When we were contacted via Whisky.Auction’s free valuations page with a request to value a book full of John Walker share transfer certificates from the 1940s it set off a remarkable trail of events.
Andrew Welford brought the book to Whisky.Auction when he was looking for advice on the book’s significance and whether it was of value to anyone. ‘No idea with regards to its value but certainly interesting in my option’ he wrote.
The huge book titled ‘ TRANSFERS 19001-19500’ is a historic ledger detailing the transfer of shares in the John Walker & Sons company during World War II.
A keen whisky enthusiast himself, Mr Welford already knew that Whisky.Auction sells whisky memorabilia and that we had previously sold a large collection of rare Johnnie Walker artefacts dating back to 1905. He knew he had found something special: ‘It is a Johnnie Walker Share Transfer Record Book. It contains documents that show the transfer of shares in John Walker & Sons. The first document is dated 1944 and the last 1946’, but the question remained, to whom might the book be special? And why?
The tome of 500 detailed documents had been bound together to create the book. The documents, all numbered in order at the top right of every page, covers the period at the end of the World War II.
Mr Welford had enjoyed flicking through the book, and he knew intuitively that there might be more to it than mere collectability: ‘It’s an incredible item even in terms of social history looking through the people who were transferring shares. Some Potentially after becoming widowed during the war itself.’
The eagle-eyed auction team recognised the historic importance of such a record and knew the value this could bring to the famous Diageo Archive.
Mr Welford and I discussed the book and wondered if the Diageo Archive had a gap on the shelf where ‘TRANSFERS 19001-19500’ should be. Or were they completely unaware of its existence?
This is after all one of those artefacts that holds so much value to a company archive, but little value to an individual, and so it felt right to reunite the ledger with the company owners. We often see old documents and labels from private individuals coming up at auctions and sometimes they simply need to find the right home rather than make money.
I was absolutely delighted when Mr Welford not only agreed but kindly volunteered to reunite this book of transfers with the Diageo Archive (I was not nearly as delighted as the Diageo archive manager Christine McCafferty was!)
The ledger was duly delivered to the Diageo Archive and we saw the book laid down in its new home.
Afterwards Diageo Archive manager Christine McCafferty’s commented:
‘I was so pleased that this book has been reunited with our Archive collection for John Walker & Sons, which is our pride and joy. ‘I cannot thank Andrew enough for his kind donation and Isabel for seeing the value of having items like this kept within the business which created them. It helps us to build a full picture of our story to date, and we certainly hope to find some interesting stories buried in the pages.’
So, what happens next? Will the book add crucial details to our understanding of our social history? Or will it be placed in a box marked ‘TOP SECRET ARMY INTEL 9906753 DO NOT OPEN!’ and languish in hanger 51. Like whisky itself, only time will tell.
If you’d like to hear more entertaining first-hand details about this story then have a listen to Andrew and I chatting with Mark Gillespie in WhiskyCast’s Truffle Hunting For Whisky History episode.