Tam OShanter Pitcher 5

Our Tam O’Shanter pitcher sold yesterday. Yes, sometimes we actually acquire pieces that don’t need repair, paint, stencils or gild. They are lovely all on their own.

David discovered the pitcher at an estate sale. We are nowhere close to being experts on pottery, although we’ve acquired several pieces over the years. This small green pitcher had markings on the bottom, but we couldn’t read them. Perhaps it was yet another day when we both forgot our reading glasses. At home we examined the markings with a magnifying glass and plugged what we could read into the computer. We learned that our pitcher was made in 1835 in Hanley, England, by W. Ridgway & Co.

Tam OShanter Pitcher 1

We bought it because David liked it and the price was right.

I began to research it and the story that I unraveled captivated me. The scenes on the front and back of the pitcher are based on Scottish poet Robert Burns’ popular narrative poem of 1791, Tam O’Shanter. Old Tam had experienced a harrowing night and relayed his tale to his angry wife once he arrived home.

Tam, a hale and hearty farmer, drank and dallied far too long in the local pub at market day’s end. As the clock neared midnight, lightening flashed overhead and rain drenched the countryside. Tom’s horse, Meg, carried her master toward the bridge to be crossed on the long ride home.

Bagpipe music wailed near a ruined church. In that roofless church Tam, too drunk to be terrified, witnessed Old Nick himself, and warlocks and witches dancing around an immense blaze. The furious music led to frenzied dancing and soon the witches, hot and sweaty, shucked down to their short undergarments. A jolly Tam cried out in appreciation. Alas, he alerted the evil throng. Pitch blackness descended.

Gallant Meg galloped madly for the bridge and safety, because everyone knows that witches can’t cross running water. With the bridge looming, a witch strained forward to grab Tam but Meg put on a bust of speed. The witch missed Tam but pulled out most of poor Meg’s tail, leaving only a stump.

Tam O'Shanter painted by John Joseph Baker (1824-1904)
Tam O’Shanter painted by John Joseph Baker (1824-1904)

What a great story! How could Tam’s wife be upset when he narrowly escaped death?

One side of our pitcher features a relaxed Tam at the pub. The ale flows while the hearth’s fire warms the room.

Tam OShanter Pitcher

The other side shows Tam on his frantic midnight ride home, galloping just ahead of a witch. The two scenes offer a strong contrast between the warmth of friendship and the chilling terror of ghosts.

Tam OShanter Pitcher 3

The pitcher’s overarching handle depicts a witch’s hand grasping at a horse’s tail. Can you spot the hand? The one that yanked out poor Meg’s tail? Scottish thistle, flowers and leaves drape the neck of the pitcher.

Tam OShanter Pitcher 4

I searched ebay to get an idea of comparable prices and saw wild fluctuations. I needed an expert appraisal. Finding a suitable site required even more research. Ultimately, I selected Value My Stuff. Within 48 hours I had an online appraisal by an expert, many of whom had worked for Sotheby’s and Christie’s, a certificate, and an online link for any customer wishing to read the appraisal. I was very satisfied. Has anyone else used this service? I’ve got to say, we sold the pitcher pretty quickly, and within the range that the expert suggested.

I’ll miss seeing the Tam O’Shanter pitcher in our shop but I was delighted to learn his adventurous tale.

Ann Marie and David

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5 Comments on Tam O’Shanter Pitcher

  1. Sherry
    November 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm (7 years ago)

    That is a great find! I love the story behind it. Thanks fro sharing at Home Sweet Home!

    • irisabbey
      November 6, 2014 at 1:28 am (7 years ago)

      Thanks so much, Sherry. Today I happened to run into the man who bought it and he absolutely loves it. Loves the story, loves the pitcher. I’m so glad it found a good home.

  2. Cinnamon Genoble
    February 2, 2018 at 10:59 pm (4 years ago)

    I actually have a picther and wash basin with same design but mine is white or more like a cream color. I don’t seen any kind of markings on either piece. Do you know how many were actually made or replicated?

    • irisabbey
      February 2, 2018 at 11:46 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, I don’t have that information. But isn’t the story great?

      • Cinnamon Genoble
        February 2, 2018 at 11:50 pm (4 years ago)

        Yes, I love the story. Always wondered what all the designs stood for.The art work is amazing. Thank you for you time.


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