Historical artefact: The ram’s head which is off to Sydney.
Historical artefact: The ram’s head which is off to Sydney.

Bizarre trophy heads to museum

A MERINO ram’s head that has cast a baleful eye over diners in the home of Warwick couple Ross and Donna Fraser for almost 20 years is about to find a new home in the National Maritime Museum on Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

A trophy from a 19th Century sailing carnival, the ram’s head bears the inscription: “Presented by John Walker, 22 Bond St Sydney, to the Intercolonial Sailing Carnival won by J. McMurtrie’s ‘Effie’ sailed by N. Johnson 1897-99”.

Mrs Fraser said she wondered, after a visit to the maritime museum some years ago, if this might be the rightful place for the trophy.

Renewed interest was spearheaded by the discovery, during a recent visit to Scotland, of an almost-identical ram’s head displayed at the circa 1572 Kenmore Hotel in Perthshire.

Now a golf trophy, the Taymouth Ram originally resided in the nearby castle, its crowning snuffbox providing after-dinner entertainment for castle guests.

It bears the crest of Clan Campbell of Breadalbane, the first Taymouth Castle being built by Colin Campbell of Glenorchy in 1559.

It was a coincidence that prompted more research and the finding of a maker’s mark on the Australian trophy, revealing it to be the work of Edinburgh silversmiths and engravers R & HB Kirkwood.

The Merino, like its Scottish counterpart, is mounted on castors and fitted with a cigar stand and crowning ashtray, Australian gentlemen of the late 19th century presumably preferring a good cigar to taking snuff.

Mrs Fraser said the ram’s head was rescued by her brother-in-law, Stanley Harrison, from beneath a removal house in Tewantin, Queensland, some 30 years ago, the curiosity found a new home with her parents, Stan and Flora Wright, who had retired to the Sunshine Coast after a lifetime in the sheep and wool industry.

The ram, by now shedding its fleece, languished in their lounge room until it was again relegated to “under the house” and eventually offered by her father to Mrs Fraser “because she liked old things”.

Maritime Museum curator Daina Fletcher has described the ram’s head as “an intriguing artefact” and indicated the museum was keen to pursue the acquisition.

Intended as a gift by the Wright family to the Australian National Maritime Museum through donors Donna and Ross Fraser and Lesley and Stanley Harrison, the Merino ram’s head will travel to Sydney for assessment by museum experts.



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