A Charming View

Jessie McGeachie’s Wedding Photograph at Craig Royston, Toronto

Holding the arm of her new husband Ernest John Phillips, Scottish-born Jessie McGeachie (1883-1947), descended the stairs in the garden of her parent’s home Craig Royston in Toronto, with its terraced lawns leading down to the edge of Lake Macquarie. It was the morning of 9 June 1909 and they had been directed to take their position in front of the guests by the photographer, Harry Charleston of Charleston Studios, Newcastle. He had been photographing the people of the Hunter Region and beyond since about 1890, and his enlarged photographs were found in homes across NSW.

After the wedding ceremony at the nearby Christ Church, Toronto, the guests moved to the house to be served breakfast, first assembling for this photograph. As Jessie walked, the bridesmaids (her sisters) might have taken care of Jessie’s valuable gown and train of silk satin charmeuse. No expense seems to have been spared for Jessie’s wedding. And why not? She was a daughter of the prominent (and wealthy) Duncan McGeachie (1859-1942), a long-standing Superintendent of the West Wallsend and Killingworth Collieries (and later General Manager) for the Caledonian Coal Company.

Craig Royston, named after the home of Scottish folk hero Rob Roy, was built not long after the 1887 subdivision of the Toronto Estate. The house was once known as the ‘pearl’ of Lake Macquarie, and in 1920, the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, even stayed overnight there during his Australian visit. As he stood on the verandah, he apparently turned to Miss McGeachie and said ‘What a charming view’.