[From Manx Quarterly, #22 1920]

[unfortuneately the actual photograph was not included !]



Mr Philip Shimmin, baker and confectioner, of Strand-street, Douglas, lately came into possession of a photograph which he greatly prizes owing to its associations with Douglas of half a century or so ago.

The photograph is that of a group of three. In the centre of the trio is the late Mr Charles Rowland Raby, who from the 'sixties to the 'eighties of last century, was the leading auctioneer in the Isle of Man. Mr Raby, mounted on an improvised rostrum, and hammer in hand, is engaged in, selling an exceedingly handsome chair, which is held up to view by his trusted factotum, Devine, who is standing an the auctioneer's right.

Seated upon Mr Raby's left is the late Mr J. Horsley, who was for long years the famous auctioneer's clerk. Mr Horsley is shown in the act of booking the transactions at the auction. In addition to his occultation as an auctioneer's clerk, Mr Horsley carried on business as a curio-dealer in Strand-street. Retiring from business, he took up his residence on Strathallan Crescent, where he remained until his death. He was a greatly respected gentleman, and his memory is held in much esteem by many Douglasians yet alive, who have reached or passed middle age.

Devine, who served Mr Raby faithfully to the end, was a famous figure at the Auctions, His fidelity was equalled by his independence, which at times created additional entertainment. He watched somewhat easy-going employer jealously with a view to ensuring that the was in no way over-reached by the going public, which then, as now, included several rather sharp practicioners. Warm exchanges between Devine and buyers were not infrequent, and the passages were often enough attended with much embarrassment to Mr Raby. The, auctioneer, who cordially disliked scenes, was often enough disposed to sacrifice something rather than prolong disputes; but, Devine would have none of such weak-kneed policy, and insisted in sticking out for his master's rights. And in the end the master always suffered himself to be ruled by his servant.

As for Mr Raby, he was an institution in the Isle of Man. A fine figure of a man, he was principally remarkable for his delightful, old-fashioned politeness — he was a Chesterfieldian in his courtliness of demeanour-and for the scrupulous care he exercised in the matter of his attire. By, no means a fop, he ever dressed in immaculate style, his clothes being always of unexceptionable cut and exact fit. Generally he wore waistcoats of flamered pattern, the garment being crossed with a gold albert chain of unusual weight, while dependent from the chain was a bunch of gold seals, which in point of massiveness were in keeping with the chain. In the winter, his head covering invariably consisted of a silk hat of extraordinary glossiness, but in the summer he sported a curly brimmed tall felt hat, white of colour. Judging from the fact that he appears in the photograph as wearing his black silk hat, the likeness was secured in the winter time. Mr Devine also wears a silk hat of the once favourite stove-pipe shape. He has divested himself of his coat, and appears in white shirt sleeves, stand-up, well starched linen collar, and correctly tied black scarf. Mr Horley is taken without artificial head covering, and thus reveals his somewhat luxuriant hair, curling in graceful locks shout his neck. Mr Raby probably possessed the finest pair of whiskers in the Isle of Man. These facial adornments were of the Dundreary shape rendered fashionable some sixty years ago by the actor Sothern, in connection with his famous impersonation of Lord Dundreary in " Our American Cousin." Mr Raby mainly devoted himself to the sale by auction of furniture and house property. His connection was a very large one, and indeed no auction of note in the Isle of Man was for over twenty years regarded as complete unless he occupied the rostrum. He bore himself while selling with great dignity tempered by fine tact and abounding discretion.

He seldom indulged in jokes — he regarded himself and his profession too seriously to engage in any marked display of hilarity. His nearest approach to humour consisted in his production of what he termed his " persuader" while engaged in the auctioning of real property. This persuader was in truth a miniature hour glass. When bidding became dull, Mr Raby brought out the glass and turned it up in full view of the audience accompanying the action with the threat that immediately the last grain of sand ran through he would knock down the lot Generally the notification had a most stimulating effect, and another bid would be forthcoming long before the upper portion of the glass was empty. The latter portion of his career his sole room for furniture was the Athol Hall. in Athol-street, and occupied the whole floor over three shops, one of which is now occupied by Messrs T. W. Broadbent and Co. electrical engineers; another by Mr Quayle (tailor); while the third, formerly used as an office by the late Mr T. Lewin, advocate, is at present un-occupied. In private life Mr Raby was a gentleman of the old school, and his invariable courtesy, and his kindness of heart, rendered him popular with all classes of the community. In those day a select coterie of Douglas business men was wont to foregather of nights in the smoke-room of the Adelphi Hotel for the purpose of social intercourse. Almost as exclusive as a high-class club, the company which assembled in the room were chary of admitting strangers the while they engaged in festivity and deliberation; and the uninitiated individual, who, either through ignorance, inadvertence, or impudence, entered the circle was quickly, though silently given to understand that his room was much preferred to his company. The meetings were marked by flow of soul, united with decorum. A portion of the black leather-covered seating was slightly elevated above the remainder, and was occupied by the recognised chairman, whose rulings were a, binding as those of the Speaker of the House of Commons. For very many years Mr Raby filled the position of president, and filled it very well. Judging from the fashion of clothing worn by Mr Raby the photograph must have been taken close upon fifty years ago. The mount indicates that the photographer was Mr Abel Lewis, who had a studio first on Prospect-Hill, and subsequently in Finch-road.



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