers, and the public generally should avail themselves of this opportunity, and send all their orders to us quickly.



Source: Advertising (1878, January 28). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 1.

Although Arthur Bell was in Hobart on 3rd October, 1878 when he registered the birth of Robert Hudson Bell, he had not yet managed to sell their residence and property at Athelstane Range nor his business, Arthur Bell & Co. Ironmongers, at Rockhampton. Facing insolvency, he advertised the sale of all his stock valued at £7250 on 28 January 1878 and ran advertisements as agent for rubber paint imported from San Francisco from September to December 1878 in the Rockhampton press:

Source: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Saturday 21 September 1878, page 2


Gold Medal from California State Agricultural Society
Silver Medal from Nevada State Agricultural Society
Bronze Medal from New South Wales Agricultural Society
Gold Medal from Oregon State Agricultural Society
Diplomas from – California State Agricultural Society, 1875; Mechanics’ Institute Industrial Fair, 1875; Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Society, 187C; San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Society, 1870; Sonoma and Marin District. Agricultural Society, 1870.

207, Sacramento-street,

Sole Agents for Queensland and N. S. Wales.

Local Agents

In 1875, Elizabeth Anne O’Meagher snr acquired sixteen perches on Mona Street near Colville Road, Battery Point, Hobart, which was numbered 1 Mona St. on her death four years later, in 1879. Her daughter Elizabeth Ann Bell nee O’Meagher and husband Arthur Bell, hardware merchant, had relocated from Queensland and were residing with her at Mona Street when their son Robert Hudson was born in August 1878.

O’Meagher, Elizabeth Ann
Record Type: Land
Location: Hobart
Remarks:16 perches
Record ID:NAME_INDEXES:1755311
RGD1/1 Book 78, page 158$init=RD1-1-78P158JPG


O’MEAGHER – On July 11, at No. 1 Mona-street, Battery Point, Elizabeth Anne, widow of the late Wm. O’Meagher, Esq., H.M. Ordnance, aged 67 years The funeral will leave her late residence THIS DAY, at half past 2 o’clock. 5559

Source: Family Notices (1879, July 14). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1.

1879: LAST WILL and TESTAMENT of Elizabeth Anne O’MEAGHER snr
Liz O’Meagher’s father, William O’Meagher died at their residence in Argyle Street, Hobart on 20th December 1849. He was chief clerk at H. M. Ordnance Stores, New Wharf, Hobart.

Death of William O’Meagher
On Thursday morning, the 13th instant, at his residence Argyle-street. Wm O’Meagher, Esq., of H. M. Ordnance, in the 58th year of his age.

Source: Family Notices (1849, December 20). The Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851), p. 2.

Elizabeth Anne O’Meagher snr, wife of William O’Meagher,  died thirty years later at the property she purchased in 1875, No. 1, Mona Street Battery Point, Hobart, Tasmania. Her will provided for her two daughters and two sons from probate of £5,150. The codicil added to her will in 1873 requested that another daughter – or daughter-in-law – Elizabeth Frances O’Meagher – be granted an annuity (the codicil below on the second page is almost illegible):

Above: Page 1: O’Meagher, Elizabeth Anne Record Type: Wills
Below: Pages 2 and 3: O’Meagher, Elizabeth Anne Record Type: Wills

O’Meagher, Elizabeth Anne
Record Type: Wills
File number:2226
Record ID:
Will Number 2226

View of the River Derwent and Eastern shore, Hobart, from No. 1 Mona Street, Battery Point.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Group 2014

Liz O’Meagher and Arthur Bell in New Zealand
It seems that Emma Pitt finally did get her wish to re-unite in New Zealand with her friend Elizabeth Ann Bell she knew as Liz O’Meagher. Both women would lead short lives – both were born in 1847, Emma died in 1899 (52 yrs old) and Liz died in 1906 (59 yrs old). Both were born in Tasmania and died in New Zealand: neither reached their 60th birthday.

Liz O’Meagher’s husband, Arthur Waite Iredale Bell (1839-1921) and his sister Kezia Mary Bell (1849-1940) were born in Launceston, Tasmania to auctioneer Joseph William Bell (1793-1870) and Georgina Ford (d. NZ, 1909). Kezia Mary Bell and Robert Gardner (1842-1919) were married at New Town, Tasmania in 1868. In 1879, Elizabeth and Arthur Bell left Tasmania to join Arthur’s sister Kezia who had moved to Christchurch, NZ, in 1877 with her husband, Arthur Bell’s former partner Robert Gardner when their Rockhampton hardware business faced bankruptcy. Georgina Bell moved from Tasmania to New Zealand to join her son Arthur and daughter Kezia, dying there at the grand age of 91 years in April 1909.

Settled at Christchurch, New Zealand, Elizabeth Bell (Liz O’Meagher) and Arthur Bell became parents once more with the birth of their daughter Winifred Kassin Bell (1882-1963) who later married Gardner’s son Robert Clifford Gardner (1882-1943) in 1908. Within two years, Arthur Bell had to contend with bankruptcy. On 18th August 1884, he filed a petition in the Supreme Court, Christchurch, NZ to be adjudged a bankrupt but by 1886, he was back in business advertising baby carriages from his shop called Bell’s Hardware House, in Victoria Avenue, Wanganui. For the remainder of Elizabeth Bell’s life, she lived with her husband and family at Wanganui on the west coast of the New Zealand’s north island, north of Wellington, but on one fateful day in November 1906, while residing with her son at Hari Hari near Kawhia where he had established a flax mill, she fell ill during an epidemic of influenza. Robert Hudson Bell, 28 years old, son of Arthur Bell, died of influenza on 20th November 1906, his mother Elizabeth Ann Bell (Liz O’Meagher), 59 years old, wife of Arthur Bell, died the following day, on 21st November 1906.

Deaths of Robert Hudson Bell and Elizabeth Bell
Source:Manawatu Standard, Volume XLI, Issue 8143, 26 November 1906, Page 4

BELL – At Hari Hari, Kawhia, on 21st November, Elizabeth Ann Bell, aged 59, wife of Arthur Bell, lately residing at Paiaka; and on 20th November, Robert Hudson Bell, aged 28, son of Arthur Bell.

The local press in early 1906 reported the success of Robert Hudson’s flax mill operating as Bell Bros with Ross at Hari Hari. Robert Bell’s brother(s) who were his partners were not mentioned:

The flax industry is rapidly extending in the Kawhia district. Mr. Langley’s mill at the Pakoka is running long hours, whilst Messrs. Bell Bros, and Ross’ mill at Harihari is now working at top. Mr. A. D. Newton has surveyed two mill sites at Marakopa for a wealthy syndicate, which, it is understood, intends putting in plants at an early date. Besides this the virgin area at Nukuhakari is to be sold by the Government, and no doubt mills will be erected there.

Source: New Zealand Herald, Volume XLIII, Issue 13081, 22 January 1906, Page 4

But by November 1906, reports followed the spread of the epidemic, and then of the deaths of Elizabeth Bell and her son Robert Hudson Bell with brief details of their lives.

A severe epidemic of influenza has lately made its appearance at Harihari. In consequence Messrs Bell Bros, and Ross’ flax mill has been closed for a week, no fewer than 10 of the hands being laid up.

Source: Kawhia Settler and Raglan Advertiser, Volume IV, Issue 285, 16 November 1906

Mr. R. Bell, of the Harihari flaxmill, who was ill with influenza for some time died last week. Mr Bell was highly esteemed in the district, and was a prominent athlete, being captain of the Marokopa Football Club, and an excellent rifle shot. Mrs Bell with the same complaint, passed away on the Wednesday, only surviving her son by a day. The deceased lady only came into the district a short time ago from the Wairarapa, and was greatly esteemed by a large circle of friends.

Source: King Country Chronicle, Volume I, Issue 6, 30 November 1906, Page 3

Father of Robert, husband of Elizabeth, Arthur Bell himself was required to perform the services at the graveside in the absence of available clergymen in the district:

Last week I reported a severe outbreak of influenza at Harihari, and it is with feelings of deepest regret that I have this week to chronicle the death of two highly-esteemed residents of that locality through illness brought on by that complaint, Some two weeks ago Mr. Robert Bell caught influenza and laid up for a, time, but returning to work too soon got relapse, and pneumonia supervening, despite most careful attention the patient succumbed to the attack on Tuesday afternoon, November 20. The deceased was a member of the firm of Messrs. Bell Bros, and Ross, and was a universal favourite with all who knew him. In the sporting arena the late Mr. Bell was prominent, being captain of the Marokopa Football Club and one of the best-rifle shots in the district. Quiet and reserved he was, but genuine and trite, and the sudden cutting off of one so robust and who had led such a clean life , at the early age of 28 came as a sudden blow. Mrs. Bell was by this time so dangerously ill. that the sad news was kept from her, and her position becoming worse Dr. Sanders, of Raglan, was sent for to consult with Dr. Jenkins, but before he could arrive the patient had passed away on Wednesday afternoon. The deceased lady had only removed to this district a few months ago, coming from the Manawata, where she was esteemed by a very large circle of friends. The late Mrs. Bell was 62 years of age at the time of her demise. It was impossible to bring the remains to the Kawhia cemetery, consequently the burials took place at a private cemetery on the homestead. In the absence of a clergyman, the services at the graveside were conducted by Mr. Bell (father and husband). The news of the deaths came as a surprise to residents of this district, and the relatives have the heartfelt sympathy of the whole of the inhabitants.

Source: New Zealand Herald, Volume XLIII, Issue 13347, 29 November 1906, Page 7

Once more, the mystery of the cdv
No early photographs to date appear to be extant of any of the women from this Tasmanian branch of the O’Meagher family, with the possible exception of the cdv in question signed by Emma Pitt in 1866, which may or may not be a photograph of Liz O’Meagher. If photographer Woolley’s cdv was a photograph of Elizabeth Ann Bell nee O’Meagher, known affectionately to her friend Emma Pitt as Liz O’Meagher, it is indeed a rare family memento, especially so given the circumstances of her death. One question remains: if Emma Pitt actually sent the cdv to her friend Liz O’Meagher in Hobart, Tasmania from Nelson, New Zealand in 1866, why did Liz O’Meagher not take it with her when she left Tasmania to settle permanently in New Zealand with husband Arthur Bell and family in the late 1870s? Did she leave it in Tasmania for her sisters and mother? Or was it returned to her mother and sisters from her New Zealand family in her memory because she died so suddenly with her son Robert in 1906?

The additional mystery which this cdv presents is this: how did it find its way to Melbourne (at DSFB) to be offered for sale in 2021? Provenance, anyone?

Sources: David Gardner Crouch, Canada.
Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand) – Bell and Gardner families

Is there any comparison between the young woman pictured below – identified as Elizabeth Frances Bell (1847-1930) – and the young woman in the cdv (at top) which Emma Pitt sent her friend dated June 1866? The short answer is no, the young woman with child pictured below was the wife of Frederick George Bell, apparently no relation to the family of either Arthur Bell or Elizabeth Frances O’Meagher.

The photograph below was taken in 1875 of Elizabeth Frances Bell, maiden name unknown. Her death notice listed a number of deceased children:

BELL.—On the 4th July, 1930, at the residence of her son (Mr. J. H. Bell), 44 Leveson street, North Melbourne, Elizabeth Frances, widow of the late Frederick George Bell, mother of Frederick, Samuel (deceased), Elizabeth (deceased), John, Ross (deceased), Flora (deceased), William (deceased), Annie (deceased), Robert (deceased), Albert (deceased), and Victor, aged 83 years, resident of North Melbourne 76 years.

Source: Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Monday 7 July 1930, page 1

Elizabeth Frances Bell (1847-1930) & and Frederick George Bell ca. 1875
Wife of Frederick George Bell (d. 1910, North Melbourne)
Photographer: Stewart and Co. Melbourne, ca. 1875
Part of: Sub-collection: North Melbourne and West Melbourne (Victoria)

ADDENDA 2: The sinking of SS Gothenburg 1875

The SS Gothenburg was a steamship that operated along the British and then later the Australian and New Zealand coastlines. In February 1875, Gothenburg left Darwin, Australia and while en route to Adelaide it encountered a cyclone-strength storm off the north Queensland coast. The ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef north-west of Holbourne Island on 24 February 1875. Survivors in one of the lifeboats were rescued two days later by Leichhardt, while the occupants of two other lifeboats that managed to reach Holbourne Island were rescued several days later. Twenty-two men survived, while between 98 and 112 others died, including a number of high-profile civil servants and dignitaries…

Captain R. G. A. Pearce, 20 March 1875
La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria

Much like the infamous Titanic, Gothenburg’s last trip focused on making the best possible speed under renowned Captain Robert Pearce but, this story also has a notorious twist – stashed away in the Captain’s cabin was approximately 93 kilograms of gold valued at £40,000 (approximately £4,645,891 in 2020).

On 24th February 1875, as Gothenburg steamed south down the Queensland coast, it encountered cyclonic weather conditions. At 7pm, Gothenburg struck the southern edge of Detached Reef approximately 131km southeast of Townsville.


From the Archives, 1875: The Gothenburg sinks off Queensland killing 102
First published in The Age on March 4, 1875



Record Title: Ship Gothenburg in the graving dock at Port Chalmers
Tiaki IRN:215787
Tiaki Reference Number: 1/2-014530-G
Collection: PA-Group-00198: De Maus, David Alexander, 1847-1925:Shipping negatives
Coverage: 1872
Description: The ship “Gothenburg” in the Port Chalmers graving dock. Part of Port Chalmers township visible behind the graving dock. Photographed between 1872 when the graving dock came into use, and 1875 when the “Gothenburg” was wrecked off Queensland. Photograph taken by David Alexander De Maus.
National Library of New Zealand

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