Harley’s Beagle Blog March 2016
Those of you who have signed in to read Harley’s regular words of wisdom are going to be disappointed, as this month he has given the human he owns a chance to say a few words about a subject close to my heart, namely ‘COLLECTING’.
Many of you are aware that this particular collecting disease came out of one single item given to me at the age of fourteen by the father of my girlfriend who was later to become my wife, Hazel.
This item happened to be a fairly rare Mk.1 Lee Metford bayonet. Not the usual gift, but one which would have a major influence on my life, my interests and more critically my bank balance which would rarely be in the black for the next fifty years.
If you do not collect you will read this article not understanding the fascination that comes from searching out an item that adds another artefact to an already crowded space.
However, if you have the misfortune to be blessed with the collector’s genes then you will know how all consuming this hobby can be. While there is no cure for it, we at least need to admit to having a problem and I can confirm that I am a militaria collector among other things and definitely have a problem.
There is no AA or GA for us and most of us suffer in silence, counting the cost and wondering where to put the next item that without question you do not need, cannot afford but must have.
Shopaholics are nothing when compared to collectors and they will travel thousands of miles each year searching for the illusive item that must be bought.
Thomas M. Johnson, in one of his excellent volumes on collecting Edged weapons, quotes William Melmoth who said …
‘An object in possession seldom returns the same charm that it had in pursuit.’
Perhaps this is the essence of all collecting as we scour antique shops, militaria shows and the internet for that one item that must be had.
I was very saddened to read about the death of Roger Evans [1943 – 2016] who was one of the pioneer bayonet collectors who influenced many young collectors.
Growing up I relied heavily on the written expertise of John Watts, Peter White, Fred Stephens, Anthony Carter, Jim Maddox, Bob Richardson and others to provide knowledge in a very limited pool before the World Wide Web. Roger Evans was one of these teachers who fed the interest of his knowledge hungry audience with skill and an expertise that only time and experience can muster.
I have hundreds of collectors and students visit the collection each year and the variation in knowledge is obviously immense; from the collectors who surpass my meagre knowledge to the teenager just starting out but eager to learn.
Collector’s starting in the 1970’s relied heavily on the written word which was scarce but they also relied on networks of other collectors who had handled edged weapons in the past and built up an authority that only experience can give. It worries me today that we rely on the Internet for everything and books will only be used as a last resort.
Collecting friends have built up massive libraries of reference books but what will happen to these when the time comes to pass them on? It takes time to build up even a basic knowledge base in any collecting subject and Militaria collectors have such a wide area of interest to cover that we can never hope to achieve full knowledge of our subject or the history that surrounds it.
Writers like Roger Evans provided an education to collectors searching for basic knowledge on this fascinating subject and I sincerely hope that others will follow in his footsteps in the years to come.
We all know that we are only the custodians of these collections and artefacts and I sincerely hope that young collectors will put the time, energy, finance and knowledge into keeping living history alive.
I invite those interested to visit The Abingdon Collection in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, to see what one item given as a gift some fifty years ago can turn into.
Collecting is a disease but I am so glad I contracted it at such an early age.
Philip FaithFull, The Abingdon Collection