Rebel flags and model soldiers


Irish history comes to life in next weekend’s sale at Whyte’s, with mementoes of the 1916 Rising attracting the most interest

OFFICIALS planning Queen Elizabeth’s expected State visit in 2011 might find inspiration at Whyte’s sale next Saturday of History, Literature & Collectibles.Among the lots is a stash of photographic glass plates depicting the 1911 royal visit to Ireland by George V which includes a conversation-stopping image of “the Queen with nuns at Maynooth”.

Closet monarchists planning to dress up for the anticipated banquets at Dublin Castle might wish to bid for regalia such as a 19th century Irish Lord Lieutenant’s red leather belt decorated with silver shamrocks or a Royal Irish Fusiliers bearskin helmet. Both items are guaranteed to set the hearts of ladies-in-waiting a-flutter.

But most of the 571 lots in the sale relate to the generations of men and women who campaigned to ensure that her majesty’s writ would never run here. A fascinating and richly-illustrated catalogue reads like a condensed History of Ireland and features rare books, documents, maps, prints, photographs, flags, medals, militaria, sporting and entertainment memorabilia, stamps, coins and banknotes. As the key centenary anniversaries of the State’s founding years draw closer, there is increasing interest in mementoes from those turbulent beginnings. According to Whyte’s: “the 1916 Rising still attracts the most interest at these sales, and, with the centenary approaching, collectors both public and private are still paying good prices for rarities”.

Among an especially eclectic selection are the belt buckle from Pádraig Pearse’s Irish Volunteers uniform; a military pass issued to an employee of The Irish Timesallowing him to pass unmolested through a city under curfew; a collection of original press photographs of “the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War”; and a rare Cumann na mBan 9ct gold brooch.

Even items created in 1966 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rising, such as a government poster distributed to all schools in the State and commemorative medals, are appreciating in value.

Some items – notably a rare flag from the 1867 Fenian Rising - have estimates in the thousands-of- euro range but there are many affordable pieces to enthral collectors of all ages.

Quirky and unexpected gems include: heartbreaking photographs of a Longford family emigrating to America on board the SS Adriatic in 1914; a 1928 Fianna Fáil Party receipt “issued for two shillings to Pat McGee of Drumlooher”; and, a framed watercolour “1970s Architects Proposal for New Science Building at UCD Belfield”. The auction also includes examples of grisly “prisoner art” made by inmates of Long Kesh, the former jail in Northern Ireland which is now closed. But of rather more aesthetic appeal is a selection of the delightful and achingly nostalgic ‘Lady Lavery’ and ‘Ploughman’ banknotes.

Viewing begins at 10am on Wednesday at 28 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 and the auction takes place at the nearby Freemasons Hall next Saturday, November 13th at 1pm. See