Capuchins claim 1916 Pearse letter taken without consent

Adam’s Auctioneers insists letter’s provenance established in previous sale in 2005

Patrick Pearse’s letter of surrendered was written on April 30th, 1916, shortly before he surrendered to Brigadier General William Lowe.

Patrick Pearse’s letter of surrendered was written on April 30th, 1916, shortly before he surrendered to Brigadier General William Lowe.

 

The Capuchin Franciscan Order has said a valuable 1916 Easter Rising surrender letter written by Patrick Pearse, which is being put up for sale at an auction next week, disappeared from its archive without authorisation.

The 11-hour claim by the religious order was immediately dismissed by Adams Auctioneers who said it was “completely erroneous” and that the letter’s provenance had been thoroughly established when it was last sold in 2005.

Written by Pearse on April 30th ,1916, shortly before he surrendered to Brigadier General William Lowe, the letter of surrender will go under the hammer in Dublin on Wednesday with a guide of between €1 million and €1.5 million.

Adams Auctioneers, which has repeatedly 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”.

However, in a letter to The Irish Times received yesterday, Capuchin priest Fr Adrian Curran OFM, who is the provincial minister for the order in Ireland, raised question marks about what had happened to the letter.

“This document, once in the possession [of ] Fr Columbus Murphy OFM Cap, who received it from Patrick Pearse three days before his execution for delivery to the commander of the Four Courts garrison so as to facilitate his surrender and the men under his command, was held in care as part of the Order’s heritage in connection with the 1916 Rising,” he wrote.

“The Capuchin Order regrets to state that this document was later alienated by persons unknown from the archives of the order without the authorisation of its superiors and put up for sale,” he said, though he did not say when it was found to be missing.

Never identified

Fr Curran said the document was sold for €700,000 and that the order did not benefit from its sale. The seller at the time, who was not the individual to have had original possession of the letter, has never been identified.

Regarding the auction next week, the letter continued: “The Irish Capuchins regard this document as a precious monument of the history of the Irish people and worthy to be preserved as such for future generations.”

Questioned later by The Irish Times, Fr Curran declined to comment on exactly what the Order believes happened to the document other than what was set out in their letter. However, the Capuchins will make no attempt to prevent its sale.

Responding yesterday, Stuart Cole, a director at Adams, rejected the claims saying the provenance of the letter was well established and they were entirely satisfied with the original vendor.

“I think it’s completely erroneous. We are very happy that the person who sold it back in 2005 was completely within his rights to do so and was the inheritor of that document,” he said.

Referencing the 2005 sale catalogue, Mr Cole said the letter was listed as being in the original possession of Fr Columbus before being given to Fr Conrad as provincial superior to the Capuchin Order and then inherited by the vendor who has always retained anonymity.

Private collection

Mr Cole said it was also listed by Seamus O’Buachalla in a collection of letters by Pearse as having been held in private collection.

“It’s throwing mud, I just don’t understand why,” Mr Cole said, adding that Adams had not received a copy of any such claim.

He said the current vendor of the letter, also anonymous, is not Irish and does not live in Ireland. He had not contact with the letter prior to its sale in 2005. He had an interest in Irish history and had purchased the artefact with the intention of securing its place in the State.

Later, he decided to sell it following the success of the 2016 State commemoration programme, believing he no longer needed to be its custodian.

Mr Cole said that, on the instructions of the owner, he had attempted to secure its sale to various State institutions without success.