Wounded Irish soldiers are recalled in US sale


A rare first World War poster made $1,400 (€989) at a Manhattan auction this week

THE POIGNANT and forgotten plight of Irish soldiers disabled during the first World War has unexpectedly come to light in a New York saleroom.

A World War I poster in support of Irish servicemen in America described as “extremely rare” was sold at auction by vintage poster specialist Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan this week for $1,400 (€989) exceeding its estimate of $800-$1,200 (€565-€848).

The poster, thought to date from 1917 and titled Erin’s Appeal to America: Help My Irish Disabledwas produced by an illustrator who signed himself simply as “Jagger”.

It was designed for the Shamrock Fund, launched to raise money in America to assist wounded soldiers returning to Ireland from the Western Front.

In November 1916, the New York Timesreported that a Lady Kingston from Co Roscommon had arrived in the city to set up a fund “for a tuberculosis home for the men who have acquired the disease after having been gassed in the trenches and are incurable . . . and for the disabled soldiers who have no pension or an inadequate one”.

Her appeal was directed at Irish people living in New York “who ought to be glad to do something to help their own people”.

She had brought “a quantity of shamrocks to be tokens to those who make donations . . . paper ones with pins for small sums and finer ones of enamel: a button for the men and a pin for the women, for those who give $1 or more”.

The Countess of Kingston, who lived at Kilronan Castle, Co Roscommon, had been dispatched to New York by a committee in Ireland which had already commenced a major public fundraising effort.

The intention was to establish a specialist hospital for Irish soldiers and sailors who had lost limbs. For the first few years of the war, they were treated at hospitals in England.

The Shamrock Fund was one of many such European funds established in New York during the War and it attracted support from, among others, the American poet Margaret Chanler Aldrich.

It is not known how much money was raised in New York but back in Ireland subscriptions poured in and the fund was used to set up the Duke of Connaught’s Auxiliary Hospital in Bray, Co Wicklow which eventually opened in 1918 and specialised in fitting artificial limbs.

The hospital in Bray subsequently became an orphanage for the daughters of deceased soldiers.

The facility was closed in 1944 when the Loreto nuns bought the site for £7,000 and opened a primary school.

Also in the auction, a Toulouse-Lautrec poster made in late 19th century Paris for the singer May Belfort (born May Egan in Ireland) which sold for $16,000 (€11,300) below its estimate of ($20,000-$30,00/ €13,892-€20,838.