Could the hand writing on the label be that of Darbishire? The archive at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester has archive correspondence. Darbishire’s signature appears not to match the label on the axe, so the lithics in the collection with this hand writing must have belonged to another collector of Indian material. Perhaps Darbishire later purchased the objects at auction before leaving them to Manchester Museum in his will. But who was this other collector?
This is another instalment in the series of blog posts about the prehistoric lithic collections from India at Manchester Museum.
Above are photos of some distinctive labels that I have come across whilst exploring the prehistoric stone tools from the Indian subcontinent at Manchester Museum. They relate to stone artefacts from Hamirpur in the Banda region or district in northern India ‘E(x) Coll(ection) of the late Colonel Mayne R (E?)’. The labels are on a stone pestle or pounder and other objects, including ‘dabbers’ for making pottery. I am most grateful to Prof. Dilip Chakrabarti at the University of Cambridge for identifying these tools. However, I have searched long and hard to find out who Colonel Mayne was. His collection, as so often happens, was dispersed and acquired by other collectors, including Robert Dukinfield Darbishire (1826-1908) who bequeathed these objects to Manchester Museum.
Robert Dukinfield Darbishire (1826-1908) was a solicitor and one of three administrators of the estate of Sir Joseph Whitworth. Darbishire took a particular interest in the Whitworth Park and Institute (the Whitworth Art Gallery) but clearly had wide-ranging interests. He was a keen conchologist or collector of shells. He excavated a waterlogged prehistoric site at Ehenside Tarn in Cumbria in north western England in 1871. In 1868 he was involved in the transfer of the collections of the Manchester Natural History Society Museum to Owens College (the forerunner of the University of Manchester). The collection had previously been offered to and declined by the Manchester Corporation. He played a similar role in the acquisition of the collection of the Manchester Geological Society, so Darbishire was a “founding father” of the Manchester Museum. A painting of R.D.Darbishire wearing his characteristic black skull cap by Mr T.B.Pennington used to be on display in the entrance to the Whitworth Art Gallery. Darbishire was made an honorary freedman of the city on October 6th 1899. Darbishire’s large collection of prehistoric stone and flint artefacts was transferred to the Museum in 1907-8.
When I started browsing the internet for Colonel Mayne I had precious little to go on and inevitably my researches took me down some cul-de-sacs: a Colonel Mayne died in Cairo in 1855 but somehow seemed too young to be a collector of Indian antiquities. I tried the Dictionary of Indian Biography which yielded two more possibilities: Richard Charles Graham Mayne (1852-1939) and his brother George Nisbet Mayne (1854-1932) but again they didn’t seem to quite fit the date range for a collection that was dispersed and some of it acquired by Darbishire during the late 19th or early in the 20th century. The trouble is there were lots of Maynes in India during the 19th century so finding the right Colonel Mayne seemed like a hopeless task.
National Museums of Scotland acquired the ‘Mayne collection’ in 1859, comprising approx. 90 items – jewellery, cutlery, earthenware, statuary, weights, measures and manuscripts – from Sri Lanka, India, China and a few Ancient Egyptian pieces from the sale of of Mr Robert Mayne’s Collection (June 1859) but if this was our man why wasn’t he called Colonel? I am most grateful to Rosanna Nicolson, Assistant Curator, Middle East and South Asia, in the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh for this information.
Then I came across an object collected by a Swedish expedition (the Vanadis expedition) that visited India during the later 19th century. Vanadis was the name of the vessel that left Karlskrona on 5 December 1883 on a round-the-world tour, visiting South America, Oceania, Asia, and Europe. The expedition, supported by the Swedish government and king, was of a military, economic, diplomatic, and scientific nature. The expedition was partly a training mission and partly to promote Swedish maritime and trade. Unfortunately, there was a clash of characters between Hjalmar Stolpe, the expedition ethnographer, and the ship’s captain, Otto Lagerberg, and when the Vanadis reached Calcutta in December 1884, Stolpe left the expedition, arranged for permits to travel through northern India and Kashmir for three months, and made his own arrangements for the return trip to Sweden. During his time in India Stolpe collected many ethnographical objects with the aim of providing ‘a far richer picture of the northern Indian people’s way of life and cultural position’. One of the objects was given by Colonel Mayne. I have taken the liberty of extracting this synopsis from Kristina Myrvold‘s Sketches of Sikhs in the 1880s The Swedish Vanadis expedition and Hjalmar Stolpe’s ethnographical collection from travels in Punjab (published on-line 04 Jul 2016).
The object in question is now in the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm (1887.08.5357 [V.78]). According to the records Colonel Mayne, Royal Engineer, Allahabad, donated a water bottle of leather . It entered the museum collections in 1887. Stolpe stayed with Mr and Mrs Rivett-Carnac in Allahabad on 20-24 January 1885. It seems probable that the water bottle was given to Stolpe in Allahabad by Colonel Mayne at that time. The Stockholm information tells us that the abbreviations after Colonel Mayne’s name on the labels must be R.E. for Royal Engineers). In Allahabad too is the Thornhill Mayne Memorial (built 1864-70) which was funded by yet another Mayne, this time Mr Mayne the Commissioner or Collector of Allahabad. I am most grateful to Dr Eva Myrdal, Senior researcher at the National Museums of World Culture in Stockholm for all this information.
So that’s where things stand for the present and naturally I’d be delighted if any reader of this blog post can shed any light on the mysterious Colonel Mayne, last heard of in Allahabad in northern India during the 1880s…