Ray Heath

Ray Heath with his Moorcroft vase.

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Heath bought the 1913 Macintyre pomegranate vase, 12in (31cm) tall, for the first time in 1973, when he recalls being a long-haired 20-something just getting into dealing. After receiving a tip from another dealer, he found his way to the house of one of the last hand-throwers of the Moorcroft factory who sold it to Heath along with another vessel for around £90.

As the years went by, he specialised in Moorcroft and became an avid collector as well. He sold the vase in 1994, but says he always regretted the decision. However, earlier this year he saw it reappear at Waddington’s, the Canadian auction house.

He knew instantly that it was almost certainly the same one: a transitional work created just as William Moorcroft left Macintyre’s to start his own factory, signed rather than stamped to the bottom.

Elgin Cooley Collection

It was included in the auction house’s sale of March 25-30, which represented part one of Moorcroft Pottery from the Elgin Cooley Collection. Heath bought it for a premium-inclusive Can$3300 (£1965).

He could not be absolutely sure it was the right vase until it arrived in the UK. The photos of the work from the auction house had made it look somewhat darker than he remembered. Even so, he and his wife had a bottle of champagne on hand when the box arrived in case his prediction was correct. Nearly the instant he opened the box, he knew it was the same one. “It brought tears to my eyes”, he said. “It’s not similar, it’s the same.”Heath is determined to keep it this time. “It will be for sale again, but I won’t be part of this Earth when it is”, he said.