Final anniversary auction of 1916 memorabilia

One of the estimated 25 original copies of the Proclamation still in private hands, this is for auction with an estimate of €100,000-€150,000

One of the estimated 25 original copies of the Proclamation still in private hands, this is for auction with an estimate of €100,000-€150,000

 

The last of the 2016 history auctions will take place in Dublin next Saturday, April 23rd. It is the eve of the centenary of the Easter Rising, which began on April 24th, 1916. Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers has chosen an appropriate venue – as close as possible to the General Post Office (GPO) – in the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street.

Viewing begins there on Thursday, and hundreds of lots will be on display including “an original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, believed to be the copy which hung in the General Post Office in Dublin during the 1916 Rising, with guaranteed provenance to Dr James Ryan, Medical Officer to the GPO Garrison, later a Fianna Fáil Minister”.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Jim Ryan, a grandson of Dr James Ryan, on behalf of members of the Ryan family in Dublin, said that there was “not a single mention of this document in the hundreds of family letters which survive from this time and later; nor in the several articles which James Ryan wrote about his experience in the GPO”; and that nor was there “any family memory of this document ever being in Tomcoole [Co Wexford], which was Dr Ryan’s family home or any other Ryan home”.

But, commenting on the provenance, Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers said the Proclamation had been “Given by Dr James Ryan to his brother’s family home, in Wexford, and understood by family tradition to be a copy which Dr Ryan removed from the GPO during or immediately before its evacuation in 1916”; that it was “later sold privately by Michael Ryan (nephew of Dr James Ryan) to the present vendor in a transaction facilitated and administered by Fonsie Mealy, Auctioneer”; and that the auctioneers were “in a position to guarantee this provenance, for which there is documentary evidence”.

The auctioneers have further said they are happy to discuss the provenance and share the supporting “documentary evidence” with intending purchasers “on a confidential basis if desired”.

What does not seem to be in contention is that the document is one of the estimated 25 original copies of the Proclamation still in private hands, which explains the estimate of €100,000- €150,000.

Other highlights in the auction include a white linen handkerchief reputedly used by 1916 rebels, who had fled from the burning GPO to nearby Moore Street, to signal a truce to the British; an archive relating to Capt William Lea-Percival (who was killed by the IRA during the War of Independence) and his widow Dr Marie Lea-Wilson, the Dublin doctor who, unknowingly, bought the Caravaggio painting that has ended up in the National Gallery of Ireland; and the diary of the GAA’s first trip to the US in 1888.

“The Centenary Sale” at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers is on public view on Thursday and Friday, April 21st and 22nd, from 10.30am to 7pm each day in the O’Connell Suite at the Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin. The sale will take place at the same venue on Saturday, April 23rd, from 10.30am

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