This month’s Object of the Month is a scrapbook that includes photographs alongside a set
of sketches depicting the comic side of recruitment, training and barrack life of a Black Watch soldier in the late 19th century. A hand-drawn portrait of General AG Wauchope adorns the cover, while the drawings on the inside show images of the Belfast Riots of 1886; Malta, where The Black Watch served in the 1890s; Egypt, where the Regiment were stationed in 1892; and South Africa, presumably at the start of the Boer War.
Unfortunately we have very little information about who produced the book or who donated it to the Museum, and as we explored the contents further it has become a bit of a mystery! The name on the cover reads “No 2986 Private Riddick, ‘G’ Company” and several notes and captions throughout suggest the creator of the book served with the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch. Curious to see what information we could find, we set out to see if we could discover any information about No 2986 Private Riddick.
Initially we checked the muster rolls from the period, but found no one with the name Riddick or the number 2986. We went back to the scrapbook for clues. The earliest mentioned date is 1886 on the page about the Belfast Riots. A hand-written note under a photograph labelled ‘Colour-Sergeant W. Fowler’ refers to the present day as 1909, so we can assume that the scrapbook was completed by this time. From the places depicted in the images, we thought the artist must have served in Belfast, Malta, and South Africa so we checked the medal rolls to see if we could find a Pte Riddick with campaign medals from these conflicts. Alas, no luck again.
Now we are stuck with not much else to go on, and more curious than ever! It is very strange that we could find no mention of Private Riddick, but it may be that he was not the creator of the book, but rather someone who acquired it later on meaning we have been looking at resources from the wrong period. Or perhaps Private Riddick was a permanent depot man, creating the scrapbook from images and stories brought back by his fellow soldiers.
If you know anything about Private Riddick, please get in touch! For now, Pte Riddick will remain a mystery man. However, we can certainly still enjoy his beautiful pictures!