Tuesday 17 September 2019

67 valuable antique books from Carton House found in man's home, court hears

Carton House
Carton House

Conor Gallagher

Valuable antique books which went missing during the restoration of Carton House were identified due to the distinctive Fitzgerald family crest printed on their spines, a trial has heard.

Andrew Shannon (51) has gone on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court accused of unlawfully possessing 67 of the books after they were allegedly found during a search of his home.

The books, including a 1660 edition of the King James Bible of which only six exist, went missing after they were put in storage during the restoration of the Kildare country house.

Mr Shannon of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin pleaded not guilty to possession of the books at his home while knowing or being reckless as to whether they were stolen on March 3, 2007.

Counsel for the DPP, Monika Leech BL told a jury today that it was not the State’s case that Mr Shannon stole the books himself but that he had them in his possession. She said the books were found when gardaí searched Mr Shannon’s home in March 2007.

Conor Mallaghan gave evidence that he has worked at Carton House since 1994 overseeing its restoration after his father’s company bought the estate in 1977. He said that before restoration work began, he put all items in the house, including the library books, into storage. He said he photographed each book before storing it.

The books remained in boxes until 2006 when the process of restoring them to the library began. Mr Mallaghan said it was then he noticed the missing books and went to the gardaí.

He agreed with counsel that in 2007 he went to the garda station with his father to identify several books which had been found.

Mr Mallaghan was shown three of the antique books in court including a large edition of the King James Bible. He told counsel he identified them by the Fitzgerald family crest which was on their spine and inside the cover.

Mr Mallaghan explained that the crest featured a monkey which according to legend saved one of the Fitzgeralds after waking him up in a burning building.

Mr Mallaghan said some of the books dated from the middle of the 17th century “and beyond”. He told counsel that his family had never sold or lent out any of the 67 books nor had they given anyone permission to remove them from the house aside from the storage company.

The trial continues before Judge Petria McDonnell.

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