Antique musket from bank's private militia for auction
A musket from the private army once employed by Bank of Ireland has unexpectedly turned up in an antiques saleroom. This type of gun was the lethal weapon of choice used by the bank’s private militia to enforce its “rule” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Owned privately, it has been consigned to auction at Sheppard’s in Durrow, Co Laois, who have estimated its value at between €1,200 and €1,800 ahead of next week’s auction.
Auctioneer Philip Sheppard said the musket had come originally from the armoury in Bank of Ireland’s headquarters at College Green in Dublin which opened to the public in 1808.
At the time, a national police force did not exist and law and order were maintained by militias. Mr Sheppard said the bank’s militia would have been used to protect the bank from robbers and to enforce court judgments against debtors – “often attending at evictions” to prevent violence from those whose property was being repossessed by Bank of Ireland.
He said the gun was “particularly effective” for the era and, depending on the skill of the soldier using it, “could be reloaded and fired up to six times in a single minute”.
The weapon’s wooden stock is stamped with Bank of Ireland’s name and harp logo and the number 107 – suggesting a well-stocked armoury. The metal plate is engraved with the royal crest and the letters GR (King George III).
“This was the gun that built the British empire,” Mr Sheppard said, a reference to its popularity among British troops worldwide. The musket was nicknamed the Brown Bess, apparently because of the walnut wood used to make the stock.
The Royal Irish Constabulary was established in 1822 and militias gradually faded away later in the 19th century.
Bank of Ireland was established in 1783 and acquired the building in College Green previously used to house Ireland’s houses of parliament. They were abolished following the 1801 Act of Union which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.