Memorabilia auction includes mystery ‘hand of history’
Whyte’s ‘Eclectic Collector’ lots shed light on Ireland’s social, political and economic past
A cartoon by “Kilroy” of Dublin’s Archbishop John Charles McQuaid running a family planning clinic, one of the items up for auction.
Auctions of historical memorabilia can shed fascinating light on aspects of social, political and economic history. Sometimes cartoons depict a story better than any other medium. In 1971, when the then senator Mary Robinson tried – and failed – to introduce a Bill in the Oireacthas to legalise contraception, there was a backlash from the Catholic Church.
The cartoonist “Kilroy” produced a controversial image of Dublin’s Archbishop John Charles McQuaid running a family planning clinic depicting him in a white coat and stethoscope over his soutane, calling “Next Please!” into a waiting room full of pregnant women. Kilroy was the pseudonym of Micheál Ó Nualláin – the civil servant, artist and cartoonist who died last year aged 88. He was the younger brother of Brian O’Nolan, who wrote under the pseudonyms of Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen. A framed, colour lithograph of the infamous cartoon is Lot 107, estimated at €100-€150, in Whyte’s The Eclectic Collector auction in Dublin on Saturday, September 9th.
And talking of The Brother, Lot 175, is a first-edition copy of At Swim Two Birds by Flann O’Brien, published in 1939, signed by the author and inscribed to the late Dublin artist Rosemary Coyle (€1,000-€01,500).
This is the first big auction of the autumn season in Dublin and takes place in Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth Street. Regular clients should note the change – the traditional venue, The Freemasons Hall nearby, is closed for refurbishment.
There’s a big selection of vintage advertising which is becoming very collectible. Highlights include Lot 309, an enamel sign for Mick McQuaid Tobacco (manufactured and distributed by PJ Carroll & Co. Ltd) depicting a man in a tweed suit with the caption “The Best Tobacco in the World”, estimated at €300-€400.
Lot 313 is an enamel sign for Beecham’s Pills (a hugely popular Victorian cure for constipation): “For Health – And Happiness – Beecham’s Pills – Worth a Guinea – A Box”(€200-€300).
Lot 469 is a 1950s Player’s cigarettes GAA point-of-sale advertising figures. John Player’s cigarettes ornament with a hurler and a footballer in Dublin and Louth jerseys on a plinth which reads “On all grounds – Player’s Please”, provenance: formerly in the bar of P Campbell, Ardee, General Merchant. (€150-€200).
Lot 295 is an attractive a vintage travel poster The Land of Eternal Youth – designed by R Breslin for Great Southern Railways and depicting a young man and woman playing music and dancing in a landscape. Printed by Alex Thom & Co Ltd, Dublin (€400-€600).
The most intriguing item is Lot 21, an early-19th century bronze hand estimated at €200-€300, probably from a large statue. The hand is of a scale commensurate with a statue of 13ft (4m) in height and was, possibly part of one of the many statues removed, both legally and illegally, from Dublin after 1922. These included monuments to various monarchs, including William III, George I and Queen Victoria, as well as the Duke of Wellington, Lord Gough, Prince Albert, Lord Nelson among others.
As always at Whyte’s there’s a big selection of militaria including uniforms, helmets, and guns and daggers from various conflicts. But the most eye-catching is Lot 211, a Victorian red wool pensioner’s uniform coat, retaining six buttons, from the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (now The Irish Museum of Modern Art) estimated at €200-€250.
Lot 71, provides a rare humorous glimpse of the 1916 Rising. A press photograph of British soldiers (Royal Irish Rifles) outside The Picture House cinema in Sackville (now O’Connell) Street beneath a banner advertising a film entitled The Christian with a caption “Scenes in Dublin after the Rebellion. The Comical Side” (€200-€300).
Lot 104 is a collection of nine Fine Gael posters from 1965-1994 including James Dillon (1965 general election); Tom O’Higgins (1973 presidential election); Garret FitzGerald (1982 general election); Alan Dukes (1987 general election) and John Bruton (1994 general election) estimated at €200-€300.
Among a selection of rare maps is Lot 115, a hand-coloured, engraved map of Ireland, Hiberniæ Britannicæ, from the 1602 Latin edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius (1530-1585) €800-€1,200.
Among a selection of rock, pop and film memorabilia are Lot 254: The Beatles’ Love Me Do, a 7-inch single from 1962 signed by all four band members(€2,500-€3,000); and Lot 569, a U2 publicity photo signed by The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton collected at Windmill Lane Studios, c.1990; and Bono’s signature collected at Fitzpatrick’s Hotel Killiney, December 1990 (€400-€600).
For online catalogue and bidding details see whytes.ie