One particular photo that caught my interest is one of C J King and James Reid taken on Trefoil Island in 1897.
The context of this photo in itself is intriguing with both men salting plucked mutton birds into wooden barrels. The process entailed plucking and scalding the birds, removing heads, tails and wings and splitting the bird down the centre to remove the insides, and then salting and packing the birds into barrels. By the next morning, the birds in the barrels would have settled somewhat, and a few more birds would then be added.
It is an irony that some fifty years after the photo was taken, the secretary of Animal and Bird Protection Board complained of mutton birding being carried out on Trefoil Island on a commercial scale. This must have evoked some derisive smiles from a few old timers who birded the island in the 1890s.
In 1902 alone 70,000 birds were caught and in the same year on the adjacent Steep Island, a party under James Reid caught approximately 40,000.
Back then, there were not many families in the Circular Head district who did not have at least one barrel of birds to eat during the winter.
Today mutton birds (shearwaters) are protected in all states of Australia except for Tasmania.
The photo above left is James Reid's brother, William Barrett Reid, slashing oats with a scythe on Robbins Island. The photo on the right taken at Irishtown in 1906 depicts James and William Reid second and fourth from left. Their parents resided on Robbins Island for 43 years before they moved to Irishtown. There are more photos of the Reid family which can be found by using the search function on the Gallery webpage.