Incorrect photograph used claiming to be of Alfred Wernam Canning

(Courtesy of author Phil Bianchi)


Photographs of a person claimed to be Alfred Wernam Canning have been displayed by museums, libraries, in books, journals and newspapers and on websites. An error was made by the Battye Library many years ago when an incorrect image was used to portray him. This image was accepted in good faith by others as being correct and the resulting error has been continually perpetuated.


While organising the photographs for a previous book Royal Commission to inquire into the treatment of natives by the Canning exploration party, the author was discussing with publisher Peter Bridge of Hesperian Press which photographs would be best suited for the book. He said the photograph put forward portraying Canning didn't ring true. On further investigation a photograph of Canning was found in the Hesperian Press files, it was from The Mirror newspaper of 31 January 1908. It showed a completely different person to that portrayed in books and magazines. The author then double checked the bust of Canning at the Landgate offices and found The Mirror photograph and the bust to be of the same person.


Although closer scrutiny of the two photographs showed both were about the same age, two different people were portrayed as Canning, one was bald and one wasn't. Who was the other person?


While preparing photographs for the book Canning Stock Route Royal Commission the author found that it was a photograph of surveyor William Rudall. It was necessary to be certain that it was in fact Rudall so as not to create another error.


The author had been fortunate that a fellow historian Allan Zweck offered a large collection of William Rudall historical documents which he no longer required. Zweck while researching his family history, became aware he was a relative of William Rudall's wife Dorothea, who went by the name Dora. His great grandmother and Dora Rudall were sisters. In this collection of documents along with copies of Rudall's fieldbooks, memoirs and other papers, were a number of photographs, one in particular being the same image used to portray Canning


One of the portrait photographs taken of Rudall at that time shows the name of the photography studio in Rundle Street Adelaide, at the bottom of the photograph. This is the photograph that has been incorrectly used to depict Alfred W. Canning.


The photograph of Rudall as a surveyor in 1897 is the same person that books, magazines and websites have used in error to depict Alfred W. Canning. There is no doubt that the photograph that has generally been used to portray Alfred Wernam Canning is that of William Rudall.


(Note: Battye Library image 28800p that was the source of this image is now BA 1360/1 and has been changed to portray Rudall [checked 3 Feb 2012]. This change resulted from advice from Peter Bridge that the Battye had the incorrect photograph portraying Canning. Image referenced 009616D in some places is also wrong.)