Kevin Barry's last letter and previously unseen IRA archive from 1920s go under the hammer


THE LAST letter written by Kevin Barry the night before his execution and thousands of documents from IRA headquarters in the 1920s are among the highlights of a forthcoming auction relating to Ireland’s struggle for independence.

The annual “Independence Auction” run jointly by Mealy’s auctioneers in Co Kilkenny and Adam’s in Dublin contains a wide cross-section of material, from medals to pamphlets, and letters to posters.

The final letter by 18-year-old Kevin Barry from Mountjoy was described as “truly unique and poignant” by George Mealy of Mealy auctioneers

Barry wrote to his friends in blue prison pencil on two sheets of paper on October 31st, 1920, the night before he was hanged for his part in an IRA attack in which three British soldiers were killed.

“I have always considered myself lucky to have such a crowd of pals. It’s the only thing which makes it hard to go,” the letter reads. The document has a guide price of between € 14,000 and €18,000.

A book signed by Sir Roger Casement the night before his execution at Pentonville in August 1916 following his conviction for high treason is also attracting much interest.

A number of artefacts and mementos are contained in the archive of Kathleen Napoli McKenna, a personal adviser and secretary to Michael Collins.

Among these is the bronze cap badge which Collins wore when he was shot at Béal na mBláth in 1922. It has a price tag of €2,000 to €3,000. Also in this archive are documents regarding Collins’s proposal for a truce in Cork just days before his death. The messages offer support to theories that his final visit to Cork was partly in an effort to contact republican leaders to end the fighting. It has a guide price of €3,000 to €4,000.

Some of the most historically significant and original items come from the archive of Maurice (Moss) Twomey, IRA chief of staff from 1926 until 1936.

The IRA archives from the 1920s and 1930s were found at a building on O’Connell Street, Dublin, which was the former headquarters of the IRA and formerly a shop run by Twomey.

None of the detailed information in this file has been in the public domain before.

According to the auctioneers, the thousands of original documents in this archive “will facilitate a new and authoritative approach to republican history in the period”.

Many of the items in this 20-lot archive have guide prices of over €10,000.

Among the items are IRA army council documents and financial statements. Details of travel by IRA chief of staff Seán MacBride around Europe meeting with arms suppliers will also be of interest to historians.

Items are on view next weekend at Adam’s auction rooms on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

The auction takes place on Tuesday next, April 20th.


Kevin Barry’s last letter


IRA army council archive

1924- 1925 and 1929 - 1931

€ 14,000–€18,000

Military archive of the IRA western divisions from 1922-1923


Messages between IRA army council and Clan na Gael 1929-1931


IRA financial statements and accounts 1922-1925


The announcement of the discovery of the Northwest Passage and the search for Sir John Franklin


East Limerick Brigade archive 1920/21


Medals of 1916 volunteer James Mallon


Medals of 1916 volunteer Patrick Mahon


Daniel O’Connell’s processional chair