William Jamieson Allom
That's Good Enough!
oil on canvas
title inscribed lower left, signed lower right
80 x 60 cm
Lawsons, 5 March 1985; Frank McDonald, Thirty Victoria Street, Sydney; estate of Philippa Torlonia, Hardwicke Stud, NSW; private collection of Jim Berry and Stephen Scheding, Sydney, and gifted by them to the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery.
The 1870s to the 1890s were boom years in Charters Towers, to the extent that the city hosted its own Stock Exchange. A railway between Charters Towers and the coastal port of Townsville was completed in December 1882. During this period, the population was approximately 30,000, making Charters Towers Queensland's largest city outside of Brisbane. The city was affectionately known as 'The World' as it was said that anything one might desire could be had in this city.
William Jamieson Allom was born in Buckinghamshire on 25 July 1832, to Samuel Richard Allom, an Anglican clergyman. He was trained as a draughtsman-architect. William arrived in Australia on 23 November 1852. The ship on which he was travelling, the Margaret Brock, was wrecked off Cape Jaffa in South Australia, and the passengers walked to Adelaide from there. William then travelled to Auckland, New Zealand with his brothers, where he met his future wife, Hannah Scotter. They were married on 18 December 1860 by John Dunmore Lang in Sydney, later having 12 children.
William left Sydney for Rockhampton in August 1864, and moved to Bowen in June 1865 where he operated an auctioneering business. His first known sketch is titled Bowen Agricultural Show. In 1872 he left Bowen for Ravenswood, which was then the inland capital of North Queensland. The family journey had taken 14 days, by horse and dray. In October 1872 the 'Ravenswood Times and Mining Record' carried advertisements for an exhibition of his painting. Titles of his works at this time included Watching the Troopers, Ravenswood and Mother’s Little Valentine. He edited the newspaper between 1875 and 1877 and also continued as an auctioneer.
He left Ravenswood for Charters Towers in December 1877. The Queensland Post Office Directory has William listed as an artist in 1889, with the address as Aland Street. The 1890 to 1892 issues of the directory show a W. J. Allom as an auctioneer in Charters Towers, and it is thought that during this period he may also have run the local Charters Towers newspaper. However, increasingly he turned to painting and calligraphy for a living. He became the artist of the town, doing portraits, landscapes and illuminated addresses. His son Corey Jamieson Allom had begun work as a photographer, initially in the firm Stamp & Allom, and from 1888 as Allom & Bailey.
William eventually left Charters Towers on 17 December 1893 and died in Sydney on 24 June 1902. He was buried in the Waverley Cemetery.
William exhibited his artworks at such events as the Queensland National Association Exhibition in Brisbane in August 1884, exhibiting no. 1149 ‘Landscape’ £42.0.0 and he sent two paintings to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886. Other known Allom titles are Saturday Night, Mosman Street, 1874 and The Opening of the Railway, 1884. An interesting painting by Allom, which appears to show a fight between miners, can be seen in a photograph of a display of wax sculptures and paintings by Allom shown in Sydney in 1900 (the photograph is held by the State Library of South Australia, ref. no. PRG 280/1/1/65
In Allom’s delightful painting That's Good Enough! he depicts gold miners underground mining the quartz lode and finding a credible nugget. The miners are wearing white hats and uniforms of what is probably the Brilliant Mine, Charters Towers. A photograph of the Brilliant Mine, from the Queensland Archives, shows the gathered workforce similarly dressed.