Gold key is centrepiece of bittersweet relics from Clerys at RDS antiques fair
Published 26/09/2015 | 02:30
Padraig Pearse shopped for linen at Clerys in the years before the 1916 Rising - and even though the famous department store was subsequently destroyed by the shelling, they didn't hold a grudge.
Clerys rose like a phoenix from the ashes in 1922, bigger and grander than ever - and they framed Pearse's cheque.
A collection of relics of a bittersweet and bygone era at Ireland's most famous retailer is at the centre of the 50th Irish Antique Dealers' Fair at the RDS over the weekend.
Over €70m worth of antiques, including a dazzling diamond necklace set worth over €300,000 alone from dealer John Farrington, are on display.
But it is the Clerys stand that is attracting the most attention from the public.
Well-known Dublin antique dealer JW Weldon purchased the items from the liquidator, including the ceremonial gold key used on August 9, 1922, for the official reopening.
He told the Irish Independent that he hopes they can be purchased as a single lot by a public body or institution, which can allow these historical details to be available to the public.
And he said he has already received much interest from "the type of body that I would like to see them go to".
There has also been some interest from abroad - including far-flung members of "some of the families involved".
Photographs of Clerys in the 1890s - all colonial balconies and palm trees, intriguing lease documents relating to buildings on what was then Sackville Street, and a framed copy of the cheque signed by the Guiney family in 1941 for the purchase of the O'Connell street premises for £250,000, are all there.
A ledger, valued at between €4,000 to €5,000, also shows the devastating impact the Rising had on business at Clerys, with the cost of repairs and the drop off in the number of apprentices employed in the store all outlined.
And one of the first visitors in to examine the items was Gerry Markey from Finglas, who worked at Clerys for 34 years.
"It was very emotional," he said, as the last time he was inside his old workplace was 10 days after its shock closure by liquidators last June.
He had to make an appointment to retrieve items from his locker - and was escorted by security.
"It was like a ghost house," he said of his beloved Clerys. "All the lights were on and it was absolutely desolate. It was like someone had taken a knife to it and it was just bleeding.
"It was losing its character by the hour," he added.
He revealed former employees are keeping a constant watchful eye over their beloved store to ensure that no demolition is attempted by its new owners as they await a definite plan for the building.
'Antiques Roadshow' stars Judith Miller and Mark Hill head a packed programme at this year's fair, which has been organised to celebrate the golden jubilee of the annual fair - originally founded by Dublin entrepreneur Louis O'Sullivan at a time when most antiques were being exported from the country.