Thursday, 17 September 2015

Annie's Kettle

What Is a Thing Worth?

The other day, I was sorting through a bunch of photos (my photo files need to go on a diet) and I came across this one.

I have always known this as Annie's Kettle and it has history. It was most likely a wedding gift to my GG grandparents when they married in Glasgow in 1859 so it is about 156 years old. Looks every bit of its age, too. The amber glass handle is badly broken, the matching knob is long gone, its wire stand is bent, the lid has been welded shut with a century's worth of polish (much applied by me) and you can see a ding on the body in this photo.

Colin and Annie certainly were not wealthy. I think they were, in fact, poor. He was a stone mason and she, variously, a cotton bleacher, cotton yarn weaver and, eventually, washer woman. He was 27 when he married 18-year-old Annie. They had two sons and two daughters (one of which died at three years of age) before Colin, born and raised in the fresh air of the island of Islay, took pneumonia in the slums of Glasgow and died. Annie lived on, re-married and died at the age of 67.

I imagine the kettle was a prized possession on her hearth until she died and then it passed to her only surviving daughter, Flora. In 1887, in Glasgow, Flora was married to a tall, handsome upholsterer from Caithness. They produced six children, one of whom died at age six. Boy, life was so tough in those days.

In 1912, the family moved to Canada and settled in Winnipeg. The kettle came with them and took up residence there. The kettle passed on to my grandmother when Flora died in 1934. By that time, my grandparents had moved to Vancouver, so Annie's Kettle moved west.

I remember it on Nana's hearth when I was a child and, when she gave it to my mother because my grandfather had taken a job in Toronto, polishing it became my job. I used to be frustrated my the fact that the lid could not be removed. I think I hoped to find a note from Annie inside!. The kettle stayed with my mother through two husbands and five homes. Then mom died and, because her second husband had been an American, she died in the USA and we had to have the estate appraised. The appraiser was very thorough. I don't think she missed anything in that condo. She even put a $200 valuation on one of my oil paintings. Yeah, right! The expert's opinion was that Annie's Kettle was worth $35. Well, to her, maybe. There is no amount I would sell it for. Ever. Period.

Like I said, it has history.