Saturday 23 September 2017

Hundreds of antique items up for auction at home of 'extraordinary' Irish businesswoman

Four-poster bed, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Four-poster bed, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Wall-mounted Eastern Tapestry, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Pair of lamps, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Ornaments, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of some of the rings on offer as part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of interior of St. Lawrence House with contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Pair of riding boots and hat, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of doll collection, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Local historian Eugene Markey, from Canningstow, examines an old wireless radio, part of house contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.

Jane O'Faherty

Chinese marble-backed chairs and a four-poster bed belonging to a well-known Irish businesswoman are among 500 rare antiques up for auction this weekend.

The items are from the lifetime collection of Sheila Germain who left Cavan as a young girl and made her name in the US.

Ms Germain (née Kettle) passed away in 2014 aged 90, but is still remembered for her active support of local projects in her Irish hometown of Bailieborough.

Auctioneer Damien Matthews said there were “549 items and counting” to be sold, and said there could be even more antiques to be found around the house.

“There are a few things in the house that I haven’t found yet, but there’s an awful lot," he said.

The possessions are on sale at Ms Germain’s home as the new owners of the property move in.

They include a set of Chinese marble-backed chairs valued at between €300 and €500, and a fine four-poster bed with drapes for between €400 and €700.

Mr Matthews called Ms Germain “an extraordinary woman” who was also “generous and humble.”

General view of some of the rings on offer as part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of some of the rings on offer as part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of interior of St. Lawrence House with contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of St. Lawrence House with contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of garden animal statues at St. Lawrence House, contents of which are up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of St. Lawrence House with contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of St. Lawrence House with contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
Local historian Eugene Markey, from Canningstow, peruses the contents that are up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.
General view of doll collection, part of contents up for auction on Sunday 17th July. St. Lawrence House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan.

“She was a woman with no qualifications. Her family here was not wealthy,” he said. “She went to work in America as a young girl, and made her name from there.”

While living in New York, she married Laurence Germain but also built a reputation as a prominent business leader in her own right.

At one point, she owned two penthouse apartments in Manhattan.

But she never forgot her Cavan roots, and bought Saint Lawrence House in Bailieborough, where she often spent summer and Christmas holidays.

Ms Germain had a passion for collecting antiques from across the world, and would bring most of the objects she purchased back to her property in Cavan.

Locally, Ms Germain is remembered for significant donations she made to local causes in her home county.

During her lifetime, she gave money towards Bailieborough Leisure Centre and Cavan General Hospital, as well as local schools, churches and other causes.

Mr Matthews said Ms Germain was “a great benefactor to the area of Cavan and Bailieborough.”

“Anything that was needed, she would pay for if asked,” he said. “She was wealthy, but she never became too above where she came from. She kept her feet very firmly on the ground.”

Once asked why she contributed so much, she replied: "My mother used to say there are no pockets in the shroud - you can't bring it with you.”

"The people [in Bailieborough] are very generous,” she added. “If there is a crisis they're all there to help you."

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