Photographs and business records of the photographic firm, Allison & Co., Armagh, 1889-1953.
Trading initially as Allison and Allison, the firm of Allison & Co. was originally established in Belfast in 1881 by a Bradford man, Herbert Thackwray Allison with his brother as partner. They had two offices in the Belfast area, firstly in Donegall Square North and Queen’s Arcade, Belfast, before extending outwards into Dundalk (1896), Armagh (1900), Newry (1903) and Warrenpoint (1905). In 1903 Herbert Allison junior relocated to Armagh where he remained for almost fifty years. Herbert senior moved to live in Warrenpoint about 1905, from where he ran the Newry and Warrenpoint studios. Over the years, he was a tireless worker for his adopted town serving as a J.P. and councillor and lived there until his death at the age of 94 in 1947. It was the Armagh office, however, which became the hub of the enterprise and was generally regarded as the headquarters until it was sold to Ernest Scott in 1952.
This Armagh factor is reflected in the history and content of the archive as the Armagh studio became the final repository for the surviving glass plate negatives from all four provincial branches. Also, inevitably the greater numbers of those negatives which have survived relate to Armagh and the surrounding area but the work of the Newry, Warrenpoint and Dundalk studios is also represented.
The subjects portrayed in the collection are wide and varied and provide a deep pictorial insight into the social mores of life in Counties Armagh, Down and Louth (and to a lesser degree Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Londonderry) during the late nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century. They include: transport; clerical and church; architecture and buildings; medicine; sport; musical and dramatic scenes; the Orange Order; businesses and people at work; life during the World Wars I and II; portraits of individuals, families and weddings; agriculture; youth organisations. Even within the material covered by a particular subject, the nature of the photographs is wide-ranging. Interesting photographs include: Michael Collins, who had been elected as MP for Armagh in the new northern parliament, at a large Sinn Fein demonstration on 4 September 1921; the wartime wedding of the first GI bride in Armagh.
Another interesting and important aspect of the archive is the day-books for the Armagh studio which, apart from two, Sept. 1911-Oct. 1915, have survived for posterity. Allison usually inscribed an identification number on his negatives which was cross-referenced in the day-book allowing easy access to names and dates.
One of the principal strengths of the Allison photographs is the wide thematic base which is represented for a significant part of south and south-east Ulster, particularly for the period, c.1890-c.1950. Prints are of an extremely high quality, which, with the survival of the accompanying day-books, makes this collection an invaluable source for researchers.
c.1,550 photographs (and also the coresponding negatives of the prints and the glassplate negatives) and 34 volumes, 1889-1953 occupying c.70 PRONI boxes, by far the greater part of which are the original glassplate negatives.
See PRONI reference D/2886 for catalogue of the collection. The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.
As regards accrual method, the collection (in the form of glassplate negatives) was originally deposited as an indefinite loan in 1973 but was subsequently purchased by the Record Office. In 1990, a smaller deposit (c.375 glassplate negatives) was gifted to PRONI by Armagh County Museum.