Saturday, 10 September 2011


A.D. Tushingham's continuing story:
The Beardmore Relics: Hoax or History, 1966, is reprinted by permission of the R.O.M.
Why is there Still Doubt?

Little publicity attended the ROM's purchase of the weapons. Then on January 27, 1938, the Winnipeg Free Press carried an interview with Eli Ragotte, another CNR trainman. Ragotte claimed to have discovered the rusty sword as early as 1928 - in a pile of ashes in the basement of Dodd's Port Arthur home.
 In a formal statement the following day, Ragotte swore that:

Between the years 1929 and 1930, I lived in a house on Wilson Street, in the City of Port Arthur in the Province of Ontario, the number of which I have forgotten. The premises were owned by a Mr. J.M. Hansen, a Contractor of Port Arthur, and were rented to a Mr. James E. Dodds, who was my landlord.That Mr. Hansen told me that he had left various articles in and on the said premises which he had rented to Mr. Dodds. That sometime during the years 1928 and 1930, while assisting Mr. Dodds in cleaning up the premises on the said Wilson Street , I found an old rusty sword, in the basement. That about six weeks after finding the said sword Mr. Dodds told me that he had blasted it out of his Mineral Claim situated one mile East of Warnford, Ontario, which was known as the Middle Claim. That Mr. Dodds told me that he had not only found the said sword on the claim, but he had also found a shield and an axe. That i never saw the axe, but was shown a rusted piece of steel which Mr. Dodds told me was a shield...That the sword which I found in the basement of the premises on Wilson Street in the City of Port Arthur, is the same one which Mr. Dodds was showing around the City of Port Arthur, and claiming that he had blasted the same out of his Claim at Warnford, Ontario.

This statement contained at least one obvious and important error. The house on Wilson Street was not owned by Hansen, and Dodd never occupied any residence owned by Hansen before June 1931. Later Ragotte said the incident had occurred at 33 Machar Avenue, but still gave the date as 1929 or 1930. This discrepancy may be credited to confusion in Ragotte 's mind, arising from the fact that some years had passed and he had roomed with Dodd in both houses.

On January 29, the contractor Hansen entered the mystery in person. He too made a notarized statement. In it he swore that he had owned a set of Viking Relics, obtained from a Lieutenant Bloch in payment of a $25 debt; that he had stored the relics in the basement of 33 Machar Avenue ; that while Dodd was living there, he, Hansen, had discovered the relics missing; and that the relics answered in general to the description of those reportedly found by Dodd on his mining claim.

Jens Peter Blanchenberg Bloch (known in Port Arthur as Lieutenant Bloch or John Bloch) was the son of Andreas Bloch, a noted Norwegian painter and designer whose special interests were heraldry and military history. The elder Bloch knew a great deal about ancient weapons and costumes , including those of the Viking period. His son, after spending one year in a military academy in Norway, emigrated to Canada in 1923 and arrived in Port Arthur two years later. He was an educated man and had many friends among the people of Norwegian background there. In 1928 he worked for a time for Hansen. Later he moved to Winnipeg and finally to Vancouver, where he died on October 30, 1936, before the relics were purchased by the ROM.

Bloch did owe Hansen $35. How the debt was settled is unknown. Nor is it known definitely that Bloch ever owned a set of Viking weapons. His friends, including the local Norwegian vice-consul, C. Sorenson, testified that to their knowledge he did not. However, Norwegian law forbade the export of antiquities without a special permit, and it is possible that Bloch would never mention owning such objects to his countrymen - in particular the vice-consul. His widow, whom he married after leaving port Arthur, and he often talked of recovering them.

Two private letters from Hansen are in the museum (ROM) files. In one, he described Dodd as (to put it politely) a man with a reputation for untruthfulness. In the other, mailed to Ragotte a few days after the Free Press interview appeared he wrote:

Thanking you for advising the Manitoba Free Press Re my relic there was 33 Machar Avenue...As you were speaking that the relics were among the clinkers I kinda remember that I was down at 33 Machar looking for my fishing tackles that I lost and Dodds went down the basement to look for them and i went down and you came also then I asked for my Norse relics  you remembers the bench they were standing left along the East wall in the basement and Dodds said he saw some old iron and junk that he threw amongst the clinkers that was left in the basement at the time and you went over and rooted amongst the ashes and found some of them and you remember also that I told Dodds to get them up and put oil on them as I had did which he promised. a I several calls to make that night and you both promised me to get them out for me...According to what I found out last night the relics was sold to the Royal Ontario Museum by Dodd? Of course the fishing tackle and rod that he claims you have I suppose are lost. You don't remember what became of the grine stone that was standing in the back. The frame was left but the stone and handle were gone... Thanking you again for the stand you are taking as I almost forgot it until I saw about these relics and you couldn't help me thinking that they must be mine.

Had Dodd simply purloined the relics from the basement on Machar Avenue and used them to "salt' his claim for a phony tale? According to Ragotte and Hansen, that appeared to be the case. Yet if they were telling the truth Dodd could not have obtained the objects until after he moved to 33 Machar avenue in September 1931. How then can we explain the affidavits which swear to seeing them in his possession a year earlier?

There matters stood briefly. and then, two months after starting the controversy, Ragotte swore an affidavit which said in effect, "I have just been joking!"  Still later, after seeing the actual relics in the Royal Ontario Museum both Ragotte and Hansen, on separate occasions said they were not the ones that had been in the Machar Avenue cellar.  Nevertheless, their earlier stories left a permanent cloud over the Beardmore relics.

The "HOW" will follow. 

No comments:

Post a Comment