ECLECTIC COLLECTOR AUCTION
This exciting sale – the most important held in recent years - features a wealth of historically important material including The Wolfe Tone Archive, The Thomas Ashe Archive, 1798 and 1916 Proclamations, 1916 Rising medals, uniforms and weapons, a fascinating collection of collectibles from the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, including the archive of Loyalist leader William ‘Plum’ Smith. A unique collection of ephemera related to Count John McCormack is also included, as is one of the rarest and most desirable pieces of silver – an Irish porringer from the Cromwellian Commonwealth period.
In Part 2 of the sale there are wonderful collections of militaria, coins and banknotes. Militaria features the Glenn Thompson collection of badges, medals, uniforms, postcards and model soldiers. A one owner Irish coin collection ranging from Viking Dublin to Georgian Ireland includes many rarities. Banknotes include a collection of seldom seen specimens in slabbed high-grade condition. The sale also includes collectable books by Seamus Heaney, Ernest Hemingway and Ian Fleming. Also offered are ranges of both sporting and entertainment memorabilia, much of it attractively framed.
The first part of the auction (lots 1-365) will be at 1pm on Saturday 25 July and the second part on Sunday 26 July, and live bidding is available at whytes.ie. Limited room bidding can be pre-booked and viewing is from 20 July to 24 July by appointment only. Unlike most auction houses Whyte’s does not charge any extra fee for bidding online; Whyte’s also gives a certificate of authenticity for every lot in the sale.
Lot 132 at Whyte’s 25 July Eclectic Collector auction is an original example of this historic document published by the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army acting as "The Provisional Government of the Republic of Ireland" published on Monday 24th April 1916. This is the document that launched an uprising that changed Ireland forever. Comparable to the Declaration of the United States of America, it is an historic relic of immense interest.
Inscribed in pencil at lower left: ‘This Proclamation …. I took off "Marks" Jewellers shop Henry Street (opposite General Post Office) on Tuesday evening April 25th, 1916, [signed] J. Brady’. This inscription is important as it gives a contemporaneous provenance to the document.
James Connolly supervised the secret printing of the Proclamation in Liberty Hall and intended printing over 1,000 but as there was not enough metal type to print it in one run only 500 or less were made. Less than 50 have survived of which most are in museums and institutions so only 20 to 25 are in private hands.
This example is expected to fetch in the region of €100,000. The comparable American Declaration of Independence regularly makes €1 million.
Other fascinating relics of the Rising include lot 137, 1916 Rising Service Medal to Commandant Thomas Ashe, Fingal Battalion, Irish Volunteers. Ashe won the only victory in the Rising at the Battle of Ashbourne where he and his men overcame a superior force of Royal Irish Constabulary. The medal was awarded posthumously and is expected to make in the region of €30,000 to €40,000. The auction also includes an archive with correspondence (lots 174-239) to and from Thomas Ashe, including letters from his close comrade Michael Collins, and official documents relating to his court martial for sedition, his imprisonment and his horrific death from force feeding in Mountjoy Jail in 1917.
On the opposite side to the 1916 rebels was General Maxwell, responsible for the executions of the leaders. Lo 147 features, bizarrely, General Maxwell's uniforms, which turned up in the USA a few years ago. In Maxwell’s original inscribed tin case they are expected to make €8,000 to €12,000.
Irish silver is very collectable and while most attention is paid to the Georgian period there are some earlier rarities that are much sought after. Lot 14 is a Commonwealth Irish silver two-handled bowl, known as the 'IS' Porringer, maker's mark unidentified, Dublin c.1659/60, of plain form with scroll handles, engraved 'IS' within a wreath, and hallmarked ‘b’ which dates the piece. A porringer is a shallow bowl with handles used to serve soup or a stew. This is the only secular piece of Irish silver extant and comes with a price tag to match its rarity - €50,000 to €70,000. Mind you a previous owner paid £3,000 for it 53 years ago – the equivalent of €60,000+ today.
Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) is regarded as the father of Irish Republicanism and is commemorated all over Ireland by statues, street names, and annual events at his grave in Bodenstown. Contemporaneous manuscripts written by him or connected to his revolutionary campaign in 1796 to 1798 are excessively rare so Lots 27 to 33 will attract great attention from historians and libraries. An archive belonging to General Howett who put down the 1798 Rebellion, includes many important documents including (lot 333), Wolfe Tone’s address to his Court Martial which sentenced him to death. This most desirable manuscript has been verified as being in Tone’s own hand by Dr Sylvie Kleinman of Trinity College Dublin’s War Studies Department. There are only a few manuscripts in Tone’s hand extant so this “holy grail” of Irish Republicanism is expected to make €50,000 to €70,000. Another rarity is French General Hardy’s Address to the Irish People, a printed leaflet: “'Irishmen! You have not forgotten Bantry bay! You know the effects to assist you which France has already made; her affection for you, her desire to avenge your wrongs and assure your independence, remain still the same. At length, after various attempts, you see Frenchmen among you...”. Only two copies of this historic document are known, so the estimate seems modest at €8,000 to €12,000.
JOHN McCORMACK COLLECTION
Lot 287 The collection includes original important letters from 1905 to 1909 from McCormack to his friend JC Doyle, a well known baritone from Dublin, with interesting content regarding McCormack's training in Milan and his early career in London, a 1903 letter to W Sheehan boasting of his talents, 1920 letter from Franklin D Roosevelt concerning a banquet for the tenor, one of McCormack's famous 'black books' - a loose leaved collection of lyrics, many in his own hand, which he used as an aide memoire when performing on stage, several important programmes, some signed by McCormack, including his 25th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 24 April 1932, a collection of photographs. The collection is valued at €40,000 to €60,000 and was formed by a Dublin fan of McCormack who had gold tooled leather albums and boxes specially made to house his treasures.
A one owner collection of Irish coinage from Viking to Georgian times is expected to total €15,000 to €20,000. Highlights include a Lots 426 and 427, King Sitric silver pennies of Dublin valued at €400 to €500 each, and a silver crown (five shilling piece) made by a blacksmith in Kilkenny for the Irish Catholic Confederation which rose up against the English in the 1640s. The latter is lot 458 and expected to fetch €500 to €700. Lots 437 to 439 are Henry VIII Irish groats (fourpenny pieces) each featuring the initials of three of his six wives, denoted by the initials, including “A” for Anne Boleyn. They are expected to fetch around €200 each.
Collecting weapons is very popular worldwide and no less here in Ireland. Given our violent history it is not surprising that weapons turn up quite regularly at Whyte’s. The oldest in this sale is Lot 1, a Bronze Age sword, circa 1200BC, believed to have originated in the County Monaghan area, valued at €6,000 to €8,000. Lot 63 is an 1848 'Young Irelanders' Rebellion pike made by David Hyland, Dublin and is expected to make €4,000 to €6,000. A Mauser rifle landed at Howth on the Asgard in 1914 and then used in the 1916 Rising, The War of Independence and later in the commemorative volley by IRA volunteers in 1966, is lot 148 and estimated at €9,000 to €12,000. A range of decommissioned firearms from the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ period includes lot 350, a Hungarian Submachinegun expected to fetch €800 to €1,200.
Lot 365 is a very important archive of William "Plum" Smith, Loyalist paramilitary and political leader. Smith was convicted of attempted murder of a Catholic when he was in his teens, later founding the Red Commando and went on to declare a Loyalist ceasefire and engaged in the peace-making process.
The archive includes Smith's copy of the All-Party Negotiations Background Documents October 1997, signed "Plum", invitations to him by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat, Belfast and Dublin, also from Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, (4, various dates 2008-2009), US President Clinton "Remarks in Northern Ireland" 1995, with Smith's inscription "Clinton was a great orator and made a speech that had everyone in awe including me", Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for a reception in Dublin Castle 1998, photographs including Smith with Senator George Mitchel at the "Peace Wall", also at a presentation signed by George Mitchell dated 19 March 2012, 1993 of Smith in The Maze Prison etc.
William “Plum” Smith chaired the press conference that announced the Combined Loyalist Military Command’s ceasefire. He was one of those central to bringing about that ceasefire. He was also a trade union activist in Harland & Wolff Shipyard; a former loyalist prisoner, who worked to find ways of reintegrating prisoners into society; chair of the Progressive Unionist Party and campaigner for social and economic justice.
William Blair Smith was born in January 1954 in Belfast’s Shankill Road area. He was swept up in the developing Troubles after August 1969. Believing his community was under attack, he first joined the Shankill Defence Association, then helped found the Red Hand Commando. This later became part of the UVF. In the summer of 1971, he was convicted of rioting, and jailed for six months. In Crumlin Road prison he was an orderly to internees from Provisional and Official IRAs. He noted they never threatened or abused him. The following year he was jailed for attempted murder. Years later he felt humbled when the victim’s mother attended a talk he gave, and later said she was impressed by his work to end violence. He spent most of his five years’ imprisonment in the UVF compound in Long Kesh prison camp. There he was part of a “think tank” working on political issues. One of its conclusions was that the Catholic minority could not be shut out from power. Smith was a key delegate to the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement, and, as evidenced by this archive, was highly thought of by Senator George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton.