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    DUFFUS BROS. of Cape Town & Johannesburg

    The photographic artistry of Duffus Bros. of Cape Town & Johannesburg is represented in a number of important national and private photographic collections throughout the world. The value of the images they took of prominent citizens of their day in a sense validates the often associated historical texts for they appear to have been able to capture the very essence of the personalities whose portraits they rendered. Yet, surprisingly there is little written about these two men. My interest was aroused when researching an article i and serendipitously coming across a number of their portraits of eminent personages who played focal roles in the Anglo-Boer War. "Who were these folk who were able to have entrée to such well-placed people" I wondered. What follows is only part of their story. DUFFUS BROS: their story John Duffus was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1864 ii. His brother, William Duffus was the elder being born in 1858. Originally apprenticed to the engineering trade in the local shipyards iii, John was later to join his brother who, having shown an artistic talent, embraced the embryonic profession of photography. John ("Jack") and William ("Willie") Duffus (Duffus Bros.) appear to have arrived in southern Africa in 1889. A successful claim for compensation following the demolition of a commercial property they were leasing resulted in an award sufficiently large for them to purchase their own premises - formerly Cuthbert's Corner in Joubert Street, Johannesburg - plus a substantial house in Parktown. Later, they had studios at Burlington House (later known as Duffus Buildings), 1672 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg circa 1891 to 1921; in Adderley Street, Cape Town and are reported to have traded in Potchefstroom circa 1893.

    Pritchard Street, Johannesburg showing Mount's Bay House the drapery and clothing establishment of Messrs. Chudleigh Bros., Messrs, Duffus Bros., Messrs, Paddon and Brock, Store Bros., Muirhead and Gowie and Messrs. Thorne, Stuttaford and Company iv.

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    According to a claim for compensation lodged against the British Government v after the Anglo-Boer War [1899-1902] [ABW], the brothers, described as artists and photographers, left their business in the Transvaal on 15th October 1899 for Cape Town and returned after hostilities ceased on 6th April 1901. During and after the ABW, they photographed many of the eminent personages of the day - Boer and Britisher alike vi. On 20 July 1899, in Cape Town, before notary public James Bruce Cleghorne, William Duffus raised a bond of £.200 on behalf of Duffus Bros. from the estate of George St. Vincent Cripps vii viii . The reason for taking the bond is unknown but one presumes it was to re-establish the business or buy residential property following their move from the Transvaal ix. As collateral he offered the entire contents of his photographic business. Fred(erick James) Centlivres x together with William Arthur Daniel Cherrington signed as witnesses to the deal. The inventory of equipment was as reflected in Table I: Table I: Inventory of Equipment, Cape Town Studio, 1899 18 X 16 Camera complete cost £.150 12 X 10 Camera complete cost £.65 Studio complete lense (sic) £.45 Camera £.15 Enlarging Camera £.23.10.0 Back-ground revolving stand holding eight grounds. Enamelling (sic) plant. Mounts etc. £.120 Furniture in Studio £.30 Furniture in Reception Room £.200 Furniture office £.35 Ladies dressing room £.15 Indicative of the professional esteem in which they were held is the fact that at some point Jack Duffus was appointed an agent for the London Sphere ; and that Duffus Bros. held a Royal Warrant and was appointed official photographer to the His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson, Governor of the Cape Colony and British High Commissioner to South Africa.

    Duffus Bros. letterhead bearing the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, 1905

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    Duffus Bros. letterhead, 1909

    For his part, at some point, John Duffus received a Captaincy in the Scottish Horse, the patron in support of his application being none other than Alfred Lord Milner. Though I have no direct proof, circumstantial evidence suggests that this was with the reconstituted voluntary regiment rather than with the famous band of fighting soldiers raised by Lord Tullibardine in 1900. On the 23 October 1903, the Officer Commanding Scottish Horse xi endorsed an application to the Colonial Secretary for Capt. J Duffus to receive a .303 bore Lee-Enfield Target Rifle which he had imported at a cost of £.5 from Messrs. Jeffreys & Co., London xii.

    Signature of Officer Commanding Scottish Horse It appears that at about this time John Duffus began farming in the district of Tzaneen xiii. In the first quarter of 1908, Johann Rissik and Woodthorpe Tempest Graham, as Trustees for Debenture Holders in SA Investment & Trust Co., xiv were bringing an application for liquidation against William Duffus. The circumstances related to his failure to service a bond raised on four stands together with buildings in Lorentzville and appraised as having a value of £.8.8.0. The properties were sold by auction, the which was held in front of the Chief Magistrate's office, Johannesburg on Saturday 25th July 1908. The final liquidation order was confirmed on 8 September 1908 xv. Concurrent with this, in March 1908, Davis and Poulter brought an action against Duffus Bros. in the Witwatersrand High Court xvi. The facts of the case appear to be these: Edwin Jacob Fisher Miller (EJFM) had a lease on premises in Pritchard Street from 1st February 1907 with a right of renewal; and with an approved sublease with Bertram Phillip Davis xvii and Frank Beaumont Poulter xviii for one year from 15th February 1907 without a right of renewal. EJFM fell into arrears with his rent in January 1908. With the condition that the arrears plus costs be paid, John Duffus agreed to the lease being transferred to EJFM's brother, ED Miller, and Davis and Poulter xix. However, the arrears was not forthcoming so the aforesaid agreement was cancelled. On 22nd February 1908 John Duffus (for Duffus Bros.) made application to restrain EJFM from removing "stock-in-trade, goods and effects" from premises in Pritchard Street and, at the same time, to "deliver up and vacate" the said premises. On the 25th inst. a restraining order was granted by Sir William Smith against EJFM and, on issue of a writ, EJFM was duly ejected with costs.

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    However, this left the subtenants, Davis and Poulter, and their possessions in situ. From 1st March 1908, Duffus Bros. planned to lease the property anew to one Hubert C Gain (HCG). When approached by Davis and Poulter, HCG allegedly said he "would give them such portion of the premises as completed alterations would permit at a rent varying with the space occupied". There was correspondence to support this contention. However, within a couple of days, Duffus Bros. had insisted that Davis and Poulter leave the premises as well. Their solicitor drew attention to the fact that the order of the court was against EJFM; further, that they already had a committed verbal agreement with HCG; and, to underscore their rights, duly forwarded to him a cheque for £.75 in lieu of rental for March1908. This was subsequently declined and returned. Heated correspondence passed between Duffus Bros. and Davis and Poulter over a number of days. Finally, the Sheriff of the High Court was persuaded that Davis and Poulter were in contempt of court and, acting on a writ - the wording of which was subsequently identified as being inaccurate and not reflecting the intention of the original order of the court - ejected Davis and Poulter whilst retaining their possessions. On the 9th March 1908, restored Davis and Poulter to possession with costs; and Duffus Bros. were given right to appeal but "without the right to suspend the present order". What further transpired is unknown.

    In January 1909, William Duffus January sought (and received) permission to place a display cabinet outside of Bruce & Co., Outfitters, Adderley Street xx. In February 1909, William Duffus of Guardian Buildings, Adderley Street, Cape Town extended the bond of 1899, seemingly in his personal capacity by a further £.100 xxi. This, and the use of the singular on the letterhead (above) suggests that at this time William Duffus had moved to conducting a singleton business in Cape Town.

    Signature of William Duffus, 1909 In March 1912, William Duffus was faced with a £.1000 defamation suit by Robert Victor Kuranda xxii, a solicitor. On 29 August 1911, implying misconduct of some sort, Duffus allegedly said to one Thomas Edwin Clark, Kuranda's clerk: "I am issuing summons against Kuranda. I have taken Counsel's advice. It has cost me 50 guineas. I will have that little buggar struck from the roll. He is a bloody fine lawyer, and it is a million to one I shall succeed." What prompted this indiscrete outburst is unclear. On 3 April 1912, the Hon. Jakob de Villiers, Judge President found for Kuranda awarding him £.25 plus a further £.10.11.2 and £.1.6.0 costs xxiii.

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    Between 1908 and 1910 Kuranda was Duffus' attorney. Apparently the rift was healed for, by 1921, Robert Kuranda was acting for William Duffus again. In May 1912, that liquidation of joint estates of John and William Duffus trading as Duffus Bros., was initiated by Frank Augustus Stokes. Business had fallen off dramatically, a consequence of economic recession and the partners