Michael Collins's hair to go to museum after sale abandoned


A LOCK of tangled brown hair taken from the head of the dead Michael Collins has been withdrawn from auction and will be donated to the National Museum of Ireland.

Adam’s auctioneers had been due to sell the poignant memento – expected to fetch up to €5,000 – in an auction of Irish historical memorabilia in Dublin tonight.

But yesterday, the vendors, a couple in Dublin, decided to withdraw the item from the sale. The donation has been accepted by the museum.

Auctioneer Stuart Cole said the unnamed couple had received the lock of hair as a gift, during the 1950s, from Michael Collins’s sister Kitty (Collins Sheridan). She had removed it from her brother’s body as he lay in state at Dublin City Hall in August 1922.

Collins was shot dead during an ambush in Co Cork at the height of the Civil War.

Mr Cole said the couple had initially decided to sell the item “not for monetary gain” but simply to ensure that it “found a good home”. He explained that they were “getting elderly” and were “worried that if something happened to them it might get thrown out in a bin and be lost”.

It is understood that members of the extended Collins family had approached Adam’s and were willing to buy the item in advance of the auction for a reasonable price. However the vendors’ decision to donate the item to the museum ended those discussions.

Earlier yesterday, Michael Collins’s grand-niece Mary Banotti, a former Fine Gael MEP, and grand-nephew Robert Pierse, a solicitor from Listowel, Co Kerry, publicly expressed their dismay that such a personal item was to be auctioned.

Both said they believed that the lock of hair ought to be buried with Collins’s body in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Meanwhile, a medical swab used to clean the face of Michael Collins is due to be sold at a separate auction next week.

The swab, used by a nurse to clean Collins’s face at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin before his embalmment, is listed in Mealy’s sale, titled “Ireland’s Struggle”, in Dublin next Wednesday. It has a pre-sale estimate of €450 to €600.

Ms Banotti told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme that she regarded the sale of the swab as “really appalling”.

There is a lucrative market for memorabilia associated with the leading figures in Irish history. Numerous other items associated with Collins will be sold in a series of auctions this month.

Locks of hair previously sold, include one from Kevin Barry which made €1,400 in 2010. The 18-year-old medical student and member of the Irish Volunteers was executed for treason by the British authorities in 1920.

In 2009, a lock of Lord Horatio Nelson’s hair, encased in a brooch, made £2,500 (€3,033) at an auction in England. It was thought to have been cut from Lord Nelson’s head after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. His body was preserved in a barrel of brandy and shipped home.