Jason Clarke Antiques

WW1 Verners Prismatic Compass to Captain AM Boyle Kings Own Scottish Borderers


For sale, a World War One Period Verners Prismatic Compass by Richardson Adie & Co of Edinburgh and owned by Captain AM Boyle of The 5th Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

Of typical pattern, the case retains the majority of its black painted finish (most of the wear present on base of the instrument), it has a hinged front opening lid with incorporated sighting window revealing a floating silvered dial with degrees and compass bearings engraved and large arrow pointer. The dial can be locked with a slide for transit and has a push lever for momentarily locking the dial when in use.

The hinged lid is marked to Richrdson Adie & Co Edinburgh and the reverse is engraved to the owner, AM Boyle, 5th KOSB.

Captain Boyle was a native of Dumfries but was working as a teacher in Edinburgh before joining the regiment. He presumably joined his Battalion in October of 1915 at Gallipoli as a reinforcement. Prior to his arrival, the 4th and the 5th had taken just over 800 casualties between them in attacks made on the Turkish in July. Perhaps lucky to have missed such a bloody event, Boyle would have undergone both a harsh winter and constant fighting in the trenches of Gallipoli until their eventual relief in early January.

Sailing from Mudros on the SS Ionian, the Battalion arrived in Alexandria, Egypt on the 5th of February 1916 to support in the protection of The Suez Canal, where amongst numerous engagements, they took part in the Battle of Gaza in November 1917. In early 1918 they were without leave sent straight to France, landing at Marseille in April.

Almost as soon as they landed, the regiment had to deal with gas attacks and Boyle is known to have been appointed gas officer, Divisional Headquarters. The role was an important one, making him responsible for the ordering of troops to don or remove gas protection masks and clothing during such attacks. The Battalion continued in France until the end of the war, taking part in The Battle of Vimy Ridge and numerous other skirmishes. They eventually moved on to Germany after the signing of the armistice and remained there until October 1919.

Within the insightful “War History of the 5th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers” by Capt GF Scott, Boyle sadly does not appear by name in the text other than in The List of Officer who served overseas. He is not mentioned as killed or wounded so he must have survived the ordeal. Nevertheless, the history tells a very detailed story of the hardships that the men would have had to endure in a WW1 theatre that is less often told.

A fascinating world War One relic.

The maker or retailer of the compass Richardson Adie & Co was the final instalment of the hugely regarded company of Adie & Son, Edinburgh

The history of the firm, Adie & Son began in 1776 with the celebrated Edinburgh scientific instrument maker John Miller, the uncle of Alexander Adie. Miller himself had been apprenticed under the world renowned maker George Adams so Alexander was privileged to have had an uncle from such a prestigious background.

From 1789, Adie (1774 – 1858) undertook his apprenticeship with Miller and by 1804, a partnership was agreed which traded at various addresses on Nicholson Street. Miller & Adie continued to trade until 1822 (although Miller had died by 1815) whereafter the business was renamed solely to Alexander Adie. By this point, Adie was himself an accomplished maker with a focus on meteorological instruments and had by 1818 taken out a patent (No: 4323) for a sympiesometer, a type of barometer designed initially for marine use which contained hydrogen and almond oil instead of mercury. Perhaps the most well-known instrument that the Adie family are now recognised for, this invention was patented as, “An improvement on the air barometer” an instrument that had been conceived as early as 1668 by Robert Hooke but never brought into practical use until Adie’s later developments.

By 1822, Adie had a family of three sons, John (1805-1857), Richard (1810-1881) and Patrick (1821-1886) and it is sensible to presume that all undertook some kind of apprenticeship under him. The eldest, John went into business with his Father to form Adie & Son in 1835 and Richard is also known to have worked for the firm. Like many scientific instrument making firms of the period, both Richard and Patrick were to go on to set up their own successful satellite firms under their own names both in Liverpool and London respectively.

In Edinburgh, the partnership between Alexander and John continued to grow, they received Royal Appointments from both William IV and Queen Victoria and were the only two instrument makers elected as Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh. The links with the Society are considered to be the reason for their commission to build William Wallace’s patent Eidograph, an improvement to the less accurate pantograph. They had trading links with Spencer, Browning & Rust (they retailed Adie’s Sympiesometer) and John completed the installation of a Troughton & Simms altazimuth circle for The Edinburgh Astronomical Institution at Calton Hill Observatory after Simms proclaimed himself too busy to undertake the exercise! They were also known to have had links with Charles Darwin.

Sadly, John shot himself in 1857 after suffering from, “fits of despondency” and therefore predeceased his father who died the following year. The Royal Society wrote of John:

“Mr Adie’s enrolment among us is a sufficient proof that he successfully followed his calling. He was greatly esteemed as a man conversant with the highest branches of his profession, and who has left behind him in that respect scarcely and equal, certainly no superior, in Edinburgh, or perhaps in even in London itself”.

They went on the following year to say of his father Alexander:

His attention to business, with his skill as a mechanic, his quick inventive powers, and his sound judgement, led him to his being much employed by all kinds of inventors to give their schemes a practical form.”

Following the sad demise of both partners of the firm, Richard Adie continued to run both the Edinburgh firm and his own concern in Liverpool until his eventual death in 1881. Himself an accomplished instrument maker, Richard was awarded a silver medal by The Royal Scottish Society of Arts for his “New Hermetic Barometer” in 1860 (the medal is held in The National Museum of Scotland Collections in Edinburgh) and published twenty seven papers on philosophical instruments between 1837 & 1868. He also exhibited a vacuum steam gauge, his alcohol hermetic barometer and a double telescope at the 1862 London Exhibition.

On the death of Richard, the company was sold to Thomas Wedderburn who had been the Adie family’s foreman at the firm and the name was changed to Adie & Wedderburn. He died in 1886 whereafter the business was again sold to an Alexander James Menzies who also died a year later and the firm was finally handled by an optician named Thomas Mein.

The point of transfer to the name Richardson, Adie & Co remains unclear but it was formed by the merging of the cutlers RS Richardson & Co and the remaining Adie business. It continued to trade until it was finally dissolved in 1949.

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