All Hallows withdraws Jackie Kennedy letters from auction

Letters and other items handed over to lay official from college and Vincentian priest

Jackie Kennedy’s long and close correspondence with a Dublin priest gives a unique insight into the private life she so jealously guarded, which continued through the White House Years.

Thu, May 22, 2014, 01:00

The auctioneers retained to sell the collection of letters written by Jackie Kennedy to an elderly Irish priest last night handed them back to representatives of All Hallows College in Dublin and the Vincentian order after the auction was unexpectedly cancelled.

Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, had been due to sell the letters and related memorabilia at an auction on June 10th, which had attracted worldwide interest.

Yesterday afternoon, however, a statement from All Hallows said the letters were “being withdrawn from auction” at the direction of the college and the Vincentian Fathers.

The statement added: “Representatives of All Hallows College and the Vincentian Fathers are now exploring with members of Mrs Kennedy’s family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future.”

Jackie Kennedy wrote the letters between 1950 and 1964 to Fr Joseph Leonard, a Vincentian priest who lived in All Hallows in Drumcondra, Dublin. She first met him when she visited Dublin as a student in 1950 and they began a correspondence that continued until his death. The existence of the letters was revealed by The Irish Times last week and generated massive media coverage.

Representatives of All Hallows and the Vincentian Order arrived in Durrow yesterday to request the return of the letters from Sheppard’s. In a meeting last night, the letters and other items were handed over to a lay official from All Hallows and a Vincentian priest. It is not known where they will be stored in the immediate future.

Returned to vendor Auctioneer Philip Sheppard declined to comment beyond confirming that the items had been returned to the vendor.

Jackie Kennedy died 20 years ago this week in New York, aged 64. She was survived by two children: John F Kennedy jnr, who died in an aircraft crash in 1999, and Caroline (56), who is current US ambassador to Japan.

All Hallows, a former seminary that trained thousands of Irish priests for overseas missions, is now a college of Dublin City University. Its president is American Vincentian Dr Patrick McDevitt. It is believed the college hoped to raise much- needed funds from the sale.

All Hallows announced last week the college was selling the letters because it “does not have the resources or facilities to properly curate the letters, thereby running the risk of damage and deterioration”.

It is not known what prompted the vendor’s change of mind and All Hallows did not return a call from The Irish Times yesterday seeking clarification. The letters had been expected to sell for in excess of €1 million.