Joyce death mask, historic medals and books at eclectic Mullens Halloween sale

Large selection of soccer memorabilia also going under the hammer

From pikes and pistols to sundials and sextants, there is quite a selection of historic artefacts in Mullen’s of Laurel Park sale, taking place live and online at its showrooms on Old Bray Road on Saturday, October 31st.

The sale falls on Halloween, and lot 445, a cinema poster of the 1958 thriller, Dublin Nightmare, directed by John Pomeroy, may well be purchased to capture the current zeitgeist, rather than as a memento of a somewhat lame routine British crime drama (€150–€200).

An interesting lot is a bronze death mask of Irish novelist, poet and critic James Joyce.

In the early hours of January 13th, 1941, Joyce died in a Zurich hospital. His wife, Nora authorised local sculptor Paul Speck to make two plaster death masks of Joyce. Unbeknown to Nora, Speck also made a third cast, which he retained for himself. This mask is now in the US Library of Congress, while the other two original masks are located at the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich and the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove.


Before giving the mask to the Library of Congress, Speck made six more plaster replicas. One of these found its way into the hands of Dublin architect Michael Scott, who established the James Joyce Tower at Sandycove.

Sometime in the late 1950s or '60s, Scott used his plaster mask to make six bronzes of the death mask. He gave one of these to film director John Huston, who adapted Joyce's short story The Dead into the 1987 film starring Huston's daughter Angelica.

In 2017, the mask owned by John Huston was used by the Birmingham foundry, Lunt’s Castings, to produce an edition of 12 bronze death masks, one of which is offered for sale in the auction with an estimate of €1,500-€2,000.

For sports fans, there is a vast selection of football programmes which were collected over 60 years by an Irish enthusiast. "I think there are about 4,000 in there altogether, as they arrived in 25 crates and took days to sort," says sale curator Stuart Purcell.

One of the rarest in the collection is that of the much-sought-after 1936 match between Ireland and Germany, which was held in Dalymount Park. The attraction of the programme is the jarring Nazi German flag next to the Irish tricolour (€600–€800).

And though the mood of the country may well want to eschew Christmas this year, if you are in search of sporting gifts for Manchester United or Irish football fans, two lots may just tick the box.

Lot 506 is a Manchester United 1998 jersey signed by 22 squad members including manager Alex Ferguson, David Beckham and Roy Keane (€500–€700), while lot 536 is a framed Republic of Ireland 2002 away jersey signed by Keane, Mick McCarthy, Robbie Keane and others (€200–€300).

Top lots in the eclectic catalogue include a specialist copy of our national treasure the Book of Kells, which was a collaboration between Trinity College Dublin and Faksimile Verlag in Switzerland. Only 1,480 copies of this 680-page manuscript were produced in 1986, selling then for IR£7,000 (€8,800). The estimate in Mullen's sale is €5,000–€7,000.

Also featured are lots from the estate of Count John McCormack, the much-loved Irish opera singer whose career spanned global opera houses to Hollywood’s first talkie movies. Lot 455, is a gold medal award presented to the singer in 1925 by the American Radio Exposition Company for winning the ‘Broadcast Favourite’ award (€2,000–€3,000).

More medals include what the auctioneer is calling the “reunification of Kathleen Clarke’s medals”.

Clarke, wife of 1916 Rising leader Tom, was a founding member of Cumann na mBan, TD, senator and the first woman Lord Mayor of Dublin. She was awarded many medals over the course of her lifetime.

Two important medals have been consigned – independently of each other –to the Mullens’ sale: the 1916-1966 50th Anniversary of the Rising medal, and the 1921-1971 Truce Survivor’s medal, which had previously been sold to separate private buyers.

The Rising Medal, lot 70, is estimated at €10,000–€15,000, and the 1921-1971 Truce Survivor’s medal, lot 71. carries an estimate of €8,000–€12,000.