Plenty for radio lovers at sale of museum owner’s personal collection

Upcoming auction of old gramophones and phonographs, promises great value as everything must go

The 1947 All Ireland senior football championship final had a remarkable impact on the life of the late Pat Herbert, who established Ye Old Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio at the Martello tower North in Howth.

His private collection of old radios, gramophones and phonographs, along with a large collection of blue and brown Victorian meat platters and rare records by tenor John McCormack, will be auctioned by Oliver Usher this Tuesday, March 8th.

Mr Herbert spent 17 years at his museum in Howth until his death in 2020, and his family intend to continue to celebrate his legacy there. What forms this sale is the private collection he amassed since the 1950s.

A lovely animated short video on You Tube, The Light by Rikke Houd, illustrated by Anthony Calvert, tells the story of the first time Mr Herbert ever heard the radio. That All Ireland Final, which was the 60th event of its kind and the only one ever held outside Ireland, took place at the Polo Grounds in New York city. Said to cater for the large Irish-American community, it was intended to observe the centenary of the Irish Famine, that triggered mass emigration to the United States.

“From memory it was a family called the Lammonds who had bought a radio, so the whole village in Co Mayo were invited to hear the match,” recalls Mr Herbert’s son Simon. “Dad, who was ten then, recalled how all the children were gathered outside the farmhouse as the inside was packed with adults. It was the first time he saw artificial light – what he called the ‘magic eye’of the radio- while mesmerised by the voice of Michael O’Hehir describing the match across the ocean in New York. He often laughed that the radio waves had fried his brain, and turned him into a collector.”

Over his lifetime, Mr Herbert collected more than 500 radios, and established the vintage radio museum at the Martello tower in 2003, when he retired as foreman from construction company PJ Walls. His collection of GAA memorabilia was “second to none” according to Simon, and “lots of his GAA stuff was on at the Tuning In – From Wireless to WiFi exhibition at Croke Park in 2019”.

Mr Herbert started collecting radios in the mid 1950s when vinyl was introduced and also began collecting needles – which form part of the sale – as blackthorns were used to play records due to the rationing of needles during the war years.

Most interesting in the catalogue is lot 428, which is a vinyl record of poetry by WB Yeats, read by Yeats himself, along with Siobhán McKenna and Micheál Mac Liammóir. None of the lots have estimates, “as they all need to be cleared” according to Oliver Usher, so there could be great value to be had in this most interesting collection.

Elsewhere Hegarty’s of Bandon will hold its fifth sale so far this year, tomorrow Sunday, March 6th. Highlights include a lovely restored Georgian mahogany dwarf linen press, (€900-€1,200) and a neat mahogany and string inlaid secretaire bookcase (€ 900-€ 1,200). Also taking place tomorrow is North Leinster Antiques, Vintage & Collectables Fair at the Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath. Up for sale is antique and retro furniture along with vintage fashion, curios and collectables.

Currently open and ending March 8th is Fonsie Mealy’s Rare Book and Collectibles timed online sale, which includes the libraries of the late Henry (Harry) McDowell of Celbridge Lodge, Co Kildare and Dr Nora Liddy from Wexford, with 700 lots including republican, sporting and general history material.

Next Sunday, March 13th Mullen’s of Laurel Park will hold a Classic and Contemporary Interior sale of 600 lots of furnishings, with furniture from Dunbrody House and items such as curtains from the Dorchester Hotel in London, which has been undergoing renovations. The contents of a house in Kenilworth Square in Rathmines, and from a design shop in south county Dublin also feature. Highlights include a Georgian white and green carved marble chimneypiece with insert (€3,000-€5,000); a Victorian walnut ebonised bonheur-du-jour (€2,000-€3,000) and a stamped W and J Hicks mahogany and rosewood serpentine sideboard (€500-€700).

On the international auction scene, Sotheby’s in New York will hold two sales this week which will appeal to those with a penchant for fine jewels and Chanel. The Chanel Collection of handbags and accessories on March 8th has a variety of objects, jewellery and clothing from the luxury French fashion house, with a large amount of the lots designed under the tenure of creative director Karl Lagerfeld from 1983-2019. The following day, March 9th, the auction house will hold its important jewels sale, with covetable delights from Cartier, Bulgari, and Van Cleef & Arpels to what the catalogue describes as “vibrant coloured stones and groovy gold and hardstone pieces”.

usherauctions.com, hegartyantiques.com, fonsiemealy.ie, vintageireland.eu and sothebys.com