Proclamation said to have hung in GPO sells for €150,000
Truce handkerchief shown in 1916 fails to sell - but fire-damaged GPO keys fetch €3,400
An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic thought to have hung in the GPO during Easter week 1916 has sold at auction for €150,000.
The artefact was the centrepiece of the Fonsie Mealy 1916 Centenary Sale, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Rising, which took place at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin on Saturday.
It was bought by a “private Irish gentleman” who gave his winning bid over the phone.
The document had a lower reserve of €100,000 and bidding in the room went up to €110,000, after which two interested individuals submitted competing bids over the internet and phone, with the phone bidder winning out.
Auctioneers Fonsie Mealy described it as having “guaranteed provenance” to Dr James Ryan, medical officer at the GPO garrison and later Fianna Fáil minister, and the lot for sale was “by tradition reputed to be a copy” of the Proclamation which hung in the GPO.
There were more than 650 lots for sale over the course of the auction, including items relating to the 1798 and 1916 rebellions, as well as GAA artefacts.
There was little interest in one high-profile item that ultimately failed to sell - a white linen handkerchief purportedly used as the flag of truce by Captain Michael William O’Reilly of the Irish Volunteers to British forces on Moore Street on April 29th, 1916.
It had a lower reserve of €5,000, but organisers say private negotiations are ongoing with an individual who is “coming towards” that valuation.
The Irish Times previously reported that the handkerchief was retrieved from a skip it had been thrown into when the New Ireland Assurance offices in South Frederick Street were closed in the early 1970s, and it is described as being in pristine condition.
Other lots of interest included a bundle of four fire-damaged keys to the GPO which were found in the building’s rubble after fighting ceased, and these sold for €3,400 - over six times the lower reserve of €550.
A collection of personal items, photographs and letters belonging to British Captain Percival Lea-Wilson, who gained infamy for his degrading treatment of republican prisoners who were detained at the Rotunda Gardens following the Rising, also exceeded its valuation and sold for €7,000.
His wife Marie Lea-Wilson famously donated the original Caravaggio painting The Taking of Christ to the Jesuit Order as a symbol of thanks to Fr Thomas Finlay SJ for his friendship after her husband’s assassination on the orders of Michael Collins, and the artwork now resides at the National Gallery of Ireland.
Auctioneer George Fonsie Mealy said he was “very, very pleased” with what he termed a “very buoyant” sale.