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J MacMahon Photographer

One of the most popular businesses in Strathpeffer during its heyday was J. MacMahon, photographer, and artist.

John MacMahon was a photographer who owned a photographic business based in Aberdeen at 9 Union Row c.1878-1885 (also at 115 Union Street from 1882),  then 54 Union Place c.1885-1890 and, later, 502 Union Street c.1890 onwards. He had learned his trade as a lithographer with the renowned George Washington Wilson and had also worked with the Autotype Company of London. He saw the potential for expansion and opened a studio at 23 Academy Street in Inverness, run by one of his sons Francis Charles MacMahon. He also had seasonal branches in Nairn and Fortrose. 

John himself started the business in Strathpeffer from ‘The Studio’ (now ‘Heatherlie’) and oversaw it for the first few years. He was then followed in turn by his sons Francis, John, Henry, and Arthur.


He is first found advertising his presence in Strathpeffer in the Aberdeen Press & Journal of 5th September 1881. It is not known where his premises were at that time, or indeed if he had any since he had a studio in Inverness and was offering to photograph subjects at their own residences.


In 1885 his premises were advertised as being “ … one minute’s walk behind the Pump Room”. These premises were The Studio (now Heatherlie) which he built and was first recorded in the Valuation Rolls in 1886 with John as the Proprietor and occupier.



The following advert shows the range of his services. As an added attraction he kept Highland Dress at his studio for patrons who wished to be photographed or painted wearing it.


In addition he produced cabinet photos or visiting cards, which people left when calling on acquaintances, or small portraits of individuals or groups.



Arthur MacMahon took over the branch in 1902 and ran it for the next 20 years. He married in 1919 and travelled between Strathpeffer, Inverness and Aberdeen until 1922 when growing family commitments and a downturn in business after WW1 prompted him to give up the Strathpeffer Studio. John MacMahon died on the 29th April, 1927, aged 83.



In  April 2014 the website received a message from Nikki Lond-Caulk. She wrote that she came across this photo of a family group when going through her late grandmother's photos.


It was taken by MacMahon's, likely either in Inverness or Strathpeffer. Her great grandmother's family lived in the Dalcrombie, Dunlichity area and the family name was Shaw. Any information would be gratefully received and can be passed on through the website.







In August 2014 we received an email from Andy Bowers who says that the man in the photo is his great uncle Douglas M Blake born in Aberdeen in 1903. The inscription reads "From your wee brother, Dug" and is dated 20th June 1921. It is more likely than not that the photo was taken at MacMahon's Studios in Aberdeen since Douglas was born and brought up there. However, it is possible that he was taking the waters at Strathpeffer at the height of the 1921 season, had the photo taken here and dedicated it to one of his older siblings. Douglas was, in fact, the youngest in the family so it could have been to any one, or indeed all, of them. The 1911 census shows the following info for the night of the 2nd April 1911. The Blake family lived at 8 Loanhead Terrace, Rosemount, Aberdeen in a house where 7 rooms had one or more windows. James and Margaret had been married for 30 years and of the 11 children born to them 10 were still living. 

James Blake                Head               50

Margaret                      Wife                49

James J                       Son                 21

George M                    Son                 16

Daisy J                        Daughter         13

Charles F                    Son                  11

Alex J S                       Son                 11

Dora                            Daughter          9

Douglas M                  Son                   7

Isabella Gibb              Servant           15

Further research would need to be done to find out what happened next for Douglas.