An unusual collection of garden furniture and statuary will feature in two online auctions to be conducted by Victor Mee. The sales will run over two weekends, on May 23rd–24th and June 6th–7th, with the first weekend showcasing garden and decorative interiors and the second offering architectural, pub fittings and advertising items.
Many of the lots come from salvage specialist Gerry Derry, who is retiring from his business in Armagh. The 63-year-old began his career at the age of 16 when he left school to join his father, antiques dealer John Derry.
Over the years the company changed its focus to include contemporary furnishings for the bar, restaurant and hotel trade. Then in the 1980s, with the growing popularity of Irish pubs throughout the world, the company began to source vintage items and memorabilia in addition to antiques.
For the past 47 years Gerry has travelled the world picking up unusual pieces and "sourcing memorabilia and interesting items to give atmosphere to the bar trade", citing the Hard Rock Cafe in London, the Press Up Group in Ireland and numerous Irish pubs in the United States as customers.
His children are now focusing on contemporary furniture, so Gerry has decided to sell his vast personal collection along with “pieces that have been here for what seems a lifetime”.
He cites a car given to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu by the Saudi royal family, which he bought in Bucharest, along with four statues commissioned by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin – that ended up in a Belfast bar, as the most unusual items he has sourced and sold over the years.
The sale of ornamental garden items features a 1940s carousel once owned by the Farrell carnival family in Buncrana, which Derry describes as being rare. “I had the metal plates [the canopy] for this for over 30 years, which I had swapped for a moose head with a pub owner. ”
Having searched for three decades for the base, he finally found it at auction two years ago. He assembled the pieces together and has been giving his grandchildren spins in his garden for the past few weeks of lockdown. (Lot 458 €10,00- €20,000)
Rare lots include two 250-year-old Bonsai trees (€1,450–€3,500) and a pair of cast iron bulls on plinths which he sourced from a London dealer: “These would have been used as ornamental items in a stud farm, and it is really rare to find them on a base.”
Further curiosities include a plethora of animal figures, from a contemporary giraffe stretching to almost four metres in height, to very old and weathered lions on plinths and ornate deer.
There is a great collection of garden furniture that include an old wooden gazebo, a reproduction cast iron piece that would suit a formal garden, and a large selection of outdoor seating and occasional furniture, from a tuk-tuk repurposed as garden seating, which Derry bought in Indonesia, to a 19th-century coffin carrier that would make an interesting plant stand.
The sale also features some taxidermy, including a very rare boxed corncrake (Crex Crex). One of Ireland’s rarest birds, the elusive creature known for its rasping call was once widespread across the Irish countryside, but the population was decimated by mechanised farming as the corncrake nests in meadows. The Irish Government has spent close to €2.5 million to counteract the threat of the bird’s extinction, with some success. Last year the number of calling males in the country was reported to have risen to 151, giving an indication of the rarity of the species. (Lot 514 €100–€200).
While the May sale will certainly appeal to many, given the current lockdown and the fact that so many of us are taking the opportunity to renovate our gardens, the June sale of architectural fittings and memorabilia will be followed by interior designers in search of unique pieces.
The top lot is what the auction house are calling the Pulpit of Truth, which is an early 20th century hand-carved oak pulpit that took Belgian sculptor Louis Mascré three years to carve. The piece, dating from 1911 and measuring 20ft in height, was commissioned by Baron and Baroness Crawhez and donated to the Church of St Martin in Belgium and is listed with a €40,000–€80,000 estimate.
“I bought it in Belgium off a dealer, as at the time the Japanese were spending a fortune on wedding chapels.”
In the 1990s Christian weddings soared in Japan with many young couples opting for these ceremonies instead of more traditional Shinto weddings.
“However the market for wedding chapels in Japan fell into a slump, so I have been left with this enormous piece for over 20 years and it’s now time for me to let it go.”
The auctions, which are online only in line with Government guidelines, do not at present have the facility for the collection of winning bids, so are by post and delivery only. See victormeeauctions.ie