Valhalla - Rosa Tacchini 1872
The Rosa Tacchini was an Italian barque on her way from Buenos Aires to Antwerp in November 1872. Her cargo comprised of hides, horns, hooves, tallow and wool, part of the harvest of Argentinian livestock. On reaching Scilly. She was caught in a severe storm while at anchor in St Mary’s Road, between St Mary’s and Tresco. In the powerful south-south-westerly gales of 22nd November, the barque parted one of her cables. Drifting towards Tresco Flats, she struck Paper Ledge twice before grounding herself on the rocks. The Rosa Tacchini was eventually towed to Carn Near on nearby Tresco, where she was broken up.
Her small figurehead is of particular interest as no attempt has been made to restore or conserve it. The original idea for Valhalla was that all the figureheads were to be left untouched, that no attempt to paint or preserve them be made. The intention was that they should remain spectral relics of the ships to which they once belonged. Over a hundred years after Augustus Smith began the family collection of figureheads, it was decided that the further decay of these beautiful artefacts had to be stopped. In 1957, a process of restoration was begun by Lieutenant-Commander T. Dorrien-Smith, Augustus Smith’s Great-great nephew, under the expertise of Mr H.R.Allen.
In 1972, the Valhalla Collection was acquired by the National Maritime Museum, who continue the relentless task of conservation. The figurehead of the Rosa Tacchini is the only figurehead to be left unrestored and eloquently demonstrates the ravages of shipwreck and time. She has an elegaic grace and a sadness about her, illustrating just how ghostly and macabre Valhalla might have once appeared. Surrounded by her ornately painted and more substantial neighbours in Valhalla, it is easy to ignore the diminutive and worn Rosa Tacchini. For those who do take notice of her, tucked away in a corner of the collection, the Rosa Tacchini cannot fail to impart something of the shades of Davy Jones’ Locker.