The archive and library of the legendary Scottish big game hunter, Richard Cuninghame, was sold on 24th October 2012 by Bonhams in Edinburgh as part of the contents of Hensol, an historic Category A listed mansion nestling in the beautiful surroundings of Mossdale, Castle Douglas.
Although largely remembered as a hunter-tracker, Cuninghame was also a keen naturalist and contributed to the work of the Natural History Museum in London. His main archive, consisting of letters, journals and photographs from his many trips across the world was sold for £13,750 (estimate £5,000-7,000). In all, the items from the Cuninghame library made over £45,000. The sale total including the house contents was £652,088.
Miranda Grant, Managing Director of Bonhams said, "Hensol was a treasure trove. It had wonderful objects reflecting the different tastes and interests of its occupants and giving a real sense of how life was lived in a large country house over the past 200 years. It was an honour to have been entrusted with this sale."
Top lot in the sale was a very rare Roman banded alabaster trapezophoros terminal dating from the Third Century A.D. This was found in the cellar as Hensol by a Bonhams valuer. The owners of Hensol had thought it was a piece of broken garden statuary but Grant Macdougall of Bonhams recognised it as Roman. Valued at £8,000 - £12,000, it sold for £39,650. The piece was in the form of a dramatic lion's head with carved and drilled sunken eyes. In mid-roar and revealing a marvellous full set of teeth, it had stood guard at Hensol for over a century. Other top items in the sale were a Chinese flambé vase of the period 1736-95, which made £34,850, and a George III mahogany dining table circa 1780, which sold for £17,500.
Richard Cuninghame, (also known as RC) who lived at Hensol until his death in 1925, was a major hunter and explorer, mainly in British East Africa, in the early years of the 20th century. He organised the successful big game safari in 1909 for Theodore Roosevelt after the end of his second term as USA President. A signed photograph of Roosevelt with his trophy a fine looking waterbuck together with one of his son, Kermit sold for £8,750 against an estimate of £400-800.
The Roosevelt trip established Cuninghame's reputation and he became much in demand as a guide to the rich and famous. He was to have accompanied George Prince of Wales on safari in 1910 when the trip was cancelled following the death of Edward VII.