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African adventurer Stanley's gold watch sold for four times asking price.

An 18-carat gold watch one of Wales' most famous adventurers used to pay an African chief went under the hammer yesterday for more than four times the asking price.

Best known for his adventures in Africa and the quip "Dr Livingstone, I presume", Henry Morton Stanley bought the watch before travelling as part of an expedition to help the beleaguered Governor of Sudan, Emin Pasha.

He bought it for pounds 49 in 1887 and it was expected to fetch pounds 6,000 but sold for pounds 25,700 at a Christie's auction on the theme of exploration and travel.

The watch was one of 15 items linked to Stanley and fellow Welshman Thomas Edward Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, which sold for a total pounds 62,012 yesterday.

On October 26, 1887, Stanley gave the watch to Ismailia, chief of the Manyuema people, as a pledge for the payment of guides he intended to use for a few days.

Stanley's fellow explorer Thomas Heazle Parke told in his book My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa how the pledge was redeemed eight months afterwards - when surrendering it, the chief declared the watch had died.

Several of the items that belonged to Denbigh-born Stanley were commemorative gifts given to him for his mammoth journeys of discovery.

They include a silver medal awarded to him by the Belgian Geographical Society in 1878, which sold for pounds 6,250.

The medal marked his discovery of fellow 19th-century explorer Dr David Livingstone in the Congo and was expected to sell for between pounds 3,000 to pounds 5,000.

The items associated with Tremadog-born Lawrence, the soldier who rose to prominence for his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks, were sold for pounds 12,437.

A first edition of the military adventurer's An Essay on Flecker turned out to be the priciest single item in his lot after it sold for pounds 4,375.

The poet James Elroy Flecker was an author and British Vice-Consul in Beirut, where he befriended Lawrence in the pre-war years.

Christie's said the relative safety of modern life had fired our appetite for memorabilia from a more dangerous time when romantic figures like Stanley and Lawrence won fame with their daring exploits. "The more comfortable our modern world becomes the more these relics of heroic feats seem to capture the imagination. There seems to be more competition around than ever before for these artefacts from the age of explorers."

Those keen to make the most of Stanley's links to North Wales wanted his items to be brought back to Denbigh.

It was hoped they could be incorporated into an existing collection of Stanley memorabilia, but Denbighshire County Council officials said there were no funds available to make bids.

It is thought the Stanley items were secured by Belgian buyers because of the explorer's links to the Congo.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 27, 2007
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