On the Antiques Roadshow, someone had a collection of walking sticks. They all seemed to be quite valuable, so I dashed out to the hall to check the two I have. I’m fairly sure they are both worthless in money, but they’ve made me wonder, as seems to happen quite often recently about things, where they came from and what they might really be worth, in history.
The one on the right, I suspect, belonged to my maternal grandfather, Esmond Lloyd Rae. I remember quite a lot about him, but mostly dating from his latter days when he was stroke- and bedridden, blind, and I had to kiss his stubbly cheek goodnight in his smelly room. In earlier years he was a jolly music-loving toper who grew raspberries and kept chickens; and he played the violin well, I was often told. I don’t think I ever heard him play, although can one ever be sure about that kind of thing? – when was the first time you ever heard the sound of a violin?
That walking stick, with its cool black ebony finish and the firmly functional no-nonsense knob at the top, looks to me exactly like the kind of accessory a proud Yorkshireman called Esmond would brandish on a youthful promenade in Wakefield. So that’s the imaginary story I’m assigning to that one.
The one on the left intrigues me more. The handle is carved ivory, and looks as though it’s been well-caressed. (The carvings round the top are quite worn.) More importantly, although you can’t see it in the photo, the ferrule bears the inscription ‘F G L’. Knowing what I do of my family history, the ‘F’ must stand for Frank, and the ‘L’ for Large; but what about the ‘G’? It could only be George, couldn’t it? But there isn’t a Frank George Large in the family tree my sister compiled, which took that side back to at least 1840.
And off goes my imagination again. I want to see Frank George, in the early 19th century, switching this walking stick around, sauntering along the towpath at Lechlade, just for show. And I want to know what he was thinking about.
I never will, obviously, so I’ll have to make it up. Meanwhile, I’ve just recently spotted someone else’s collection of shooting sticks …