‘God Save the Queen’ clock sells for €115,000

Historic grandfather clock among lots sold alongside contents of Guinness house at auction in Co Kildare


There was standing room only in the saleroom at the Killashee House Hotel in Naas, Co Kildare, on Tuesday when Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers sold the contents of Patrick Guinness's Furness House and property from other unnamed clients.

Although not one of the Guinness lots, the top price – €115,000 – was achieved for a large grandfather clock that plays God Save the Queen and was previously on loan to Leinster House. Known as the "Speaker's Clock" it was once, reputedly, also part of the furnishings in the old Irish Parliament on College Green. The clock was bought by a telephone bidder and, while the price was above the estimate (€70,000-€90,000), represented a big drop in value since 2006 when it was sold privately for a price reputedly close to €500,000. The buyer of the clock has not been named but the auctioneers said afterwards the clock would be staying in Ireland.

Many of the lots were Guinness family heirlooms and items acquired at country house auctions down through the years. An 18th-century mirror that the Guinness family bought in the Carton House sale (the former Kildare home of the Dukes of Leinster – now a luxury hotel) in 1943 made €40,000 within the estimate (€30,000-€50,000). A 19th-century coach, in which King George IV reputedly canoodled with his Irish mistress on the road to Slane Castle, Co Meath, sold for €32,000 above the estimate (€20,000-€30,000).

One auction-goer remarked that the price was a bargain as "some people would pay more than that for a second-hand car" but said the coach would require restoration costing "at least €50,000". An early 17th-century Paris tapestry "purchased by the Hon Desmond Guinness, in London in the 1960s, entirely cleaned, re-backed and re-lined at Messrs Tvatt of Stockholm" made €28,000 (€25,000-€35,000). One of the most unexpected prices was achieved for an Edwardian rocking horse that made €6,600 – way above the estimate (€800-€1,200).

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A pair of Guinness wooden Stout Barrels made €2,300 (€1,500-€2,000). A 19th-century Japanese rickshaw once owned by the Marquess of Lansdowne made €2,700 (€2,000-€3,000). Among the rare books and manuscripts, a map of the city and suburbs of Dublin, drawn by Charles Brooking and published in London in 1728, and described as “the earliest printed plan of Dublin”, sold for €14,000 – almost three times the median estimate (€4,000-€6,000).

A 265-page “Inventory of Carton Manuscript Catalogue: Inventory of Furniture etc of Carton House and Offices ... 1818” made €10,000 (€6,000-€8,000). The 175-page “Carton Library Manuscript Library Catalogue” described as “a unique record of a highly important library, which was disposed of over a series of sales, principally in the 1940s & 1960s” – made €5,300 (€3,000-€5,000).

A 19th-century travel book published "for private circulation only" by Hatchards, Piccadilly, titled Notes of a Sporting Expedition in the Far West of Canada, 1847 by Sir Frederick Ulric Graham, 3rd Baronet, made €6,500 (€3,000-€4,000). A rare first edition copy of a late 17th-century travel book about the voyage of six French Jesuits to Siam [now Thailand] by Guy Tachard made €720 (€300-€400).

Bidding on Lot 617 – a pocket book with drawings of Carlton House, London, given in 1789 by the Prince of Wales to his Irish friend Thomas Conolly of Castletown House, Co Kildare – stalled at €9,500 (€8,000-€12,000) and was withdrawn but was sold after the auction, privately, for a higher but undisclosed amount.

The top painting, Figure of Erin, by Daniel Maclise, estimated at €50,000- €70,000, also failed to sell when bidding stopped at €48,000 but the auctioneers said it was in negotiations with a potential buyer after the auction.

Overall, auctioneer Fonsie Mealy said that 85 per cent of lots had sold.