Monday 20 May 2019

Dusty attics give up hidden gems as 1916 treasures are unearthed

At the Irish Independent’s and Whyte’s Auctioneers’ ‘1916 in your attic’ event in the Gresham Hotel were auctioneer Ian Whyte and Daire Whelan, the Irish Independent’s 1916 co-ordinator. Picture: Arthur Carron
At the Irish Independent’s and Whyte’s Auctioneers’ ‘1916 in your attic’ event in the Gresham Hotel were auctioneer Ian Whyte and Daire Whelan, the Irish Independent’s 1916 co-ordinator. Picture: Arthur Carron
Irish Independent cover
Carmel Dawson and grand-daughter Alannagh McHutcheon (10) from Tullow, Co Carlow, take a closer look at a 1916 Proclamation. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tom Maher from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, with the gun and 1916 medal of his granduncle, Thomas Francis Meagher. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Deirdre Reynolds

It was 'Antiques Roadshow' 1916-style as Irish Independent readers from across the country flocked to The Gresham Hotel in Dublin for a special '1916 in your attic' event.

Hosted in conjunction with Whyte's Auctioneers, hundreds of history buffs from all over Ireland hauled century-old artefacts, including medals and rifles, to the valuation day in the hopes of getting good news.

For Carlow schoolgirl Alannagh McHutcheon, it was a glimpse at an original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was the most precious of all.

The Scoil Mhuire Lourdes pupil took the train from Tullow to the capital with her gran, Carmel Dawson, to get a closer look at the historic parchment that she has learned all about at school.

Keen reader Alannagh - who is in fifth class - marvelled: "It's amazing just to see it. We're doing our own Proclamation in school at the moment - equality for everyone and helping the homeless are two of the things on it. We're going to raise the flag and read it on the 15th of March."

Thought to be one of just 50 copies in existence, the framed Proclamation is expected to fetch up to €400,000 when it goes under the hammer at Whyte's on Molesworth Street next month.

Speaking to the Irish Independent in between valuations, auctioneer Ian Whyte said: "From a collector's point of view, there's not that many (of them) around, so there should be good demand.

"Some of them can be a little overcleaned, but this is a good one - you'd almost swear it was on O'Connell Street in 1916."

Elsewhere at the exhibition, retired garda Tom Maher from Wexford was astonished to discover that an old medal and revolver owned by his great-uncle and namesake, Thomas Francis Meagher, could be worth up to €5,000.

The amateur historian said: "My grand-uncle was a postman who participated in the uprising in Enniscorthy during Easter Week.

"I was 12 or 13 years of age when he died. He had no children, and always said, 'You will have my medals.'

"They've been lying in a box in the attic all these years. It wasn't until I read about the event in the paper that I remembered them.

"I haven't decided what to do with them yet," he added. "I'm not that worried about the actual value - I'm more interested in the history."

One hundred years on, provenance is key when it comes to sorting the gems from the junk, according to Mr Whyte. "When people come in with a medal, the first thing I always ask is, 'Whose was it? With 3D printers, unfortunately there are a lot of forgeries around."

But the real treasures are always still out there.

Irish Independent

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