A 17- by 21-inch portrait of a woman slipped out when the back came off, leaving Sarty to speculate who she is. When daughter-in-law Kristen Prouse of Waterville in nearby Kings County heard about the mystery photo, she thought of Facebook immediately.
For Sarty it was just as good as finding buried treasure, not knowing it was even there and then having it fall out when he thought he had broken the “darn thing."
“I don't think he had any intention of trying to locate the owner until I told him it could be shared around Facebook,” Prouse said. “I'm pretty sure he had no idea it would actually be effective until I called him back tonight (May 23) and told him how quickly it had taken off.”
Prouse had posted the photo of the ship and the portrait of the woman on Facebook explaining what happened and that they were trying to find out who the woman was. Within 24 hours there were 219 shares and by Wednesday morning another 80 shares.
“Recognize this lovely lady?? My father-in-law found this gorgeous portrait behind a framed print of a ship he purchased second-hand in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia,” Prouse said in her Facebook post. “He's had the print for many years, but it wasn't until he dropped the frame and it came apart last week that he discovered the photograph hidden behind. We'd love to get this back to the rightful owner or their family! Share or PM me if you know her!”
The 64-year-old Sarty bought the framed print of the S. S. Kyle about three years ago at a yard sale somewhere in Annapolis County.
“He was absolutely certain he wouldn't have paid more than $10,” said Prouse.
Black and white
Sarty is drawn to black and white photos of any subject, said Prouse.
“If they can pull him in without color, he knows he just has to have it,” she said. “Having said that, he does have ties to the ocean, having spent many years as a scallop fisherman, and also has a small collection of ship models. He loved the classic style and paint of the ship.”
The portrait has nothing written on it, said Prouse, and there is some deterioration along the bottom -- ruining any studio mark that may have been there.
“The print of the ship has pencil writing on its cardboard backing ‘Bought for Bob May 1961, on sale $29.99,” Prouse said. “According to the website dedicated to the S.S. Kyle (www.sskyle.org), this was the same year that Guy Earle purchased the ship, so it could have been released to commemorate the occasion perhaps.”
Sarty thinks the clothing the woman is wearing puts the date of the photo in late-1960s or early-1970s. He believes her to be a young 18- to 20-year-old new bride. He sees the position of her hand, showing off the wedding band, as an important feature.
“The frame doesn't appear to be as old as the print of the ship,” said Prouse. “So I would say the portrait could have been placed there for safe-keeping at any point along the way.”
Prouse said that, like her, Sarty is a bit of a dreamer.
“We've chatted at length since he showed it to me yesterday (May 23) about her story and how exciting it would be to return it to her, or her family,” she said. “It was an important enough moment to commemorate with a portrait, and that likely makes it an important memento that would mean a great deal to someone out there. We're already excited about the reunion.”
Learned a lot
Prouse and Sarty haven’t found the subject of the portrait yet, but what they’ve discovered and experienced during the search has been worth it.
“It's findings like these that raise the past and keep us talking,” said Prouse. “I've learned so much about a ship I didn't know existed; people are sharing their own connections to the ship on the post; and it brings a hopeful, happy air to social media.”
Prouse said she and Sarty don’t believe the ship to necessarily be of importance or even any real link to the portrait “except to be the vessel by which she travelled and eventually found her way to us.”
The S. S. Kyle was launched in April 1913 by the Reid Newfoundland Company and spent years as a troop transport vessel, in the fishery, and in the seal industry. She broke her mooring during a violent storm on Feb. 4, 1967, and ran aground at Harbour Grace, N.L. She’s still there and considered an historic site.
Anyone who would like to provide any information on the mystery photo can contact Kristen Prouse via the Facebook Page she has created, www.facebook.com/thematronofthesskyle