Don’t mention the war.
Once upon a time (or at least a little while ago), Esteemed Architect, gawd bless ‘im, announced that the Regency Wreck originally went by another name. Really? It was not always called the RW? Well, shiver me timbers. As he delivered his news, a small moue of ambivalence flickered across his features but we heeded it not, being altogether too gung ho to know more.
I don’t expect you can read this, but here is ocular proof that the house was once known as Pyrrhus. And I must tell you that when I saw this a little colour drained from the day because, I confess, I am just a tinkly tad superstitious. Quite against my will, I might add, but I was doused in it from an early age by my mother, who always touched wood and never tempted fate nor crossed her knives. All of which has left me one of those strange hybrid creatures – resolute and doughty in my rational denial of all such nonsense, yet surreptitiously chucking my spilled salt over my left shoulder. Just in case. You know how it is – a little insurance never hurts.
And just in case your days of Greek Lit in Translation are a little fogged and hung about with the rheumy skeins of time past, I’ll remind you that it was Pyrrhus for whom the phrase ‘Pyrrhic Victory’ was coined. He was the gent who won the battle but lost the war. Wiki tells me that his victory was one with such devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such will ultimately cause defeat.
More than a little contemporary truth in that, I’d say, when I recall our triumphal glee at the auction and contrast that to our feelings now.
So anyway, this was our man Pyrrhus before the battle. Off to war with a fleet wind behind and a good horse beneath. Full of vim and vigour. Because, I ask you, how could you go wrong with a metallic six pac like that?
And this was him after,
If you’re interested, John Dryden’s translation of Plutarch’s Pyrrhus, 75 AD reports that:
“… they had fought till sunset, both armies were unwillingly separated by the night, Pyrrhus being wounded by a javelin in the arm, and his baggage plundered by the Samnites, that in all there died of Pyrrhus’s men and the Romans above fifteen thousand. The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward.”
So on that basis I’d say that the Pyrrhic legacy seems to extend further than just our house because there are more fallings out and schisms in one tiny area than I’ve ever come across before. Which is a shame and a half. I put it down (mostly) to the cumulative and collective stress of an entire area in transition.
But all this got me to wondering why on earth John Flavelle – he who built the house – gave it such an odd name. A name with such a penumbra of unfortunate associations. Was our Irish jeweller a Greek scholar maybe? Was he a man who wanted to give wry expression to life’s capriciousness? To its steeplechase-ness? Or did he name the house as he did, blithely ignorant of its classical associations?
A little internetty delving suggests the latter.
Because as it turns out, Pyrrhus the second was a racehorse! One, what’s more, in Australia.
I found them both nestled in the classified section of The Courier in 1855. (Mssrs Google, how I love thee. I will name my first racehorse in thy name). And after wading knee deep through ads for The Crinicrescent Cream, a PREPARATION like no other which will produce so beautiful and magnificent HEAD of HAIR, the Practical Treatise upon the Cultivation of Sugar Cane, and Row’s embrocation (Beware Of Spurious Imitations), good for the cure of cankerous tumours on cows – in the middle of all that fascination, I found
“J_ Ferbt, Logan River, the Blood Stallion
PYRRHUS THE SECOND,
By New Warrior (imported) out of Doctressby
Doctor Jenner (imported). For terms apply to
separated just a column inch or two from
“FLAVELLE BROTHERS & ROBERTS
BEG to inform the Public that they have
secured the services of Mr. Samuel
Whitby, a thoroughly prictical watchmaker.
From his experience (acquired in London and
Melbourne) and ability, they feel satisfied that
all orders entrusted to them will be thoroughly
and efficiently executed. Watches sent by pri
vate hand or otherwise can be safely returned
A long bow? Probs. But in the absence of any shorter, I shall twangle its strings.