Antiques, being a hundred years and older, can have many owners. The truth is, due to being well made and of solid timber construction, antique furniture outlives us, making us mere custodians through their long life.
All my personal furniture is either Georgian or Regency, meaning they are two hundred years old! I've only been their custodian for the last twenty years, which is only ten per cent of their existence.
This makes my job exciting as I buy antiques from the public who tell me the life story of their pieces and why they are selling and can no longer be their custodians. I collect their furniture, clean and touch it up or fully restore it and then place it in my antique shop for sale to the next custodian.
Then there is the restoration side of my business. I get a lot of work from the public who have inherited a family heirloom. To continue their custodianship, the inherited piece has to blend into their decor. This can mean stripping and polishing the item to a different colour, two-pack painting, Hampton styling, etc.
Most of the flood recovery work we do are family heirlooms, and we restore them to pristine condition to ensure a continued and long-lasting custodianship. We also restore and maintain heritage-listed antique furniture owned by the church, government and various societies. This means I can be at Government House one day, St Stephen's Cathedral the next or even the Archbishop's house, Wynberg House.
Just the other week, we re-backed the roll-on-a-roll top desk for the Queensland Women's Historical Association in Bowen Hills. Last week we completed a restoration of a small cedar bookcase (pictured) for the Catholic Church Archives in the city, and what a story this little bookcase tells.
This little bookcase was a wedding present by James Masterson, the builder of St Stephen's Cathedral, to his son Philip and his bride Bridget at the turn of the 20th century. During the construction of the Cathedral, the diocese became bankrupt, and all the men were put off. James demonstrated the depth of his faith by working alone without pay and at his own expense. He went on to build and complete the stone front window of the Cathedral.
Bridget, who was very active in the Catholic community and was the treasurer of the Mater Hospital Building Committee, gave the bookcase to a Childers priest named Pat. The centre drawer was lost in the move from Childers to Gympie on Pat's retirement. A search of the roads failed to find the missing drawer. The bookcase ended up at the retired priest unit complex beside St Thomas Catholic Church in Camp Hill. This is where Bishop Ken asked me to pick it up.
The bookcase was showing signs of a hard 125 years. The drawer was still missing, the pelmet was broken off one end, a large piece was missing from one side, and all the locks were replaced with plastic catches. There were Hippie curtains from the 1960s behind the glass panels. Luckily the old French polish was just dry and dirty, so I could apply my own polish rejuvenator to bring up the finish. You can find the recipe for the rejuvenator at murphysantiquerestorations.com.au. Click on the services tab and look under the Furniture Flood Recovery heading.
So after making a new drawer, repairing all its issues, repolishing the timber and cleaning the old glass, it was time to take it to the archive office. I placed it beside the famous Archbishop Duhig's roll-top desk I restored several years ago. So now the bookcase is back beside St Stephen's Cathedral as a memory of the Masterson family.
I guess I'm a custodian of history, which makes my job the best job in the world.