Friday, November 28, 2008

Carved horns at Dargaville Museum

The explanatory caption beside the horns said:

This nineteenth century fine example of carved bullock horns was donated to Dargaville Museum by the Fernandez family.

An excellent example of scrimshaw, they represent the two worlds that collided in the 1880s. [More correctly, 1840s to 1880s.]

The carving on one horn depicts Scottish noblemen and women, and Scotland's national symbol, the thistle. The other horn depicts a group of tattooed Taranaki Maori warriors wearing the white feather adopted at Parihaka as a symbol of resistance to the government's confiscation of native lands.

It is very likely that these horns were carved by a British soldier on active duty in Taranaki at the time, possibly serving under Captain Gustavus Von Tempsky, commander of the Forest Rangers Company.

As well as a renowned soldier and leader Von Tempsky was a talented artist reputed to have encouraged his men to use their non-fighting time productively. Several followed his own example which included scrimshawing bullock horns that were used as powder horns or, as these ones were at some stage, coat hangers.

I disagree with the caption, unfortunately. If the horns date from the Von Tempsky period, they are unlikely to be associated with Parihaka, however. Von Tempsky died in 1868. The Parihaka saga began a decade later. Still, the horns are stunning.


  1. Yes I think some of their history isn't quite accurate. Great Images Ice! Could be from the families that came to Waipu more like. I'll have to check that out.

  2. Being 2006, these were done with the old 3mgp camera. I still have it, but the 8 mega is much better.

    Cheers for the comment!

  3. I have some horns very similar to these - are they rare?

  4. Scrimshaw items are quite sought after. If your horns are plain, though -- I believe there are still collectors out there who are keen on them. Check sites like TradeMe for auction results.

    1. The horns I have are decorated in the same style as this one. The images are of women and men in period dress,,,the same style as this one in the museum.