Cosh used by Queen Victoria to bash salmon over the head goes on saleApril 26, 2023
Holy Mackerel! Queen Victoria used a special cosh called a ‘PRIEST’ to bash salmon on the head during fishing trips. And it’s among a collection set to raise up to £67,000 at auction
- The Queen famously enjoyed fishing trips in Scotland with husband Albert
- Queen Victoria’s priest has a narwhal ivory head engraved with the initials ‘VR’
A cosh used by Queen Victoria to bash salmon on the head to kill them for a Royal feast is up for sale.
The monarch was a keen angler and there were rumours about her close friendship with ‘ghillie’ John Brown, a Scotsman who often accompanied her on fishing trips to famous salmon rivers like the Dee.
A collection of fishing coshes, known as ‘priests’, including hers, is now on the market after being acquired by a New Forest antiques dealer.
The collection of 97 priests – used by anglers to kill their catches for the table – includes the oldest known example in the world, inscribed with the date 1718.
This cosh once used by Queen Victoria to bash salmon on the head to kill them is up for sale
The Queen famously enjoyed fishing trips in Scotland with husband Albert, and later her fishing guide, or ghillie, John Brown
The value of the priests ranges from about £20,000 for the rarest and most desirable to a few hundred pounds. They are being sold as a collection with a guide of £67,000.
It took avid collector Dave Watson 50 years to put together the collection, which is now owned by antiques dealer Charles Wallrock, owner of Wick Antiques in Lymington.
Queen Victoria’s priest has a narwhal ivory head engraved with the initials ‘VR’ and a crown with a rosewood shaft.
The Queen famously enjoyed fishing trips in Scotland with husband Albert, and later her fishing guide or ‘ghillie’ Brown.
The priest has the patina – the name the layer of green film that builds up after years of use – to prove it was used.
The oldest known priest in the collection is inscribed with the date 1718 and the initials ‘IN’ with a pewter band around the end which also shows it has been used.
Few historic priests – so called because they administer the ‘last rites’ to a fish – have survived because they were broken or thrown away.
Most priests have a heavily-weighted business end, often a lump of lead hidden inside the wood, to bash the fish on the head.
Mr Wallrock said: ‘When the collection became available through a recent private sale I instantly wanted it because it’s unique and, in my opinion, the finest collection of its type.
‘It gives a glimpse into the past and would be a dream to own for an antique fishing tackle collector.
Queen Victoria’s priest has a narwhal ivory head engraved with the initials ‘VR’ and a crown. The shaft is made of rosewood
Queen Victoria pictured at Balmoral with servant, ghillie and friend John Brown in 1863
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children are depicted on a family fishing trip in the 1850 painting ‘The Royal Anglers on Virginia Water’. The lake is in Surrey
‘These are beautiful and tactile objects which are so similar to each other but at the same time so different.
‘Each is unique and they display a huge variety of materials with beautiful woods including ebony, laburnum, walnut, boxwood, yew, ash, and lignum vitae.
‘Some have ends made from whale bone, antler or narwhal tusk, and others have metal ends and some have metal inserted in the end to add weight.
‘They’re probably all British and are beautifully turned and made by genuine craftsmen to last.’
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