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Friday 9 December 2016

Buyers bid for O'Reilly's personal collection

Sir Anthony's antiques have Midas touch, writes Nicola Anderson

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

Joe Collins of Mealy’s Fine Art Auctioneers holds a Victorian stuffed Indian tiger’s head at the sale of items from Castlemartin House, Co. Kildare – comprising fine antiques and decorative art from the private collection of Sir Anthony O’Reilly and of Kilfane House on the instructions of the Clarke family. Photo: Dylan Vaughan.
Joe Collins of Mealy’s Fine Art Auctioneers holds a Victorian stuffed Indian tiger’s head at the sale of items from Castlemartin House, Co. Kildare – comprising fine antiques and decorative art from the private collection of Sir Anthony O’Reilly and of Kilfane House on the instructions of the Clarke family. Photo: Dylan Vaughan.

As each item came up from the fabled collection, the name was discreetly dropped into the sales pitch, causing a flurry of interest.

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"Castlemartin is the Midas touch," conceded auctioneer George Gerard Mealy, whose family firm was handling the sale of items from Sir Anthony O'Reilly's private collection following his well- publicised bankruptcy.

Joe and PJ Collins of Mealy’s Fine Art Auctioneers, pictured with a Victorian Taxidermy Baboon. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Joe and PJ Collins of Mealy’s Fine Art Auctioneers, pictured with a Victorian Taxidermy Baboon. Picture Dylan Vaughan.

The end of an era was summonsed in the sale of an Irish antique table and set of chairs at which Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Ted Kennedy once dined with the former billionaire at his Co Kildare estate of Castlemartin.

The William IV period Irish mahogany dining table, thought to be by Williams & Gibton cabinet-makers, was sold to a telephone bidder for €37,000 including auction fees, while a pair of 18th century carved giltwood open armchairs realised €37,380 including fees.

However, the big ticket item amongst the contents which went under the hammer was a pair of "extremely rare" 18th century gilt console tables which sold for €145,000 over the phone - earning a round of applause from the room. The marble-topped tables are understood to have been purchased by a dealer who operates both in the UK and Ireland.

The only star piece from Castlemartin not to sell was an antique Irish sideboard, withdrawn at €12,000 and which had been estimated at €20,000 to €30,000.

Gitta Ruckman and John Dollard from Bennettsbridge Co. Kilkenny. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Gitta Ruckman and John Dollard from Bennettsbridge Co. Kilkenny. Picture Dylan Vaughan.

The room was full to standing point - but most of the real action was happening on the phone lines and on the web.

Other pieces going under the hammer included more modest pieces, including a dumb waiter mahogany unit which fetched €300, an Edwardian architects' desk which went for €800 and a burgundy leather library chair which rose rapidly in price, and was eventually sold over the phone for €2,100, much to the disappointment of several buyers in the room.

There was also some taxidermy amongst the collection - including a snarling tiger's head which fetched €1,000.

Sir Anthony was declared bankrupt by the supreme court in the Bahamas last year and Castlemartin was sold to US billionaire John Malone in December 2014 following a Commercial Court judgment for €22.6m in favour of AIB the previous June.

One of a set of tables that sold for €145,000 at the auction. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
One of a set of tables that sold for €145,000 at the auction. Picture Dylan Vaughan.

The contents were offered for sale "on the instructions of the trustee in bankruptcy appointed by the Bahamian Court".

The items were sold yesterday by Mealy's auctioneers at the Longman of Kilfane pub in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, in a sale consisting mostly of items from nearby Kilfane House, owned by US businessman Hal Clarke.

It is not known what happened to the rest of the O'Reilly collection - which included some very famous artworks.

Auctioneer George Gerard Mealy said that as a patron of the Irish arts scene, Sir Anthony O'Reilly's interest had also extended to a very fine taste in Irish antique furniture.

Sir Anthony O’Reilly. Photo: Frank McGrath
Sir Anthony O’Reilly. Photo: Frank McGrath

Irish Independent

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