1916 surrender letter to fetch over €1m at auction
Lack of State interest means historic document likely to find private buyer overseas
Written by Patrick Pearse on April 30th, 1916, the letter will go under the hammer with a guide price of between €1 million and €1.5 million
The final surrender order signed by Patrick Pearse during the 1916 Rising is likely to be acquired by a foreign buyer this week, a Dublin auctioneer has said.
Written by Pearse on April 30th, 1916, after he surrendered to Brig Gen William Lowe, the letter will go under the hammer in Dublin on Wednesday with a guide price of between €1 million and €1.5 million.
Adam’s Auctioneers, which has encouraged the Government to buy the letter for the State’s archives, has described the handwritten single page as “the most significant Irish document to be offered for sale”.
Adam’s says it expects the document to leave Irish shores, given that the only serious inquiries so far have come from overseas.
“It is with much reluctance that we must put this document up for auction, despite our best efforts to the contrary,” said the director at Adam’s, Stuart Cole. “It is ironic that such an important part of our history is more highly valued outside of Ireland, and perhaps in years to come when looking at this order in some American museum or library we can at least answer how it came to be there.”
The auctioneer said the current owner, who is non-Irish and does not live in Ireland, had a “profound interest” in Irish history and bought the document in 2005 at a public auction for €800,000, “his wish being to prevent the order leaving the country at that time.”
In recent days, the Capuchin Franciscan Order has said the valuable 1916 Easter Rising surrender letter disappeared from its archive without authorisation. In a letter to The Irish Times, Capuchin priest Fr Adrian Curran OFM, who is the provincial minister for the order in Ireland, said the order was “alienated by persons unknown from the archives of the order without the authorisation of its superiors and put up for sale”.
The eleventh-hour claim by the religious order has been dismissed by Adam’s, which said it was “completely erroneous” and that the letter’s provenance had been thoroughly established when it was last sold in 2005.
The current owner, on a visit to Dublin for the 1916 centenary commemorations, had “decided that his custodianship was no longer required”, according to Adam’s. “To that end he placed the order on loan with the GPO in the ‘Witness History’ museum, where it could be viewed by the general public. The hope of the vendor was that it would be bought by the Government and that the letter would be secured for generations to come within the State.”
In a statement, Adam’s said that despite numerous petitions and approaches to politicians, the Government had indicated it would not purchase the document for the State.