Patrick Pearse’s Irish Volunteer card expected to fetch in the region of €150,000 in Whyte’s sale

The History Sale has a number of items in relation to the Irish teacher, barrister and revolutionary

Four centuries of Irish history are up for sale in Whyte’s The History Sale on November 11th.

The timed online auction has everything from maps dating all the way back to the 1660s (€200-€300 apiece) to autographed photographs of taoisigh from the 70s and 80s (also €200-€300 each).

A tiny card measuring about two by four inches is the highlight of the sale. Listed with an estimate of €150,000-€200,000, the piece, described in catalogue notes as “a unique relic of the 1916 Rising commander-in-chief” was Patrick Pearse Pearse’s Irish Volunteer membership card.

Issued on December 9th 1913, it is signed by Pearse. He left the Irish Volunteers when the organisation split over John Redmond agreeing to support Britain in the war with Germany. As Pearse-related documents – including surrender letters – have fetched hundreds of thousands of euro – there may be keen international interest.


Also listed are two memoriam cards for Patrick Pearse and William Pearse and their mother Margaret (€400-€600) along with a series of five handwritten letters by Padraig Pearse to his solicitor outlining his enduring financial difficulties in trying to maintain St Enda’s School, which he established at Cullenswood House in Ranelagh before moving to the Hermitage in Rathfarnham, which is now the site of the Pearse Museum.

1916 medals issued to participants of the Rising and the War of Independence are sought after at these sales, and Ian Whyte, curator of the sale, is expecting interest in the group once owned by Vinnie Byrne. As the most prominent member of the Michael Collins’ squad, he was responsible for the assassination of British military intelligence officers during the war (€10,000-€15,000)

A collection of medals by former past president of the Royal Hibernian Academy and distinguished Irish artist, the late Dr Thomas Ryan, who died in 2021 is also up for sale.

With 260 medals divided into 130 lots, “it is the most important to be offered in Ireland since the dispersal of the collections of Arthur Went and Fred Dixon”.

A 1662 copper issue for Dorcas Brabazon, (wife of George Lane, secretary of state for Ireland) are the earliest in the collection (€500-€700) along with a silver medal of the Duke of Ormond from 1682 (€600-€800).

In terms of art, there are 1770 Society of Artists Dublin silver medals and an RHA silver medal to noted artist Richard Moynan (€250-€300 and €300-€400 respectively).

Of agricultural interest are Ryan’s collection in silver of farm animals that would have been awarded in the 19th century (€40-€80 each) while his interest in the Roman Catholic Church is reflected in the 90 silver medals depicting popes from the 17th to the 21st century.

A fine set of two large volumes with 586 engravings of cartoons by English caricaturist James Gillray are listed at €6,000-€8,000. Though these are considered to be misogynistic, chauvinistic and bigoted today, “Gillray transformed caricature” and was “one of the first professional artists to incorporate caricature portraits into more complex and ambitious satirical prints” according to the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables