A familiar face in Pencader earned herself a national audience recently when she appeared on prime-time television. Ruth Lewis, of Castle Green, is often seen around the village with her German shepherd, Vincent, but in May she appeared on the BBC’s Antique Roadshow with a unique item from her family’s history.
Ruth attended the Roadshow team’s visit to the National Botanic Garden last summer, taking with her a small, engraved silver cup which has been in the family for more than a century. The cup immediately caught the eye of silver expert Duncan Campbell, but it was the story behind the cup that ensured it would feature on the broadcast, which was watched by around eight million viewers.
Ruth described how the cup – which actually belongs to her mum, Mary Thomason of Bryndelyn – had been found by her great-grandfather, Henry Morris, in the trenches at Ypres during the First World War. “He found it in the trench, in the mud, so it was all black and horrible,” Ruth told the astounded expert. “He used it while he was in the war as a shaving mug.”
Ruth went on to describe how the cup had come home with her great-grandfather after the war, but almost ended up in the bin. “When he came home, my grandmother was cleaning out his bag and she found the cup and said: ‘What’s this?’ and he said ‘Oh I don’t know, you can throw it away, I’ve been using it as a shaving mug.’”
However, Henry’s wife Mary was not so sure, as Ruth explained. “She said: ‘I think it is silver,’ so she cleaned it up and then when my mother was born in 1942, it was given to her as a christening present. “My mother still has it in her china cabinet at home.”
Duncan was clearly delighted by the cup’s journey. “A little beaker like that can only have been made in France,” he explained. “So, your great-grandfather dug it out of the mud in Ypres? Presumably, it belonged to a Frenchman. In a French trench was it?”
Ruth told him how the family had presumed the beaker was a stirrup cup, but Duncan explained how cups of this kind were often given as a christening gift in France. “On the front, it’s engraved with the chap’s name, which may well have been the soldier of the Great War who lost it,” he told Ruth. “So, it’s been recycled, used as a shaving mug and then recycled again. “It’s been used as a christening mug, back to what it originally was!” Despite the incredible story behind the beaker, there will be no need to get it insured, unfortunately. “I’ll tell you the truth,” Duncan said, “it’s not a valuable thing. It’s not actually silver. In fact, it’s electroplated – it’s silver plate.”
However, he stressed that there were many ways to value an object. “This is a fantastic example of an antique, or an old object that doesn’t have to be worth much to be enormously valuable,” he said. “It’s the best history of an object I’ve heard in a long time, it’s really quite moving.”
Delighted Ruth told him: “My mother will be really chuffed.”