This Fantastic piece of Folk Art was made by Master E. Fee a navel rating who was born on the 2nd November 1769. It was presented to his sweetheart Betsy Farewell in 1788 before setting off to sea.
It is very finely carved in Sycamore and one of the very rarest types of Stay-busk having a sliding secret compartment to its inner side. It is here that Betsy would have kept a memento of her sweetheart and it is touching to learn that when worn this would have been pressed up close to her heart.
In Owen Evan-Thomas’ book ‘Domestic Utensils of Wood’ he illustrates 24 carved wooden Stay-busks, but only one of them has a sliding compartment, I quote from page 130. ‘One or two are more elaborately carved, and one of them has on the inside a shallow receptacle with a sliding lid that was evidently made to hold some sentimental relic’
Our Stay-busk bears a rhyme: Betsy Farewell may joy your steps attend And smiling fortune prove your constant friend Without regret you heard my last adieu Nor felt. for him who more than dies for you.