The curious contents of a colonel’s home
Sale of lots at Meath house reveal life of an old-world veteran with a brave past
Joristown Lodge, Raharney, Co Westmeath: the on-the-premises contents auction takes place on Sunday at 1pm
House contents sales are endlessly fascinating because they inspire such a mixture of reactions – curiosity, anticipation, sadness – and because they are about people’s life stories, as much as they are about houses, furniture and assorted bits and bobs. The former owner of Joristown Lodge, Raharney, Co Westmeath, Col William Harvey-Kelly, truly was a man from another era. A member of the Anglo-Irish landed gentry, master of the Westmeath Foxhounds for many years and decorated veteran of the second World War, he died in 2015 at the age of 91.
Matthews Auction Rooms from Oldcastle, Co Meath, is handling the sale, and the catalogue paints a vivid picture of life at Joristown. Among the 700 lots that will go under the hammer on Sunday are a full-length embroidered silk wedding dress with fur cape, a huge selection of equestrian tack, a Persian dagger, a collection of glass bottles – even the family Bible.
Col Harvey-Kelly grew up at Clonhugh, the family home near Multyfarnham. At the age of 19 he joined the Irish Guards and, commissioned as a second lieutenant, took part in the Normandy landings on D-Day. His unit was ambushed by a German Panzer battalion, leading to heavy casualties; he was the only officer left alive.
When the unit came under heavy Panzer fire for a second time the colonel walked up to a German tank and, under direct fire, knocked it out with a hand-held anti-tank weapon. He also managed to get his men to safety while many around them died. He was later awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Order of Leopold for his bravery.
He stayed in the army and saw action in Palestine and Egypt. In the post-war years he was a keen polo player at Windsor, where his team-mates included Prince Philip and the young Prince Charles. He retired from the army in 1968.
In 1972 he took over the running of his family’s Multyfarnham estate and 12 years later, due to difficult farming conditions and interest rates – “not to mention the leaky roof” – he sold Clonhugh and moved his wife Picia, their three children and most of the house contents to Joristown Lodge.
Highlights of the Joristown sale include a carved red walnut hall table with shelf (lot 55, estimate €1,000-€1,500), a view of the Thames by Philip F Walker (lot 67, €1,500-€2,500), a giltwood serpentine marble-topped console table (lot 126, €2,000-€3,000), a William IV mahogany four-door bookcase on its original plinth (lot 128, €4,000-€7,000), two framed paintings from the Italian Victorian school, signed Pissini (lot 366, €1,500-€2,500), a large carved overmantle mirror with side pillar decorations, also William IV (lot 133, €1,200-€1,800), a ladies’ Cartier wristwatch with original bracelet, in original box (lot 143, €1,200-€1,800), and an Irish Georgian silver sauce boat circa 1775 (lot 172, €500-€800). See matthewsauctionrooms.com
Athlone boarding school
It can be poignant, too, when large institutional buildings are closed down and their contents sold off – though not everybody is sorry to see them go. In its incarnation as a boarding school Our Lady’s Bower Convent, Lower Road, Athlone, was a home of sorts to several generations of Irish schoolgirls. Its contents are coming under the hammer Sunday (May 14th) in an on-the-premises sale of almost 500 lots, organised by Joe Lennon Milltown Country Auction Rooms.
Highlights include a pair of Georgian mahogany sideboards with gallery backs (lot 472, estimate €3,000-€4,000), a Georgian bureau bookcase with pullout candle-holders on bracket feet (lot 445, €800-€1,200), an early 18th-century oak carved chest (lot 332, €600-€800) and a carved oak writing desk with five drawers (lot 317, €800-€1,200).
Joristown Lodge, Raharney, Co Westmeath, on-the-premises contents auction Sunday (May 14th) at 1pm, by Matthews Auction Rooms, Oldcastle, Co Meath. Viewing on Saturday 11.00am-5.00pm, on Sunday from 10.00am, auction starts 1.00pm. See matthewsauctionrooms.com
Our Lady’s Bower Convent, Lower Road, Athlone, on-the-premises auction, also on Sunday, at noon. See milltownauctionrooms.com