This iconic photo of the first train arriving in Taree in 1913 was taken by photographer Robert Edward Crombie.1 Crombie was born in England in 1861 and moved to Australia with his wife Jessie in 1883.2 After living in Queensland and New Zealand they moved to Taree in 1908 where Crombie set up his photographic studio in Victoria Street. He prided himself on capturing artistic poses which were much desired at the time.3
Crombie’s talents extended beyond photography. In Taree’s first eisteddfod held in 1913, he was crowned Champion District Vocal Soloist (gentleman) for his outstanding tenor voice.4 Other life achievements included receiving the Maltese Cross Medal in England for his work in developing young men’s aptitudes, winning Northern England’s six-day walking contest and being awarded a prestigious certificate for his photography in Auckland’s Industrial and Mining Exhibition 1898-99.5
In 1915 the Crombie family moved to Macksville so his daughter Alvina (Viney) had more scope to develop her talent as a portrait painter and photographer. Together they ran a studio for many years.6
When Crombie died in 1933 he was remembered for his lovable nature and multiple talents. The last time he sang publicly was at church where he sang his favourite song “The Holy City”.
All of Crombie’s photographs, unprinted negatives, cameras (including one which was over a metre long) and musical instruments were stored in a strongroom Viney had specially built to protect her father’s life works. In 1942 a fire started inside the strongroom destroying everything. All that remains of Crombie’s works today are a handful of photographs.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Australian Town and Country Journal, 12 February 1913, 29.
2 Manning River Times, 12 April 1933, 2; Macleay Chronicle, 5 April 1933, 4.
3 Wingham Chronicle, 14 Oct 1908, 3, advertising.
4 Australian Town and Country Journal, 19 Nov 1913, 15.
5 Macleay Chronicle, 5 April 1933, 4.
6 Macleay Argus, 7 May 1915, 8.
7 Macleay Chronicle, 14 Jan 1942, 1.
8 Australian Town and Country Journal, 19 Nov 1913, 15.
9 Nambucca and Bellinger News, 7 April 1933, 2.