Late auctioneer George Mealy remembered for ‘legendary’ sense of humour

Kilkenny auctioneer noted for his skills in the sale room and his distaste for online auctions

A “true gentleman”, who was “full of cheerfulness, good humour”, and with a “ready smile”, are some of the words used on to describe the late George Mealy, who died on December 22nd.

Mealy, from Beechfield House in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, was one of Ireland’s leading provincial auctioneers, and a popular figure on the Irish and UK art and antiques circuit. He laid down the gavel in 2018, opting instead to offer valuations and an art advisory service.

Described as “a bit of a legend” in the collecting world, he was considered to be one of the most successful and astute practitioners in the trade: “He had the skill to combine and ability to read the auction room and draw out bids, with great humour – that the bidders hadn’t intended,” remembers James O’Halloran of Adam’s, adding “he was one of a kind and a true professional”.

In an interview with The Irish Times in 2018, when he retired from the rostrum, Mealy mused that in the past number of years, “the whole fun went out of it” due to online bidding. “With the telephone bidding, you don’t get people on the chairs,” he said, describing the rostrum as “a lonely place” when there’s nobody in the room.


Along with elder brother Fonsie, he joined Mealy’s Auctioneers, which was established by his father and namesake George Mealy (1911-1978) in 1934. Here, he conducted some of Ireland’s most important country house sales.

In that 2018 interview, he said that the highlight of his 45-plus year career was the Mount Congreve sales in 2012 (conducted with Christie’s of London). He recalled how a mahogany cabinet with the monogram of Marie Antoinette made €40,000 before the sale actually began, and he also recalled the €90,000 achieved for a Carlton House desk.

Other big sales included Lotabeg House in Co Cork in 2016. He remembers “feeling awestruck” at the time, as the house resembled a time capsule spanning from the 1830s to the 1940s. Though not a “big house” of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, the property’s contents realised €850,000.

At the height of the boom, in 2006, the contents of Luggala, which was home to the late Guinness heir Garech Browne (and which has since sold to Count Luca Rinaldo Contardo Padulli di Vighignolo) was conducted by the firm. At the time, an 18th-century Irish mahogany side table achieved €180,000, having been listed with a €80,000-€100,000 estimate.

“He was a real character and a great man if you had a query,” recalls Waterford auctioneer Rody Keighery. “We were in college together [De La Salle Waterford] and he only lasted about three weeks. His father would drive him back to school, but he’d still be back home before his father reached the family house, and his sense of humour was legendary”. James O’Halloran shares the same sentiment “I’d known him for 30 years and we enjoyed some great times together – particularly at fine art conferences in the UK. I think he was the funniest man I’d ever met”.

George Mealy is survived by his wife, Brigid; daughter Órfhlaith; sons George and David; and extended family.

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