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Memorabilia under the hammer

More assorted lots with surely one of the most unusual trophies ever seen, writes Kevin MicGimpsey

THE ‘HITLER TROPHY’

Due to be auctioned at Bonhams in Chester on May 29 – with an estimate of £10,000-15,000 – is this interesting golfing trophy with an even more interesting history.

The trophy is a large silver-gilt salver and is engraved in German lettering on five lines, ‘The Great Golf Prize of the Nations’, ‘Fuhrer and Reichkanzler’, ‘Baden-Baden’ and ‘1936’; it has inlaid eight 2½ inch decorative amber circular panels or reserves.

In 1933 the Reichskanzler (Hitler) appointed a Reichsportsfuhrer (Sports Minister) to preside over all of the Reich’s sports unions and this included golf. Dr. Karl Henkell (1888-1944) the then President of the German Golf Union (Deutscher Golf Verband) conceived the idea of an international golf tournament to be played 10 days after the conclusion of the 1936 Berlin Olympics in August. It was regarded as an un-official addition to the Olympics.

Invitations were sent to 36 countries but because of the way in which many of the 50 or so golf glubs in Germany were treating their Jewish members, the vast majority of them declined to participate. Only six Golfing Unions accepted: Czechoslovakia, England, France, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands.

Henkell personally commissioned the prize from Emil Lettre (1876-1954) a leading Berlin gold and silver smith; he had been commissioned to create several 1936 Olympic objects d’art. Letter chose the amber stones because they were a pure Germanic stone and because of their association with the Nordic races and their myths.

Although the centre was engraved that the prize was presented by the Fuhrer and Reichkanzler [Hitler] this did not actually happen!

The tournament took place at the Baden-Baden Golf Club over two days, 26-27 August 1936. Each country was represented by two players playing 72 holes and the best accumulated total would win with all eight rounds to count. The English Golfing Union (EGU) was represented by Arnold Bentley and Tommy Thirsk.

At the end of 36 holes the German team was leading by 5 strokes from the English team and 7 strokes from the Dutch. However on the final day with Thirsk shooting two 65’s, England finished on 574; the German team fell away to 3rd place, 12 shots behind England. The French team was second on 566.

Supposedly, with the Germany team leading, Hitler began the drive from Berlin to Baden-Baden to make the presentation the next day…

The Daily Express 28 February 2008: “Though a good anecdote…the tale being that the Reichskanzler was on his way to hand over the prize himself but returned after hearing the German team was losing…”

Dr. Karl Henkell made the presentations. On 31 August he wrote to the EGU. ‘Through their win, the “Grosser Golfpreis” which was given by our Fuhrer and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, becomes the property of your Union and we sincerely hope that it will further the connection of friendship and sportsmanship between English and German golfers…’

Upon their return, Bentley and Thirsk presented the trophy to the English Golfing Union (EGU). They received a cool reception upon their return. The prize itself received the un-glorious nickname of ‘The Hitler Trophy’ and little was ever made of it.

Nothing much was heard of the trophy until now…it went on sale on May 29 at Bonhams in Chester.

19th century watercolour makes £85k

Last issue I promised to keep you informed on the sale of this handsome painting, the historically important 19th Century golfing watercolour that Bonhams were offering in their Edinburgh salesroom on Dec 8. You could say it went rather well.

The painting, by William Douglas (1780-1832) featured two boys believed to be the sons of Captain Andrew Wauchope of Niddrie. As can be seen they are on the Old Musselburgh Links and are holding juvenile sized longnosed golf clubs. Musselburgh, six miles east of Edinburgh, is one of three contenders for the original ground on which the game of golf began to be played in Scotland.

The artist was a landscape, animal and miniature painter to the Edinburgh middle classes and Scottish Lowland aristocracy, completing commissions for the 9th Earl of Dalhousie among others. He was appointed Miniature Painter in Scotland to HRH Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in 1817, and exhibited at the RA 1818-26.

Measuring just 13½ x 16 inches, the painting was signed by the artist and dated 1809 and depicts features of the course still seen today. In the middle distance is the great sand bunker, still known as Pandemonium. Also visible is the public house now known as Mrs. Forman's, where golfers paused to slake their thirst.

Behind the boys are the Prestonpans potteries, the village of Aberlady, the promontory of Kilspindie and Gullane Hill, while in the background the distinctive conical shape of Berwick Law is clearly seen.

VALUE: Estimated at £20,000-30,000 the painting sold for £85,250 including commissions and remains in Scotland.

LAUREL & HARDY IRON

I have a golf club that was given to my grandfather by Oliver Hardy; it has Hardy's face engraved on it. My grandfather was general manager of ABC cinemas in Scotland. I wondered if this would be of value – and also whether it be more interesting as a sporting item or as Laurel & Hardy memorabilia.
Colin Stewart by email

Our reader’s club is a No.2 iron made by George Nicoll of Leven circa 1930s; nothing of real note other than it is in excellent original condition. The face of the club is lined and features the image of Oliver Hardy (1892-1957). He was the plump one with the Hitler style moustache and author of such classic quotations as “That's another fine mess you've gotten me into” and “We never see ourselves as others see us”.

In 1931, the George Nicoll Company personalised a set of their Wizard irons by stamping the Hardy cartoon image onto the face of each iron and then presented the set to Hardy. According to reports Hardy used them continuously until 1954 at which time he gave them away to friends.

I understand that he gave Bing Crosby the 5-iron and that this particular club ended up in a ‘lost-and-found’ bin at a Hollywood municipal course in the early 1950s and was bought for a dollar!

VALUE: At a golf auction I wouldn’t expect it to fetch much more than £300. However in traditional entertainments auction it could quite easily sell for double that figure.

GOLF-THEMED CERAMIC

Can you help date this golf jug?
P.C. Green by email

This is a fine example of a Royal Doulton ‘Queensware’ golfing jug and would have been made in the 1920s up until the mid 1930s. Its shape is known as baluster with a loop handle; measuring just over 9 inches its body is decorated in blue and greens tones and in relief with several Pilgrim style golfers.

Queensware was the name given to a group of ceramic vessels produced by Royal Doulton using an unusual manufacturing technique. The golfing scene of the golfer with his caddie was created by applying decorative colours to the inside of the mould.

These fused to the body of the jug formed when the cream earthenware ‘slop’ made from clay, quartz and feldspar was poured into the mould and fired. After applying a slight yellowish lead glaze, the result was a soft colourisation in these subtle blues and greens.

The Kingsware range is much more common, made from terra-cotta and found in browns and brown tones. We have looked at several Kingsware ceramic pieces over the years. Royal Doulton (the Royal charter was granted in 1902) were prolific manufacturers of golfing ceramics often having their golfers dressed as 17th Century Civil War opponents – either puritan Round Heads or Royalist Cavaliers.

Strange really because although Charles I did play the game it certainly would have been deemed too frivolous by Oliver Cromwell!

VALUE: Royal Doulton Queensware was produced for a short time only and all golfing items are valuable. If this jug came to auction I would expect the bidding to start at £300 and to climb to at least £400.

DARWIN BOOK

I purchased the book ‘Green Memories’, by Bernard Darwin, from a well-known book shop in the South of Ireland. The book has its original dust jacket, and is in very good condition. It is signed “In gratitude for green memories of Ireland from Bernard Darwin Sept 1930.” Could you please give me a current idea of its value?
M. Elliott, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

Bernard Darwin CBE was born on 7 September, 1876 and was the grandson of the celebrated naturalist and author of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.

After a time as a lawyer he began writing for The Times in 1907 and in 1919 he joined as a member of staff. He was a staff member until May 1953, writing articles and reports as the ‘golf correspondent’. He authored many golf related books and they are invariably well written and a good read.

Darwin was also a distinguished amateur golfer winning the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase in 1919 and reaching the semi-final of the Amateur Championship in 1921, which he also reported for The Times. He was also a Walker Cup player and the Captain of the R & A. He died, aged 85, on 18 October 1961.

Hodder & Stoughton published this book, measuring 8¾ x 5¾ inches, in 1928. ‘Green Memories’ is the first volume of Darwin’s autobiographical trilogy. With just over 300 pages it is illustrated with several plates from photographs that include a frontispiece portrait of the author.

Our reader’s dust wrapper appears to have only minimal tears and chaffing. Certainly the book’s covers are bright and their corners are not ‘bumped’ or damaged.

VALUE: As an author Darwin remains ever popular with the ‘old and bold’ and although the golf book market remains soft, such a quality book would create much interest at auction. A standard book would fetch £80-120; however one such as this book with its dust wrapper the hammer price would be around £600-800 and add a another £500 for the Darwin inscription and signature.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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