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Patrick Gilmore

Patrick Gilmore was born in Ballygar, Ireland around 1833, the son of Peter Gilmore, a shepherd. By 1861 he had moved to Alston where he appears as a "hawker" in the census records. His entries in trade directories for 1882-1884 list him as a "marine store dealer" or "metal broker" and mineral dealer of The Butts, Alston, but in 1883 and 1896 he was described solely as a mineral dealer on the marriage certificates of his daughters. The American mineral collector Charles Pennypacker (1845-1911) described him as "a junk dealer [who] had a warehouse full of specimens which he had bought from the miners of that region."

According to family legend Patrick once fled to America upon hearing that a bale of cloth he had bought was stolen property. The rumor of stolen goods was eventually shown to be false and Patrick returned home. Patrick supplied mineral specimens directly to institutions and private collectors, and also sold minerals wholesale to other dealers, such as Francis Butler, Bryce Wright and A. E. Foote of Philadelphia. Well-known private customers in America included Charles Pennypacker, William Jefferis (1820-1906) and William S. Vaux (1811-1882), with whom he began trading at least as early as 1875. Pennypacker had made his acquaintance by sending a 10 draft to the postmaster at Alston asking him "to hand it to some collector who would send me its equivalent in local minerals."

In 1889 Pennypacker visited Gilmore in Alston and later published the story of his trip in The Mineral Collector. It required three days to review Gilmore's entire stock of minerals. Pennypacker gave William Jefferis a letter of introduction to Gilmore when Jefferis visited Europe around 1878-1882.

Patrick's son Peter Gilmore (born 1855) began helping him in the mineral business around 1886. The Gilmores supplied the British Museum with fine specimens of witherite, barite and fluorite which remain in the collection today. Green fluorite is among the most famous of North Pennine minerals, and the Gilmores supplied many fine specimens, especially favoring crystals containing liquid inclusions. The Gilmores' specimen acquisition problems were mention in an 1881 letter to the British Museum:

Green Fluors is bad to get now as the Masters has closed up the old mine we got them from on account of so many people going & knocking the place to pieces & might have damages to pay for some of the men getting killed.

Peter died of heart disease and alcoholism on 19 September 1892, aged only 36 (his death certificate describes him as a "hawker of soft goods" so he was not a full-time mineral dealer), and his father, already a sick man, collapsed at his funeral two days later (21 September) and died "having only been ill three hours." After this double tragedy, the business was carried on by Peter's wife Elizabeth Gilmore. She moved to Carlisle (her home town) in late 1896 and seems to have given up mineral dealing in the following year. Patrick Gilmore's warehouse on the Butts in Alston is today an antique shop.

COOPER, M.P. (2007) Robbing the Sparry Garniture: A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record, Tucson, 358 p.
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