May 23, 2011

Struth! Empty Cigar Box worth thousands

STRUTH !    

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that for years Hilary Mee dusted it, moved it, sometimes wondered about it, but simply considered it one of the family's many accumulated antiques and oddities.

But 'It' has now earned her an unexpected 25,000 British Pounds (about AU$38,000) – because it's turned out to be the personal cigar box of the captain of the ill-fated liner Titanic, Captain Edward John Smith.

Mrs Mee and her husband John of Merseyside decided to ask auctioneer John Crane to value of some of those antiques and collectables they'd picked up over the years, and it was the cigar box that particularly caught his attention – especially with the White Star Line emblem carved into it, and the initials E J  S in brass attached to the front of the humidor.

The Mee's knew little of the history of the walnut box, beyond it having been given to Hilary Mee's father by a family friend named Sarah.

Auctioneer Crane's research found that 'Sarah' was in fact Edward John Smith's widow, and had lived with her ill-fated husband at Stoke-on-Trent, just 65km from the Mee's in Merseyside.

And the rest as they say, is history… but just why Captain Smith had not taken the cigar box with him on that fatal Atlantic Crossing in 1912 is a mystery that will probably never be solved.

And later this month another piece of Titanic memorabilia will go on sale – a 10m long profile of the ship printed on linen and used at the official inquiry into the Titanic's sinking. The profile, that details every area of the ship's interior, was used by surviving passengers, officers, crew and expert outside witnesses to help explain why "the unsinkable" Titanic went to the ocean floor.

It includes chalk marks made by many of those who gave evidence to explain where they were and how they reacted on the night of the collision with the ice-berg, and has been described "as the Holy Grail" of the Titanic enquiry.

Experts expect it to fetch up to GBP150,000 at this month's auction.


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