the saleroom

The home of art & antiques auctions

Lot 366

ROBERT BURNS Carved oak case for an exciseman`s gauge - believed to have been the property of the poet. Oak rectangular box and cover, approximately 18cm x 5cm, with reeded base, naively carved to the sides with faces and hearts, an angel head to one end, the lid crudely carved in script form "Robert Burns excise man, wood from Gloume Castle, 1793". The box is contained in an early 20th century morocco leather inscribed fitted case. Provenance: With an old manuscript note (torn in two) reading "Given by Robert Burns to Sergt. Ruthven who died at Malta, 1815, was then in the possession of his brother and afterwards his brother`s son, William Ruthven, Biggar, from whom it was obtained 21/7/(18)88". Messrs Ker & Richardson have endorsed this slip certifying their belief in the veracity of this statement, 12.VII.(18)89. Accompanying this is a typescript resume of the provenance stating that it was bought by Christopher Hepper at the sale of the effects of Alderman Molyneaux Lancaster who was croupier of the Jolly Beggars Club in Manchester and "who might be expected to be a good judge of the worth of a Burns relic". Subsequently Hepper sold this box in an auction held on 27th June 1918. A page from the catalogue is included with this lot. The quite substantial price of £50 was realised for the box at that sale. * In 1788, in order to enable him to supplement his income, the friends of Burns obtained for him a much sought after appointment as an exciseman & the Commissioners of Excise specifically ordered that he be instructed "in the art of gauging and practical dry gauging casks and utensils". In 1792 whilst watching a smuggling vessel off Annan and waiting, seemingly interminably, for the arrival of Dragoons to assist, he reflected his impatience by writing the poem "The De`il`s Awa wi` the Exciseman". It could be speculated that he, perhaps in a similarly "waiting" moment, in the following year, carved himself this box - although it is much more likely that a friend carved it for him. Curiously, in 1789 Burns had received a now well documented horn snuff box with an inscription which is also crude and naive. However a comparison of the lettering shows more differences than similarities. ** Castle Gloume, now known as Castle Campbell, overlooks Dollar and the Forth valley. Burns is known to have visited the castle.

* The description of the above lot by the auctioneer in the language of the auction is the governing description. Any translation using Google translate is a guide only - its accuracy cannot be guaranteed and it is used at your own risk.
Auction Sale details

Antiques & Works of Art, Paintings, Ceramics, Border Fine Art, Silver, Jewellery etc.

Sale Date(s)

Venue Address

The Auction Centre Irongray Road Dumfries DG2 0JE United Kingdom
Auctioneer Details

Brought to you by:

Thomson Roddick Scottish Auctions Dumfries

Tags & categories

Recently Viewed Lots

Register for the saleroom

Create a saleroom account today so you can:

Sign in

  • Sorry, an error occured.
Log in