Relics of Scottish Heritage Auctioned at Bonhams Scottish Sale

. August 27, 2009

Bonhams saw 80% of lots sold at the 10th anniversary of their Scottish Sale from 18th – 21st August, with prize lots ranging from historical items of royal interest and usual collections of armoury to fine Wemyss porcelain and highly desirable Robert Burns mementos.

BlacklockIn the year of “The Home Coming” and Robbie Burns’ 250th anniversary, this sale has been the only one of its kind, dedicated to Scottish art, to actually be held in Scotland itself. Over the last 10 years Bonhams have sold over 10,000 items in this annual sale, totalling a staggering £10 million and this year was no disappointment.

One of the stars of the sale was a memorial stickpin for John Brown, presented by Queen Victoria which sold for over 10 times its estimate, at an astonishing £5,760. This remarkable historical artefact was designed by Her Majesty following Brown’s death in 1883 for presentation to her Highland servants and cottagers to be worn by them on the anniversary of his death. Also of Royal Interest, a rock crystal skeleton pocket watch estimated at £3,000-5,000 sold for an impressive £15,600. Elsewhere in the Silver section, there was gleaming success as a rare, and hitherto unrecorded, snuff mull by Hugh Ross of Tain, circa 1747, sold for a record £15,600.

From the Ceramics department, a specially commissioned Wemyss Pig – named Hamish during his stay at Bonhams– brought home the bacon, selling for a phenomenal £1,000, all of which was donated directly to Marie Curie Cancer Care. In recognition of such a worthy cause, law firm Morton Fraser sponsored the costs of the pig’s production and Bonhams agreed to waive all fees usually incurred by the vendor with the full hammer price gifted to the charity. The pig represents the extent of Scotland’s global reach, featuring the flags of the 5 countries to which Scots have traditionally emigrated all tethered by a piece of Homecoming tartan. It is particularly fitting that the proud new owner of Hamish, Mrs Lindsay Morrison has relatives now living in all but one these countries.

Commenting on the pig, Mrs Morrison says: “I have collected Wemyss ware ever since I inherited my father’s collection. I was determined to leave with Hamish, not only because I am particularly fond of Wemyss pigs, but because the cause is something very close to my heart. I have several loved ones who have been affected by the disease and I am therefore delighted to support Marie Curie Cancer Care.”

It was daggers at dawn in the saleroom for the Arms and Armour section, with an impressive 90% of lots selling. Of particular note, the armour reputedly worn at the 1839 Eglinton Tournament, comprising of a helm, breastplate and backplate, more than doubled pre-sale estimates, selling for well-over £1,000, whilst a Royal Company of Archers Court Sword in exceptional condition fetched £1,500 (estimated £800-1,000). A pair of 17 bore percussion officer’s belt pistols gave the section a shot in the arm, realising £2,040 (estimated £1,000-1,500).

The Books, Maps and Manuscripts section posted the highest selling lot in the first 3 days of the sale, with “The Goff”, a second edition of the earliest book on golf. Its poems give great insight into how the game was played in the mid-18th century, the course at Leith Links and the leading golfers of the day, the “Caledonian Chiefs”. This rare item fetched a very sporting £25,800.

Elsewhere, three architectural drawings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Auchenbothie Lodge, Kilmacolm sold for £4,080 (estimated £2,000–3,000). These remarkable and important Scottish records came to light when the vendor accidentally stumbled upon the drawings when hunting for colouring paper for his children!

All eyes were, however, directed towards the Bard and his Bible. This true relic, due in part to the somewhat dilapidated state of its appearance, found a buyer eager to push the price all the way from the low estimate of £1,000 to eventually pay £3,120 for this astounding piece of Robbie Burns heritage.

Books aside, the furniture section included many Orkney and Shetland chairs, alongside a 17th century oak caqueteuse chair. Bidders were up on their feet for an energetic round of bidding, with this lot finally selling for £20,400 (estimated £5,000–7,000). Meanwhile, a fine Regulator clock by George Edward of Glasgow was sold for £4,080 (estimated £3,000–4,000), whilst a George III repeating bracket clock by Barrie Edinburgh sold for £3,000.

In Friday’s pictures section, results were extremely easy on the eye, with 80% of lots selling. The top-selling item in the works of art section was a 19th Century painted ivory miniature portrait of a Scotsman in all his regalia by Reginald Easton, reaching £2,160. An important painting by Thomas Bromley Blacklock, also fetched a very strong £38,000 (estimated £10,000-15,000).

Miranda Grant, Managing Director of Bonhams Scotland comments: “I am thrilled with the results of this year’s Scottish Sale. After 4 days of selling, and a result of 80% sold, it really does prove that the market for Scottish art in Scotland, is thriving despite the present economic climate.”

Go to for all published sale results and further information.

Category: Auction News

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