Saturday 14 January 2012

If only it could talk - what a tale to tell

I often wish that things in the shop could talk and tell me a little about how they got to be where they are and what they have seen on the way. Some must have come half way across the world on boats with early settlers, others brought as gifts and left with families, others maybe sent as inheritances. Here are a few items that look like they have stories to tell and some that almost do talk...

A lovely silver plate teapot made in England and decorated with beautiful leaf and flower engraving on both sides. Quite a small pot I'd say perfect for 2 cups each for 2 people. What a fabulous curly sturdy handle and fluted spout...I love this elegant pot...
...but wait, when you look closely the engraving is so says "From the Girls 21.12.18"

Oh my - who were the girls? were they daughters or granddaughters? work mates? girl guides? Choir members? a group of friends?
What was the occasion - anniversary? Christmas - is is close 21.12.18? Retirement? A thank you? A parting gift? A memento of a special occasion?
And the final question - what ever happened to the "girls" and the lucky recipient of the tea pot?

These vintage tourist souvenirs are made out of soft leather and hand decorated in poker work, colourful paint and pen.
The Shoe Shine has a painted tiki and the words Tiki N.Z. It has a piece of lambs wool attached inside to use for polishing. It has the number 537.
The Shopping List has a full notepad inside and a Kia Ora NZ inscription and a kiwi picture. It is still complete with pencil.
The designs are quite simple and with honest child like hand drawings and script, just lovely. They are both in fabulous condition.

The more I write about these the more I want to keep them for myself!
So what can we find out about where and when they were made and what they have been doing for the past few years?
The popper fastener has the name Westcraft NZ. Hah a clue!
The National Library has a copy of an advertisement from the Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, Volume XXVIII Issue 1400, page three and get this - 22nd November 1932. That is 80 years ago. Here is is: Copy of Advertisement. Buy early for Christmas!
So, I guess they were made somewhere around the mid 1930's? So where have they been hiding for maybe 80 years? Maybe the original crafts person kept them safe for passing onto people in the family. Maybe a tourist took them away and treasured the memories of their trip to NZ. Maybe they were never bought and kept in the back store room of the shop and then found by new owners! So now some-one new gets to treasure them for the next 80 years!

Looking like any other, rather beaten up and in no way perfect silver plate lidded tureen, the engraving on this little treasure caught my eye.

Wow - who? where? why?

What I know so far: "vestigia nulla retrorsum" translates to "no stepping back".
Coat of arms is, I think: Wanganui Collegiate although the current one seems to be a lot more gorgeous and embellished.
C. Hay Campbell appears to be the same fellow noted in the National Centennial Exhibition of New Zealand Art Catalogue 1940, where they say this about him:
"C. Hay Campbell was born in Edinburgh in 1867, and studied art at St. John's Wood Art School, the Slade School, and the Westminster Art School, where he gained several distinctions. In 1915 he became an art master at the Wanganui Collegiate School, and did much to revive the Arts and Crafts Society in that centre. He died in 1936."
So this one almost can talk - as it would seem Mr Campbell was presented with this: on his retirement? by the old boys? the staff? It probably sat proud on the dresser in his dining room and used for special dinners.

This rag doll has no makers mark. Shoes, underwear (that matches the dress) and watch are all part of the body fabric.
Was she a favourite or relegated to the back of the toy cupboard? What has she seen, and what childhood secrets does she know?
Her knees have been grazed at some point and a tidy mending job done, so some-one loved her enough to mend her, and send her on her way.
The dress is over locked so maybe commercially made but lots of these rag dolls came in kits from Deans. I have had some of those in the shop. It's great when they get adopted by a new wide eyed child to take home to treasure for another generation... and she will keep your secrets!

Now I have a funny story...
I purchase photo's now and again and they are always a tease as it is so tempting to make up a story for them. I had a number of school photos similar to this one... this has "class 3 1949" written on the bottom but no school name. The reverse has a child's handwriting of who is NOT in the photo... mmm not very helpful.

One day recently I heard a scream of delight from a customer as she had found HERSELF and her classmates from 1950. Her name was written in her own hand on the reverse along all the other children. She is now living in Christchurch and the school was in Eastbourne and so what a great surprise she had! That photo did talk and it had a great story to tell!
P.S. Have you ever noticed how you can always find your own "twin" on every school photo ever taken in your era, no matter where the school was located?

This silver candy dish is lovely, heavy Waterhouse plate with very pretty engraving on the handles.

There is also engraving around both sides of the rims. "Capt and Mrs C.L. Mullany" and "From Geo H Deardorff 6th Marines 1943"

A rather formal inscription but quite a personal sweet little dish.
Who were the Mullany's? Did they take care of the Marine? How did they meet? What happened to them all?

Here are some tidbits I gleaned from a quick snoop as to who these folks might be.
According to the Christchurch advices a rifleman, C.L. Mullany  rescued a swimmer in Brighton in 1917 Hero rescues. A Lieut C.L. Mullany New Zealand Railway Engineer Battalion was also reported as wounded in the Evening Post of 7th July 1917. Is this the same gentleman? Could it be the father of Capt. Mullany?

The California Navy records show a George Henry Deardorff, Chief Quartermaster USN as a casualty of the second world war.

Could be two different people - who knows? The little dish however is an enduring memory of their meeting and connection.

All these items and more for sale at the shop or online email me on


  1. George Deardorff was part of the Quartermasters team on Marine Air Group 24 which stayed in Auckland for a while in 1943. At that time Charles Luke Mullany was living in Auckland, working as a railway officer. he retired to Wellington where he died in 1955. His widow Zelma (nee Lind) died in 1980, his daughter Maureen in 2007.

  2. Hello PCI - thank you so much for this information, it's great to get the pieces of the story - do you know if I was correct in the service history for Captain Mullany? Thanks