The Scotsman Articles

Silver tankard gifted by 19th century actor unearthed at auction

A 140-year-old silver tankard gifted by a famous Glasgow stage actor to an unknown friend has been unearthed by an antique dealer.

By Jane Bradley

Sunday, 5th April 2020

The tankard was gifted by Barry Sullivan. Copyright: Freelance

The item, which is up for sale for £3,950, is inscribed from Barry Sullivan, a well-known actor of the mid-1800s who was known to have acted in Shakespearean plays and was also a theatre manager, to a friend, Dan Fred Spiller.

The Scottish sterling silver-lidded tankard by Glasgow silversmith George Edward & Sons displays images believed to be of Sullivan in various roles.It has seven such “vignette panels” around the outside, while it is topped with a statue of a man in Shakespearian garb, which could be Sullivan himself.

Colin Stoddart of Dart Silver antique specialists in Falkirk, came across the tankard at an auction in Edinburgh. It is described as being in “first class condition” and comes complete with its original case.

He said: “For people who are interested in the background of the theatre connections, the engraving on the item and the story behind it will be more interesting than the tankard itself. It is an unusual piece and you don’t see things like this every day.”

The description attached to the listing of the item states: “A very fine excellent quality Scottish sterling silver lidded tankard… Barry Sullivan was a well-known actor of this period who was known to have acted in Shakespearian plays, we believe the images on the tankard may be scenes from some of his acting roles.”

Born in England to Irish parents in 1821, Sullivan was set to become a lawyer, but was drawn to the stage after seeing a performance of Macbeth and joined a travelling theatre company, eventually ending up in Edinburgh and then Glasgow, where he was a regular performer at the City Theatre. He later spent two years managing a theatre in Aberdeen.

For the next 20 years, he remained in Scotland, but an international career took off after a successful first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, London, as Hamlet, after which he performed in New York and later Australia.

When the memorial theatre at Stratford-on-Avon was opened, Sullivan was selected to perform there.

After a period of ill health, Sullivan died in May 1891 of influenza. He was buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, where a statue of Sullivan as Hamlet by Sir Thomas Farrell marks his grave.

George Edwards and Sons was a Buchanan Street-based silversmith.

The item, which is up for sale for £3,950, is inscribed from Barry Sullivan, a well-known actor of the mid-1800s who was known to have acted in Shakespearian plays and was also a theatre manager, to a friend, Dan Fred Spiller.

The Scottish sterling silver-lidded tankard by Glasgow silversmith George Edward & Sons displays images believed to be of Sullivan in various roles.  It has seven such “vignette panels” around the outside, while it is topped with a statue of a man in Shakespearian garb, which could be Sullivan himself.

Colin Stoddart of Dart Silver antique specialists in Falkirk, came across the tankard at an auction in Edinburgh. It is described as being in “first class condition” and comes complete with its original case.  He said: “For people who are interested in the background of the theatre connections, the engraving on the item and the story behind it will be more interesting than the tankard itself. It is an unusual piece and you don’t see things like this every day.”

The description attached to the listing of the item states: “A very fine excellent quality Scottish sterling silver lidded tankard… Barry Sullivan was a well-known actor of this period who was known to have acted in Shakespearian plays, we believe the images on the tankard may be scenes from some of his acting roles.”

Born in England to Irish parents in 1821, Sullivan was set to become a lawyer, but was drawn to the stage after seeing a performance of Macbeth and joined a travelling theatre company, eventually ending up in Edinburgh and then Glasgow, where he was a regular performer at the City Theatre. He later spent two years managing a theatre in Aberdeen.

For the next 20 years, he remained in Scotland, but an international career took off after a successful first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, London, as Hamlet, after which he performed in New York and later Australia.

When the memorial theatre at Stratford-on-Avon was opened, Sullivan was selected to perform there.

After a period of ill health, Sullivan died in May 1891 of influenza. He was buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, where a statue of Sullivan as Hamlet by Sir Thomas Farrell marks his grave.

George Edwards and Sons was a Buchanan Street-based silversmith.

 

‘Sallie, from FDR’: Capital mystery of the president’s silver trinket

A mystery has emerged surrounding a silver trinket box which was gifted to a family member by American president Franklin D Roosevelt – which ended up in an Edinburgh home.

By Jane Bradley

Sunday, 15th March 2020

The silver trinket box Copyright: Freelance

The box, which is engraved “Sallie, from FDR”, was made in New York in 1904 by now-defunct silversmith firm Howard and Co.

It was unearthed from an auction house in Perthshire around three years ago and was sold, alongside other items, to antiques specialist Colin Stoddart of Dart Silver in Falkirk.

Stoddart believes it was given either to Roosevelt’s mother, or his niece – who were both named Sara and known as Sallie. His niece later married a British man, Charles Fellowes-Gordon, and ended up living in Scotland. However, it is not known whether the box was originally intended for her, or if Roosevelt’s mother may have left it – or given it – to her as they had the same name.

Stoddart said: “It’s a nice, small, circular box, about 5 cm in diameter. It might have been a powder box, or perhaps a large pill box. It came up in auction in Perthshire and I bought it along with a couple of other items. I always thought it had an interesting inscription, but I had had it a while and hadn’t done anything with it.

“Then one day, I started to look into it, but I didn’t really think it would be connected with Roosevelt at first. Then I realised that Roosevelt’s mother was called Sara, but known, as many women were then, as Sallie. I started doing some more digging and found out that he had a niece with the same name, who ended up in Scotland. It seemed like too much of a coincidence.”

Roosevelt is known to have called his mother by her first name, which makes it just as likely that the box was intended as a gift for her – perhaps for her 50th birthday, which she celebrated in 1904. His niece, Sara Collier, however, was only nine at the time that the inscription was made.

Collier married Charles Fellowes-Gordon, a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy, in the US in 1918 and the pair later ended up moving to the UK and ultimately settling in Scotland. They were buried in Aberdeenshire in 1969 and 1972 respectively. However, they remained close to the Roosevelt family on the other side of the Atlantic. In June 1934, by which time Franklin was president, the Fellowes-Gordons accompanied Sara Delano Roosevelt – FDR’s mother – aboard the ship Europa to Europe with two of their sons.

Stoddart has not attempted to sell the item due to a lack of clarity over its origins, but said he was open to offers. It is believed the house clearance included a number of items of American silver.

Stoddart said: “There are not believed to be many id any in circulation that  FDR may have gifted and  that are engraved to someone, so this is definitely a rarity. However, this was gifted in 1904, long before he became famous – and also was never actually owned by him other than the purchase , but was given as a present. I have no idea how much it could be worth, as there is so much uncertainty around it, which is why I haven’t tried to sell it.”