Browsers' paradise in Bray at Covid-delayed eclectic sale

Vast number of lots at Mullen’s of Laurel Park include a James Bond poster from the 1970s and sword once owned by Erskine Childers

A Collector's Cabinet sale at Mullen's in Bray, Co Wicklow on July 11th is a browser's paradise with and eclectic parade of items for the curious to the downright odd. The sale, which had been due to take place on March 28th but was postponed because of Covid-19, will take place in Mullen's Laurel Park premises on Woodbrook Road with live bidding by appointment only.

Lots include a sawfish rostrum (with all his 56 teeth) alongside a James Bond poster for Live and Let Die that if issued today would wreak havoc with its toxic mix of guns and scantily-clad women.The three sheet poster from 1973 shows Roger Moore surrounded by boat chases, car crashes, phallic shaped missiles and exotic women in his first assignment as agent 007.

Running since 1962, the 24 Eon produced Bond films have collectively grossed $14 billion. This 25th Bond, No Time to Die, again starring Daniel Craig, was postponed from its scheduled April release date until November, making it the first Hollywood film to shift its global rollout due to the pandemic. The poster is estimated at €300-€500.

Cigarette cards and medals from a plethora of sports, including water polo, horse racing and the Olympics, feature alongside African tribal heads and 19th century surgical instruments. Also in the mix are some interesting Irish political offerings.


Birmingham Six

It was 29 years ago when six Irish men were freed after their convictions for the murders of 21 people in two pub bombings were quashed. They had served almost 17 years behind bars since 1975 in what the BBC described as “one of the worst miscarriages of justice seen in Britain”.

Accompanying the men – known as the Birmingham Six – as they left the court was British journalist and MP Chis Mullin, who had been working towards their freedom since the late 1970's. It wasn't until Mullin's World in Action current affairs programme by Granada Television in 1985 that doubt was first cast on the men's convictions.

Mullin’s 1986 book Error of Judgement: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings set out a detailed case supporting the men’s claims that they were innocent, as he claimed to have traced and met some of those actually responsible for the atrocities. His championing of the case led to two appeals: in 1988 when the convictions were upheld, and again in 1991 when they were quashed.

Lot 145 in the sale is a 1990 edition of Mullin's book, signed by the author himself as well as the Birmingham Six: Gerard Hunter, Patrick Hill, Dick McIlkenny, Hugh Callaghan, Billy Power and John Walker (€800-€1,200).

The contradiction

A further lot of Irish historical interest is a Royal Navy Reserve officer's sword in a gilt brass and leather scabbard, once belonging to and engraved with the name Erskine Childers. In July, 1914 Robert Erskine Childers sailed a cargo of 900 Mauser rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition from Germany to Howth in Dublin aboard his yacht, The Asgard, to arm the Irish Volunteers. Within weeks war had broken out and he had joined up, becoming a decorated naval officer.

What makes this lot interesting is the apparent contradiction of the two events as Stuart Purcell, curator of the sale, outlines:

“Through his experience as a soldier in the Boer War and influence by his wife, Molly, a republican-minded, anti-imperialist American heiress, Childers became a convinced supporter of Irish Home Rule. By shipping guns to the Irish Volunteers, he tacitly supported their use in rebellion against the British state; and yet when war broke out he joined the Royal Navy and fought for Britain in a war caused, in large part, by imperialist ambition.” (Lot 91, €3,000-€5,000)

The doomed theatre

With Irish theatre doors remaining closed for now, many people will be left with unused theatre and concert tickets. Lot 92 in Mullen’s sale is ticket number 4379 for Dublin’s Coliseum theatre on Henry Street from Easter Monday 1916. The theatre first opened its doors on Easter Monday 1915, but its fate was doomed exactly a year later.

On Easter Monday 1916 visitors to the theatre, which was a popular comedy and music venue, were kept from the entertainment by the occupation of the neighbouring GPO by armed rebels. As the week went on the Coliseum bore the brunt of shellfire and flames. By the time of the ceasefire it lay in ruins, never to open again (€200-€300).

Also in theatrical circles is a silver sovereign presentation case dated November 27th, 1896, which was presented to a member of the Gaiety theatre staff from the owner at the time Michael Gunn, to celebrate the theatres' 25th anniversary.

Gifts at the Gaiety

While China may have built a makeshift hospital in 10 days in January this year, credit is due to Michael Gunn and his brother John who managed to construct the Gaiety Theatre in an astonishing 25 weeks at a cost of £26,000 in 1871. But theatre staff in the late 1800s had to contend with much more than tickets and off stage dramatics from actors.

Besides screeches from drunken hoards in the sixpenny seats, fire was a huge threat. The Gunn brothers also ran the Theatre Royal when it burned to the ground in 1880. An error by the lighting boy caused the curtains of the viceregal box to catch fire.

The plays hosted by the Gaiety were often from abroad, and some involved animals such as Emily Solende riding a circus horse on stage. It is no wonder that the Gunn brothers presented members of staff with gifts to cope with the travails of their daily toil (€100-€150).

Also in the eclectic mix, alongside pieces of Chinese jade and old maps, is a collection of banknotes, of which Stuart Purcell says the sorting and grading "took weeks". The collection of 8,000 notes from Ireland, the UK and abroad was owned of former secretary of the Cork Philatelic Society, Patrick Browne, which will be offered in 110 lots ranging in estimates from €80-€2,500.

Viewings are by restricted numbers, live in room bidding is by appointment in addition to online bidding, and collection is also by appointment only. See for further details.