Diarmaid Ferriter: Pearse sale blurs line between patriotism and profit

Questions over ownership of historic note that was up for auction will come up again

Stuart Cole of Adam’s  and Sarah Kinlen with the  Patrick Pearse letter   urging rebels to surrender. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Stuart Cole of Adam’s and Sarah Kinlen with the Patrick Pearse letter urging rebels to surrender. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

It is understandable that when a significant historical document finds its way into an auctioneer’s catalogue, there are calls for the State to buy it in order to ensure it remains in the State and transfers to public ownership. But that focus can leave many other questions unanswered. In the case of the Pearse note that was up for auction on Wednesday, but failed to reach its reserve price, the most obvious question is this: how and why was it removed from its original and natural home in the first place?

That home is the Capuchin Archives in Church Street, Dublin. The note – hurriedly scribbled by Patrick Pearse to reinforce the surrender order he had issued the previous day regarding the last outpost in the Four Courts area – was given to the Capuchin Fr Columbus Murphy by Pearse and remained in his papers in the Capuchin archive.

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