Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922)
WILSON & SHARP (manufacturers). A silver presentation key, Edinburgh: Wilson & Sharp, 1910. Length: 4½in. (11.5cm.), the stem with elaborate decorated terminal: the fretted border surrounding an almond-shaped positive seal with inscription 'St. Leonard's School St. Andrews Fife Founded 1877' around the edge and the arms of the school in the centre, the verso of the terminal with engraved inscription 'Presented to Sir Ernest Shackleton on the opening of the Science Building 1st February 1910', contained within original satin and velvet-lined red cloth presentation box.
Provenance: Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922), and by descent to the present owner.
The school magazine gives an eye-witness report of Shackleton's visit: 'Sir Ernest, looking at the key, said that this was a new thing for him. He had had all sorts of medals, ribbons, decorations, and goblets presented to him, but he had never had a key before. He appreciated it none the less and would cherish it as a memento of the interesting occasion in the history of St. Leonard's....He hoped the new buildings would prove a great acquisition to them, and that St.Leonard's would continue to do as well in the future as in the past... After the speeches the girls ran round to the entrance of the building and cheered Sir Ernest Shackleton heartily as he unlocked the door with the silver key. The visitors then inspected the buildings... The guests, including the Staff and the Sixth Form, were entertained to tea in the laboratories by the Council, and after tea Sir Ernest Shackleton delivered his lecture to a large and enthusiastic audience in the Hall. Before beginning, he asked Miss Bentinck Smith to grant a holiday to the girls of St.Leonard's and St.Katharine's, a request that was greeted on the part of the School with tumultuous applause..' (S.[t] L.[eonard's] S.[chool] Gazette, May 1910, pp.28-29).
Shackleton started on his second tour of Britain with a talk in Aberdeen on 31 January 1910. The present key recalls what was the second engagement of the tour which ended on 17 March 1910. On 19 March Shackleton and his wife, Emily, set sail aboard the Lusitania for New York and the American leg of his speaking tour, undertaken to pay off his debt from the Nimrod expedition of 1907-9.
We are grateful to Mrs. Rona Wishart, of St.Leonard's School, St. Andrews, for her kind assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.