A video of The Quiet Man was playing on a loop in the lobby as auction-goers arrived in Sheppard's Durrow, Co Laois, saleroom to watch items owned by the late Maureen O'Hara go under the hammer. The film, made on location in Co Mayo and released in 1952, featuring Ireland's first Hollywood star playing Mary Kate Danaher opposite John Wayne's Sean Thornton, still has the power to stop people in their tracks.
Born Maureen FitzSimons in Ranelagh, Dublin, in 1920, Maureen O'Hara died in 2015, aged 95, having spend many years living in her Irish mansion in Glengarriff, west Cork.
Inside the saleroom were designer clothes, handbags and jewellery that she once wore, along with art, antiques and silver – collectively valued at €500,000 – that had been consigned for sale by an unnamed, private Irish collector.
The auction attracted considerably more interest than the previous day's sale of items owned by another famous 20th century Irish woman, a former President of Ireland. Mary Robinson's Nicholas Mosse pottery was no match for the glamorous film star's velvet-lined trays of stunning jewellery.
The top lot, as expected, was a diamond ring with a central stone of 8.30 carats set in white gold which sold for €120,000, within its estimate. It was bought by an unnamed private Irish client.
Numerous items featuring opulent Colombian emeralds were sold including a bangle that made €70,000. And there was intense bidding for a necklace of rubies and diamonds that sold to another Irish bidder for €15,500 – way above its top estimate of € 8,000.
Despite all the attention it had received at the pre-auction viewing, Maureen O'Hara's silk-lined, full-length, hooded Christian Dior white mink coat, trimmed with Arctic fox fur, sold for €2,800 – below even the lower estimate of €3,000, to a UK buyer.
Before the auction, Sheppard’s had alerted Gardaí “as a precautionary measure” fearing that the sale might be disrupted by animal rights’ protestors. It had removed the furs from a window display and briefed staff about security – “just in case” after receiving a letter from the London-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [Peta] complaining about the auction. Peta had called for the coats to be withdrawn from the sale and instead donated to its “fur amnesty programme” to be given to “homeless people” or used as “bedding for orphaned animals”.
A silver-framed photograph of O’Hara wearing the Dior coat was sold separately for €380.
An even pricier brown sable fur coat – made from the pelts of the eponymous Russian mammal and bearing the label of swish Parian furriers' Sam Rone, sold for €4,000 to an Irish buyer.
Some of the less expensive items also attracted lively bidding. A pair of Maureen O'Hara's Ray-Ban sunglasses made €380; her Hermès scarf made €850 – way above the top estimate of €150; and her Catholic Association – Lourdes Pilgrimage medal sold for €70.