Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Captain Orr & his guide to Brook

Captain M. B. Orr must have been an avid collector of CTs. He self-published several helpful guides that were tailored to collectors -- only an avid collector could think of, and accomplish, what he did.
     Orr recognized the need to improve Brook's catalog with updated parish names and indices that allowed quick identification of tokens by their inscriptions alone. As Orr, a retired USN officer, put it: "Having served in the Navy with the Seabees during World War II, our slogan was, 'You do the most difficult things now, the impossible take a bit longer.'" And so, in January of 1968, he published a 35-page index entitled, Brook's "Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland" (Simplified).
     This index listed all CTs found in Brook in alphabetical order according to the inscriptions on the tokens themselves. He also described the shape and size plus other descriptive details that were missing in Brook. Finally, he updated the parish names. For example, BK714 with the inscription CON/VETH on the obverse is listed as being from Laurencekirk (the updated name of the parish).
No wonder that his book is hard
to find -- only 100 copies printed!
     You will find that Orr's index is expedient. The CT from Kemnay described in my last post on this topic is easily found in Orr. Just look under M/FD and match the token with the size description. Orr gives the Brook # as 564B (just as I described previously).
     For the collector who enjoys statistical data, Orr does not disappoint. In his brief introduction, he provides some helpful tidbits. For example, of the 1436 descriptions included in Brook, he notes that only 230 CTs show the exact name in the inscription as shown in the alphabetical listing. All the others show either an alternative spelling, an abbreviation, the minister's initials or something entirely different. He also noted that 376 minister names or initials are listed on the CTs cataloged by Brook.
     As for CT shapes, Orr reminds us that the oval is the most modern of shapes. In this regard, he reports that only six CTs in Brook are oval with three of those more accurately described as irregular rounds -- hence, only three CTs in Brook appear to be oval by design. If you are like me: I love these factoids!
     In September of 1968, Orr published his sequel: Communion Tokens Simplified. Dick, Kerr, Lockie, & Lamb. In this work, he creates several indices to aid the collector in finding the CT listing using the exact inscription found on the token. By the way, these names (e.g., Dick) are for popular references that were used in the era before Burzinski.
Conveth is the old parish name.
This CT was issued by David Archer,
Minister (1710-1726).
     Finally, before closing, I want to mention that Orr had previously published a series of indices that listed tokens found in various reference books by minister. This latter work was entitled, Scottish Communion Tokens: Three keys revealing the secrets for attribution. This handy guide was published in May of 1967. For collectors who want to explore church history using a particular minister as a starting point, this guide is essential. I have put it on my list for a future post.
     Yes, Orr has come to our rescue. The old guides can be tedious. It is comforting to use Orr's work, as he too was smitten with CTs. And it shows.

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