Tiger’s head among Sir Anthony O’Reilly belongings sold off

Businessman’s cat head sells for €1,000 while tables go for €145,000 in Mealy’s auction

Joe Collins, of Mealy’s, with the tiger head that sold for €1,000 at an auction in Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

Joe Collins, of Mealy’s, with the tiger head that sold for €1,000 at an auction in Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan


A pair of tables from the collection of Sir Anthony O’Reilly has sold for 10 times their estimate at an auction that also featured a Victorian-era stuffed tiger head once owned by the bankrupt businessman.

In a function room in The Long Man of Kilfane, a country pub near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, exotic fare – including a stuffed antelope, baboon and the aforementioned tiger – went under the hammer yesterday in a sale hosted by Mealy’s auction house.

The auction, titled Kilfane House: The Autumn Sale, included antiques and art assembled by Sir Anthony, the late US businessman Hal Clarke and other unnamed collectors.

The temporary saleroom was packed to capacity as hundreds of items – including examples of Victorian taxidermy – were bid on.

Taxidermy – long considered a dying art – has become fashionable again and bidders snapped up some startling examples, including a baboon “standing on all fours, snarling”, which sold for €1,200; a “mounted black buck antelope with long spiral horns” that made €800; and a glass-cased pike, which went for €340.

But an Indian tiger’s head “with glass eyes, above a snarling mouth” which had been in the collection of Sir Anthony, attracted the most interest and sold for €1,000 – double its low estimate.

Mealy’s said more than 200 of the lots in the auction – including furniture, antiques and items of decorative art – had been removed from Sir Anthony’s former home, Castlemartin House in Co Kildare.


The house has already been sold to help repay the former billionaire media tycoon’s bank debts.

He was declared bankrupt by the Supreme Court in the Bahamas last year and the items were consigned to the auction “on the instructions of the trustee in bankruptcy appointed by the Bahamian Court”.

An estimated 7,000 people had viewed the auction at the weekend and there was standing room only in the pop-up saleroom yesterday.

The biggest surprise, greeted by warm applause, was the sale of a pair of console tables “from Castlemartin” that sold for €145,000 – 10 times the estimate — following frantic bidding by dealers on the telephone from London.

The marble-topped tables had been catalogued as “18th century” and “probably Italian” with an estimate of between €8,000 and €15,000.

It is not known where or when Sir Anthony acquired the tables nor how much he had paid.

Other items from his collection that sold include a 24-seat mahogany dining table, at which, according to auctioneer George Mealy, he had “entertained Bill Clinton and Mandela”.

It sold for €30,000.

A Bechstein Boudoir Grand Piano, formerly owned by Sir Anthony, sold for €5,700.