Michael Collins’s plea for support

History sale at Adam’s includes an original handwritten letter from Michael Collins and a rare photograph of him

 

“Ireland is facing very grave problems. It will need the strength and courage of the whole nation, and the help of all our race to carry us safely through”Michael Collins, February 1922 The quote above is from a letter, dated February 9th, 1922, written by Collins to a journalist at the Boston Globe newspaper.

The original handwritten letter (Lot 71) is one of the star lots in the History Sale at Adam’s Auctioneers in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin on Tuesday (April 19th). Independence was imminent – the Irish Free State was formally due to come into existence in December 1922 following the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Collins was killed in August 1922 during the Civil War and so did not live to see the independent Ireland he had dreamed of come into being.

The letter is on headed notepaper of the “Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann/Provisional Government of Ireland” and was addressed to Mr Merrill. Collins mentions that he has relatives (“kinsmen”) in Boston and then goes on to effectively lobby the paper for support for the new State: “Now that Freedom is on the eve of attainment I ask through the ‘Boston Globe’ on behalf of the Provisional Government, that they be equally liberal with their sympathy and patience, thus assisting us in restoring to the people of Ireland control of their own destinies”.

The catalogue describes Mr Merrill as the editor of the Boston Globe but The Irish Times understands that Charles Merrill – the son of an hotelier in Provincetown, Massachusetts – was a young reporter in the newspaper at the time. It is not known where – or how – Collins had met him. Charles Merrill had served with the US army in the first World War and later reported (for the Boston Globe) on the reconstruction of Germany after the second World War.

He eventually became city editor of the Boston Globe and died, aged 62, in 1951.

According to auctioneer Kieran O’Boyle, the letter was probably intended for publication but it is not known “if it was published or not”. The letter is estimated at €12,000-€15,000. The letter has appeared on the market previously; it was sold, during the peak of the Celtic Tiger boom, at Adam’s in 2007 for €16,000 when it was bought by a private collector who has now decided to resell it.

Another highlight in the auction for fans of Michael Collins is Lot 247: A mounted photograph, by Keogh of Dublin, depicting a remarkably youthful Collins in the uniform of the Irish Volunteers, taken around 1918, and estimated at €3,000-€5,000. An inscription on the back of the photograph is signed by Kathleen Clarke saying it was presented to her by Collins. She was, of course, the widow of Proclamation signatory Thomas Clarke (one of the leaders of the Rising who was executed in May 1916). Adam’s says she had appointed Collins as Secretary of the Volunteers Dependants Fund, “his first post of real responsibility in the independence movement”.

Among hundreds of other lots in the auction – which, inevitably, has a strong 1916 theme – Lot 264 is “a pair of steel handcuffs from Lissadell House, stated by Gore-Booth family tradition to have been used on Countess Markievicz” (€5,000- €8,000); and Lot 85, “Patrick Pearse’s Walking Stick” (€400-€600).

For collectors hankering after pre-Revolutionary Ireland: Lot 211 is a photograph album of Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland in 1900 with images including “H.M. Yacht Victoria & Albert in Kingstown Harbour” (€400-€600); and Lot 313, an illuminated parchment containing an address of welcome presented by the Lord Mayor of Dublin – in 1915 – to the newly-arrived Viceroy, Lord Wimborne (€200-€400) in which the members of Dublin Corporation expressed their “loyalty to the throne and person of His Majesty the King” [George V].

Adam’s History Sale goes on public view from 1pm today, Saturday (April 16th) at the saleroom, 26 St Stephen’s Green where the auction takes place on Tuesday (April 19th) at 3pm. See adams.ie

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