Rotary Shop presents Stanhope Forbes ‘playing card’ to Penlee House Gallery & Museum.

The generous bequest of a local widow has helped to relieve financial hardship for local families and also led to the presentation of a small hand painted ‘playing card’ by Stanhope Forbes to the Penlee House Gallery and Museum.


The team of volunteers at the Rotary Shop Penzance received a call during the summer of last year informing them that regular visitor to the shop Michaela Holden (84) had passed away, and that she had bequeathed the greater part of the contents of her large two-bedroom Penzance flat to the Rotary Shop.

Michaela Holden and her husband Allen moved to Bosavern Farm, St. Just in West Cornwall at the start of the 1990s. Allen Holden had been radio station manager at BBC Radio Manchester and subsequently at BBC Radio London and in 1992 he became a director of Pirate FM.

In 2005, following the death of her husband, Michaela moved from St. Just into Penzance, purchasing a newly built flat overlooking the sea. She became a regular attendee at local auctions and at charity shops including the Rotary Shop after it opened in 2014. Over the years she amassed a huge collection of small antiques and vintage items including silver, jewellery, treen, studio pottery, glassware, books and other items.

The challenge of emptying Michaela’s flat was huge one for the charity’s volunteers , so local auctioneer and friend Barbara Kirk was invited to assess the contents at the outset. More than 350 collectables were identified as being suitable for inclusion in forthcoming auctions and numerous carloads of other items were transported to the Rotary Shop for sale. Barbara Kirk’s help and her offer to sell the items without charging commission proved invaluable and Rotary has expressed their immense gratitude to her. When asked to comment Barbara said, “I knew Micky (Michaela) for over 20 years. She was an avid collector of antiques, art and crafts. She loved nothing more than browsing an auction or a charity shop! She was kind and generous to all her friends, always thinking of those who were less fortunate than she was. We all miss her greatly.”

Mrs Holden was especially aware that the funds raised by the Rotary Shop are used exclusively to support local causes and to benefit local families.

Amongst the thousands of items amassed in the collection, one item, a small hand-made playing card by Stanhope Forbes was spotted. The trustees of the Rotary Shop of Penzance agreed that it would be a fitting tribute to Mrs Holden’s generosity and highly appropriate if the playing card were to be given a permanent home at the Penlee House Gallery & Museum.

Last Tuesday, the Presidents of Penzance and Mount’s Bay Rotary Clubs, accompanied by Rotary Shop volunteers, presented the playing card to the gallery Director - Anna Renton. The card depicts the King of Clubs on one side and carries a hand-written message signed by Stanhope Forbes on the reverse. Sent to Mr Millett of Bellevue, Newlyn, the message politely declines an invitation that one imagines may well have been to an evening of card playing. The message reads “Dear Mr Millett.  Regret that I cannot accept your invitation for tomorrow night being engaged over here. Yours sincerely Stanhope Forbes”

The presentation has coincided with the opening of Penlee Gallery’s autumn offering in which spectacular works by Forbes form a large part of an exhibition entitled ‘Discovering Anchor Studio: An artist’s haven in Newlyn.’ The exhibition, which is on now, runs until 8th January 2022.

The Rotary Shop has distributed more than £40,000 so far during the pandemic and has more funds available. Over £30,000 has been raised from this bequest and a substantial proportion of the money distributed so far has been directed to local food banks, to community welfare groups and, via schools to many local families encountering severe hardship.

The fundraising work of the Rotary Shop continues, and the shop welcomes the donation of quality items from Tuesdays to Fridays between 10:30 am to 3:30 pm or see contact details below.

The two Rotary Club Presidents attending the presentation agreed that the donation of the Stanhope Forbes ‘playing card’ to the Penlee Gallery was a fitting tribute to Michaela Holden. Her bequest will not only now be remembered for a very long time but more immediately it has helped hundreds of local families at a critical moment in time.

The Rotary Shop of Penzance is a registered charity – No. 1194977 and is located at 1 Market Place, opposite the Humphry Davy statue.

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