In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Going, Going, Gone
It was cold on the hillside as the wind fluttered and twisted the tunics of the soldiers of the 6th Legion. Flavius Maximus watched as his officers gathered around him, some still bearing wounds from their battles of the previous day. He held up his right hand, palm outwards, and the hubbub of conversation ceased.
“Brothers,” he began. “Brothers, we are gathered here to honour our comrades who have died in the cause of Rome. Please join me in saluting them.”
They stood, heads bowed, clenched right fists against their chests in salute. After about a minute, Flavius straightened and again raised his right hand. “Enough. We now proceed with the business of the day. We will auction the personal possessions of our dead brothers. We begin with Sixtus Pula, centurion in the sixth Legion.”
He spoke warmly about the dead man and his bravery as a soldier and a leader. The auction was carried out of his possessions, his cloak, sword and personal possessions. The monies raised would be sent to the dead man’s widow in Rome. The auction lasted half the morning till all the dead officers had been remembered and the Legion’s Paymaster was given the duty of ensuring that the proceeds were sent safely back to Rome.
“Now,” said Flavius, turning his attention to the pathetic group of defeated Britons, shackled together, “We move these scum to market in Londinium and see what they fetch at auction,”
The auctioning of the possessions of the fallen in battle would continue right up to Wellington’s time. Some of the wives of soldiers who followed in the army of camp followers may remarry once or twice in the course of a campaign as their men were killed.
Slavery, sadly, goes on to the present time in different parts of the world, particularly in Africa.
“Are you asleep?” The question came from my wife who ensured I was not sleeping by shaking my shoulder.
“No, just dreaming.” Sleeping or dreaming made little difference, I was now awake, and two thousand years on from my reverie.
“Have you finished?” I enquired of her.
“Yes, the Welsh dresser is all I want.”
We were in Woking at an antiques auction. There was nothing I wanted but Margaret had a good eye for various bits and pieces. My job was to drive, pay, and get her and her purchases home safely. On this occasion she was unsuccessful, finally accepting defeat when the bidding went beyond her budget.
I had had some doubts about squeezing the dresser into my Ford Capri, so I was relieved she had accepted the inevitable. She was very disappointed and my comments about the thrill of the chase were probably no consolation. Her comments that she had come second made me reconsider her grasp of the concept.
I have been divorced for many years now and with the ending of my marriage went my interest in auctions. They became alive again when my local stamp club and Philatelic supplier became involved in running auctions. I didn’t go to many, but did take the catalogue and made postal bids. In the club auction I became a runner, the person who distributes the lots to the successful bidder.
Noting my interest, a year or two ago, the stamp dealer, Paul Warren, asked me if I wanted to play a more active role in his auction. It was unpaid work, but you got a discount on any purchases you made.
I have been going for a while now and enjoy it hugely.
My job was simple. There is a huge amount of auction material to be transported from the stamp shop to the auction hall. This we call humping, an inelegant term for inelegant work. Once at the venue it must be distributed around two big rooms in a precise fashion so that the bidders can easily find and study their potential purchases.
At the auction the customers make their bids, and, in due course, pay for their bids. They then come to my room where I check their payment receipts, and give them their purchases. Finally we are reduced to a few diehards left behind as we reach the final few lots which can total up to 1200 lots, The monies taken can reach £14,000 plus, so it can be a busy old day particularly when you consider it is all about grownups, mostly men, chasing little bits of paper. The day is not finished when the auction ends as all remaining items need to be re-humped back on the van and returned to the shop. Also the hall must be returned to the state in which we had found it.
The typical day at the auction starts around 8am and never finishes before 5pm. I sleep well on auction night.
Written by BM