OTLEY AND DISTRICT MEN’S FORUM

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 Billies and Charlies
Mr E Foster

A collector with a sense of comedy, and a very young octogenarian, Eric Forster gave us the benefit of his humour when he told us about “Billies and Charlies”. 

In the 1850’s two teenage mudlarks William Smith and Charles Reid found a pewter medallion on the banks of the Thames. They took it to the British Museum where it was viewed by The British Pewter Board who decided it was a suitable specimen for the BM to purchase. This the museum did to the tune of fifty pounds. The enormous sum inspired the two lads to become entrepreneurs and they had three forgeries made. The first of these was also sold to the BM but a second forgery a few months later gave the game away. An embarrassed British Pewter Board had to admit that they had been fooled by the first forgery and since that time, within the museum industry, non authentic articles have become known as “Billies and Charlies”.  This revelation, here summarised, led Eric into numerous stories, mostly humorous, about Billies and Charlies he had encountered during his career as a collector.

We heard about System Sticks and specifically about his Sword Stick and its family history, then followed the story about the Detective Camera produced in 1904 and a digression into photography.  He finished with a wonderful story about collecting Grace Darling memorabilia and his possession of a china ornament depicting her action. It arrived in his possession via a man who booked four seats on a train so as not to get his broken arm bumped and who bought the object from an antiques dealer who had made it from the original mould; this lead to the ultimate question. Was it a Billy and Charlie?


Could it be the economic situation or the closure of local pubs ? Whatever the subject our next meeting will be “A Topical Subject” by Greg Mulholland MP at 10-00am on Thursday 22nd January in the Main Hall of Otley Civic Centre.

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