Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Fine Black Watch (42nd Highlanders) Officers Boxed Dirk Set With Finely Etched Battle Honours Dating to Circa 1874 to 1881 Ref: 044.17


Price: £4,250

Item Description:


This impressive dirk set is in fine and original condition, formed with black hard wood grips to the dirk, by-knife and by-fork, all decorated with a cut basket weave pattern with studs applied at the intersections. The mounts are of ornate gilt brass. The openwork pommels are canted and decorated with bands with lines and arches and topped with finely cut multi-facetted citrines of slight rose pink colour. The dirk grip has a base ferrule decorated with thistles in raised releif. The base mounts to the by-knife and fork are plain.


The dirk is housed in a wooden scabbard covered with black leather. The mouthpiece to the front is mounted with a downward facing crescent of thistles between the arms of which the figure of St Andrew holding a cross is present. The number "42" in white metal is mounted below. The chape and pocket rims are reinforced with further mounts embellished with similar crescents of thistles to the front. The blade fits neatly into the scabbard with the base ferrule fitting over the top of the scabbard mouthpiece. The by-knife and fork fit snugly into their pockets, the side clasps are firm and in full working order. To the rear of the mouthpiece a later gold braided belt loop is attached to the suspension mount.


The leaf shaped dirk blade is 10.25 inches long (26 cm) and overall the dirk is 16 inches (41 cm). The back edge of the blade is scalloped, the effect enhanced by an etched matching line beneath on both sides which follows the contours of the scallops, for 5.5 inches (14 cm), with a straight deep fuller extending for the same length beneath. The blade becomes double edged towards the point.


Each side of the blade is etched with various designs in raised relief, inside a panel, to be read when the dirk is held point up. To the front, near the grip, the blade records the name of the retailer and maker, "WILKINSON PALL MALL". Above this a vacant cartouche is enhanced with patterns of thistles above and below. Above this the figure of St Andrew, with saltire cross, is present within an oval inscribed with "NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT" around the rim. Above this, a bold figure "42" is present with "ROYAL HIGHLAND" above and "THE BLACK WATCH" below. A belted circle above this with "VR" inside indicates the dirk was made at the latest before the end of the reign of Queen Victoria (died 1901) and most likely dates to just before Childers Reforms in 1881 which amalgamated Highland Regiments known by numbers into those with names which largely lasted into the later 20th century. This feature is mounted with a crown and a trefoil of intertwined thistles above.


On the reverse side, the blade is centred near the grip with a six-sided star formed from two triangles with a stylised letter "W" for Wilkinson inside. Above this, within scrolls, 13 battle honours for the regiment are clearly listed. The first, and oldest, at the top of the list, is "CORUNNA", a battle fought with the French in which the regiment took part in 1809. The last, listed as "ASHANTEE" refers to the 1873/4 campaign against the Ashanti in Ghana, a war which had continued intermittently throughout the 19th century. Between these the names of other famous battles in which the regiment took part are recorded in order of date - for example Waterloo and Lucknow. The list is topped with a Sphynx with "EGYPT" below with a further trefoil of entwined thistles, same as those on the front side, above.


The sgian dubh is mounted with a grip of flattened form, of basket weave pattern with brass studs and flattened cut pommel stone of the same coloration and cut as those mounted on the dirk and furniture. The brass mounts are decorated in similar style. A brass figure of St Andrew with a cross, similar to that etched into the blade, and mounted on the dirk scabbard mouthpiece, is mounted to the front. The scabbard is of black leather with brass mounts. The blade is just over 4 inches long (10.5 cm) and cut with a fuller and scallops to the back edge in less detailed form compared to the dirk.


The robust hardwood box is 20 inches long, (51 cm) has brass hinges, hinged hook clasps and lock with fitting key. It is lined with blue velvet with a pocket for the sgian dubh. The dirk is in fine and original condition with very minor and insignificant small areas of age staining to the dirk and by-knife blades - the decision will be left with the new owner whether or not to remove these. A small and insignificant chip is present on the stone of the sgian dubh.


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