Memories of a mission to the Congo


AN UNUSUAL memento of the ill-fated Irish peacekeeping mission to the Congo over 50 years ago has turned up at Mealy’s.

A Baluba tribal dagger is scheduled to go under the hammer at next-week’s two-day sale of rare books and collectibles. Irish soldiers took part in a UN-sponsored mission to the former Belgian colony in central Africa which resulted in the disastrous ambush at Niemba in 1960. A dagger, understood to have been brought home as a memento by one of the soldiers, is for sale with an estimate of just €150-€200. The steel-bladed knife has a snake-skin handle and fits into a leather scabbard.

Viewing for the sale begins on Monday in the saleroom at the Old Cinema in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny. Day one of the auction, on Wednesday, features hundreds of rare books, periodicals, maps and manuscripts. Among innumerable items of interest is a first edition copy of Diplomats in Dublin by Kees van Hoek published in 1943, a detailed account of the city’s diplomatic corps during the second World War (€200-€300); a first edition of the two-volume A Dictionary of Irish Artists by Walter G Strickland, published in 1913 (€150-€200); and a rare surviving copy of the catalogue for the September 1939 auction of the contents of 80 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 – better known today as Iveagh House (€200-€300).

The second day of the auction, on Thursday, features coins and sporting memorabilia, including GAA medals and programmes and the collection of soccer star Shay “The Bomber” Brennan. There will also be postcards, posters and militaria, including a collection of 150 propaganda cigarette cards from Nazi Germany featuring Hitler engaging in a series of publicity stunts.

Catalogue online at