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Graham's True Stories
The Honour of an Irishman

Kimball & Morton Lion Sewing Machine

The Kimball & Morton Lion Sewing Machine of 1868

One of the most-desirable machines ever produced was the Scottish Kimball & Morton model made in the shape of a Lion.

For years we had known of one in terror-torn Belfast, but the owner steadfastly refused to sell. He had promised us first refusal. Then, out of the blue, he phoned and revealed that he had been made a very high offer by a Dutchman.

This tempted him but, if we wanted to match the offer, the machine was ours.

I arranged for him to be on the dock at Belfast with the machine and Maggie planned to drive up to Liverpool overnight, get the ferry, meet up with the Irishman and drive straight back onto the boat which had a one-hour turnaround.

I had just waved her off and come back into the house when the phone rang. It was a friend from Germany who told me that he had heard on the grapevine that the Dutchman had learnt of our plans and had phoned Ireland and doubled his offer.

What could I do? This was before the days of mobile phones and all I could see was this picture of Maggie docking at Belfast after a nine-hour ferry crossing to find, at best, the contact wanting twice what she had with her and, at worst, not there at all.

There was nothing for it, I had to phone the guy in Belfast and hear the worst. I rang.

 "Hi," he said, "I'm all loaded up for the morning. Is Maggie on the way?"   "Er, um. yes", I stammered. "I hear you've had another phone call from Holland"   "Yes", he replied. "The Dutchman's a persistent type of guy. Keeps putting the price up. But, of course, I told him it wasn't mine anymore and that he should talk to you."

There's nothing to say to that. This guy could have invented any kind of excuse to go back on our arrangement. But he didn't. To his mind we had shaken hands on a deal, albeit, over a telephone line, and that was the end of matters.

Maggie still has the machine. At the moment it's on loan to a German museum where I know the Dutchman visits regularly. I like to think of him flinching a little every time he walks past the Lion as he remembers the day that all his money couldn't even dent one Irishman's honour.