Maureen O’Hara memorabilia to be auctioned in New York

Items include ‘secret love letters’ sent to her by ‘The Quiet Man’ director John Ford

Hundreds of items owned by the late Maureen O’Hara, including clothes, jewellery, antiques and a Child of Prague statue, are to be auctioned in New York.

Memorabilia associated with her Hollywood career, most notably the film The Quiet Man, shot in Ireland and released in 1952, are also being sold by her estate at the Bonhams auction in New York.

Born Maureen FitzSimons in Ranelagh, Dublin, in 1920, O’Hara died last year, aged 95, in the United States. She had spent much of the previous decade at her west Cork home, Lugdine Park, near Glengarriff.

She had been married three times, but was survived by only one child, daughter Bronwyn FitzSimons, who was found dead, from natural causes, aged 71, at Lugdine Park last May.


FitzSimons, in turn, was survived by a son, Maureen O’Hara’s only grandchild, C Beau FitzSimons, who lives in the US.

Bonhams said O’Hara’s estate had asked the company to sell the collection, which includes “secret love letters” sent to her by John Ford, the director of The Quiet Man, in the months before filming began on location in Mayo and Galway.

Catherine Williamson of Bonhams said the letters were “so intimate and intense that O’Hara herself planned to destroy them upon her death, but in later years changed her mind”.

The letters, which have never been published and are described as being “of a personal nature”, will go on view at Bonhams offices in Los Angeles this weekend.

Prospective bidders will be required to “sign a non-disclosure agreement to not reveal the contents before or after the sale unless the signer is the winning bidder”.

Unusually, the auctioneers declined to give any estimate for the letters except that they were “expected to make hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

‘Hollywood archaeologists’

Ms Williamson said the letters and other items in the auction had been stored “in a cold warehouse in Idaho” where she and a colleague “dug through stacks and stacks of boxes like Hollywood archaeologists, piecing together the story of [Maureen O’Hara’s] life from the tangible property she left behind”.

She said the auction in New York on November 29th would also include, among 240 lots, the jaunting cart used to carry cast and crew members from their lodgings in Cong, Co Mayo, to the set of The Quiet Man. It is estimated at up to $120,000 (€111,000).

Ford’s personal script for the film, annotated by O’Hara, is estimated at up to $100,000. A tweed jacket she wore as the character Mary Kate Danaher in the film is estimated at up to $7,000.

Some of the items relate to her co-star John Wayne, including a “pale yellow ceramic mug with a gold handle, painted with the Gaelic phrase ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ and ‘Duke’”, gifted by Wayne to O’Hara at the end of production of The Quiet Man. It is expected to sell for up to $700.

Among the most personal items is lot 234, “a collection of Maureen O’Hara religious artefacts” numbering 30 pieces, including rosary beads, prayer books and “a small figure of the Infant Jesus of Prague with a cloth cape” with a top estimate of $600.

A batch of “political correspondence”, including Christmas cards from the Reagans and Bill and Hillary Clinton, has a top estimate of $1,200.

Not all of O’Hara’s collection is included in the auction. Following her death, some items of clothing and memorabilia were given by her family to the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in Co Limerick.

Her third husband, the American pilot Capt Charlie Blair, had flown the last scheduled flying boat from Foynes to New York in 1945.

He died in a plane crash in the Caribbean in 1978.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques