An Exceptional Blackbird

I love a pen with a good story and very often the story attaches to a personalisation so I’m certainly not one of those who dislikes engraved names and initials on old pens.
Under other circumstances this would be a very ordinary Blackbird.  However, it was owned by L W Hyde who was a medical doctor practising at different times in South Africa and South America.  The pen is discoloured to dark brown, perhaps by the subtropical sun.  It seems likely that Dr Hyde had no issue, as his effects ended up in a box in a friend’s attic.  Recently, the friend’s grandson found the box and among other treasures of a bygone era was this Blackbird in a handmade oak box.
Having our knowledge of the item enhanced in this way elevates the pen from being yet another anonymous example of that model to a valued link with the past.  We don’t know all that much about the long-deceased doctor but his practice in these far-off places makes him, and hence the pen, quite exceptional.  It’s impossible to feel the same way about Dr Hyde’s pen as one would feel about a pen that turned up with no provenance attached.
For a moment I thought he might be the eponymous hero of RL Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” but of course he’s Doctor not Mr Hyde and he would have had to be very long-lived to be that entirely fictional character.
I would have liked to have had some assistance from my assistant with this article but she was otherwise occupied: sleeping.  She was out carousing until 4:30 AM.  Would that I had her social life!


3 thoughts on “An Exceptional Blackbird

  1. Great story attached to a great vintage pen. This type of pens seems to last forever.

    Having lived in far away places myself, including South Africa, just like you mentioned I also realise how much more value one attaches to an item of which ones knows some provenance.

    One more fantastic find.

  2. It is so very true. The story of the pen’s journey adds an entirely new dimension to what is, otherwise, simply, a collectible. It also adds a bit of romance, drama and, perhaps, a dash of excitement. What adventures did this old pen bear witness to? Who did it watch as he or she penned what document of, perhaps, significant importance to someone? Whose voice did it hear and what did that voice say? What kind if scenes did it look out upon? The questions, and the evocations are endless – and I seem to enjoy asking them.

    I have the perfect example of such a pen in my small collection. I bought it, believe it or not, for the name engraved on its barrel. It is a late 1920’s era Shaeffer flattop in black and pearl (now turned to black and yellow) cow “splotch” color. I call it that because it makes me think of a Holstein cow’s body every time I see it! You know the pattern I refer to. The nib was dented, but still writes as firmly and smoothly as the day it left the shop. I didn’t need or want another Shaeffer. I had enough of them as it was. But that name just grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I just had to have it and I will likely never know why. You would understand if it was Winston Churchiill or some other worthy of note. But this was not the case. Probably just one of a million “regular” people who get up every morning, get dressed and go to work, just like the rest of us. But with a name like “Mamie Murphy” I just know she transformed herself into a “Roaring Twenties flapper at night and partied until the wee hours of the morning. With a name like that, she just had to! But, then again – maybe not. Perhaps she was a professor of Chaucerian literature at Harvard. Perhaps she spent her evenings reading and grading her students’ term papers and deftly entering those worthy results on to the paper with that very pen! I will never know…but that doesn’t matter, does it?

    Stuart (across the pond)

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