A tiny piece of Prussian Blue cloth will go to auction soon in Melbourne – and it’s expected to fetch a hefty price.
The 40mm x 85mm fragment is a scientifically-authenticated piece of Australia’s most famous flag, flown at the Eureka Stockade in December 1854 by the rebelling miners.
Auctioneers Mossgreen have put an estimate of $20,000 to $25,000 on the souvenir, which will be offered on December 11.
The fragment has been on display at the Museum of Australia Democracy at Eureka (MADE) since 2013.
Its owner is Adrian Millane. He says his great-grandfather, the wonderfully-named Francis William Joseph Breen Hanlon was a ‘bosom friend’ of the Stockade’s leader Peter Lalor, who later presented Hanlon with a piece of the flag.
“My great-grandfather referred to himself as Lalor’s cousin, and there have been references to him as a cousin in other places, but I have no hard evidence of the truth of that,” says Mr Millane.
The fragment came to Mr Millane via Francis Hanlon’s sister Dorothy, down through his own grandmother Gertrude Hanlon.
It was verified in 2013 by Artlab Australia, which restored the original flag to its current state almost ten years ago. The testing involved checking the fragment to see if it had the same fibre, dye, weave and thread count as the Eureka flag.
Artlab Australia textiles conservator Mary-Anne Gooden said the Prussian blue dye used on the material was a key indicator of authenticity.
“That’s an unusual dye; the presence of that definitively shows the Millane fragment is the same as the Eureka flag,” she said.
But there is a sad twist to the sale.
Mr Millane says he is selling the piece to fund his efforts helping an orphanage in Bengal, India.
The Mal Boystown Orphanage in Malzabar, West Bengal was run until 2015 by a renegade and ultimately defrocked priest named John Robert Thwaytes.
Thwaytes was a self-proclaimed mystic, seer and author of dubious spiritual texts proclaiming his knowledge of a vaster universe.
He was also, says Mr Millane, a serial sex abuser and pedophile. Thwaytes died in 2015 having run the orphanage and a school for 40 years. Both the school and orphanage are now facing destitution as supporters abandon them in the face of the revelations.
Mr Millane says he discovered the Boystown orphanage during his travels 10 years ago, and has spent the last two years investigating Thwaytes’s unpunished crimes. He’s now dedicated the rest of his life to making restitution to the children, and the proceeds of the sale of the Eureka fragment will enable that outcome.