Tiger skin from colonial India and portrait of Tipperary philanthropist in country house contents sale

 

The contents of yet another Irish country house are up for sale. This time it’s Coolavin, Monasteraden, Co Sligo – former home of the MacDermot family, a once-prominent Gaelic clan whose head was traditionally self-styled “The MacDermot” or ‘Prince of Coolavin’.

The contents of the Victorian house, on the shores of Lough Gara, have been removed to the Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny saleroom of Fonsie Mealy Auctioners where they go on view from tomorrow at noon. The auction, called The ChatsworthFine Art Sale, takes place on Tuesday, starting at 10am, and with more than 900 lots it promises to be a long day.

The catalogue features a huge selection of mainly Victorian and Edwardian items, from furniture and silver to Belleek china and garden urns.

There are some fascinating examples of colonial-era taxidermy including a conversation-stopping tiger-skin rug with head mount (€750-€1,250) by the renowned British Raj taxidermist Van Ingen & Van Ingen of Mysore in southern India. A mounted skull and horns of an eland (1911) from “NW Rhodesia” is estimated at €220-€350 and a rare African Colobus or white-tailed monkey is €220-€350.

Among the more unusual items, and perhaps the ultimate Christmas present, is a very special antique toy – a carved, hand-painted wooden Indian elephant on wheels (€700-€900).

Among a selection of paintings is a portrait of Mrs Mary Power Lalor (nee Ryan) of Long Orchard, Co Tipperary, seated in a black lace dress with pearl and diamond necklace (€3,000-€5,000) which the auctioneers said ended up in Coolavin “through intermarriage”.

In the picture, the woman seems to radiate Victorian goodness and Christian concern. And, sure enough, she was a noted, though now largely forgotten, philanthropist.

Born Mary Francis Ryan, in 1850, she was the daughter of George Ryan of Inch, Co Tipperary and Catherine Whyte of Loughbrickland, near Belfast. At the age of 18 she married Capt Edmund Power Lalor of Long Orchard. The following year, during a visit to Rome where she was presented to the papal court, she had this portrait painted by an artist called G Canavari.

After the death of her husband in 1873, and their only child, a daughter Helen, the following year, she devoted her life to charitable works and raised huge sums of money to assist starving children after the 1879 famine.

In 1886 Power Lalor established the Distressed Ladies Fund to assist women “who, through the present land crisis, can no longer obtain payment for their jointures or charges upon Irish land, and who, in consequence, are utterly destitute”. She opened a home for them in Rutland (now Mountjoy) Square in Dublin which attracted the patronage of Queen Victoria.

The house subsequently became known as the Power Lalor Home. She died on March 26th, 1913, and was buried next to her husband in Templetuohy, Co Tipperary.

The catalogue for the Chatsworth Fine Art Sale is at fonsiemealy.ie

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