English Tam o' Shanter Stoneware Pitcher
"Tam o' Shanter" is a narrative poem written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Published in 1791, it describes the habits of Tam, a farmer who often gets drunk with his friend Souter Johnie (a souter is a cobbler) in a public house in the Scottish town of Ayr. This wonderfully detailed stoneware jug by William Ridgway and Co. (1830-1854) of Hanley, Staffordshire, England, depicts scenes in relief from the poem. The bottom of the pitcher has a mark stamped into the clay that reads "Published by W. RIDGWAY & CO. Hanley, October 1, 1835." The jug is in the buff color called "drabware;" it's been heavily reproduced without the proper marks in just about every color you can imagine.
In the scene on one side of the jug, Tam is getting a pour of ale from the landlady of the pub. On the other side, Tam is on his "grey mare Meg," fleeing the witches flying after him, one with her hand on Meg's tail (meg is also called Maggie in the poem). The high, arched handle shows a witch's hand clutching the mare's tail; she "left poor Maggie scarce a stump."
This handsome jug has endured a knock on the spout's rim in the past. The chip was repaired and the repairer did a good job of matching the color of the clay. The largest part of the chip was on the inner part of the spout and it's a bit lumpy there. There are tiny hairlines near the base of the handle, one above the garland that runs under the mouth and one on the bottom. These are surface tears, done in the kiln and glazed over afterwards. All of this is shown in our photos (double click on each image to see it at its largest). None of it affects the sturdiness of the pitcher but we mention them for accuracy---it's otherwise in excellent condition. There is an inner lip that could support a pewter lid, but the jug was not drilled with holes for attaching it, so it was never done.
This is the large size of this jug, measuring 10 inches tall to the top of the spout, 9 inches from spout to handle and 24 inches in circumference where it bellies out near the bottom. The flared foot is 6 inches in diameter and the piece weighs a sturdy 4 pounds. The relief molding is particularly crisp on this example. It's a beautiful display piece and, since it's fully glazed inside, can hold fresh flowers as well.