Thursday 18 January 2018

Druids Glen golf club to sell off portraits of seven 1916 signatories

Paintings of Rising leaders no longer suit the 'ambience' of prestigious resort

A portrait of Bernadette Devlin is being removed for auction from the clubhouse of the Druids Glen Golf course, inset, in Co Wicklow
A portrait of Bernadette Devlin is being removed for auction from the clubhouse of the Druids Glen Golf course, inset, in Co Wicklow
Eamon de Valera portrait: also being auctioned
The clubhouse at Druids Glen Golf course

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

THE heroes of the 1916 Rising have been turfed out of one of the country's most prestigious golf clubs.

While these bastions of the sporting elite can be notoriously picky about who they do and do not allow to enter, eyebrows have been raised after the management of Druids Glen Golf Resort in Co Wicklow decided to evict the seven signatories of the 1916 proclamation.

Their portraits have graced the stairs of the clubhouse, Woodstock House, since it opened in 1995. However, they no longer suit the "ambience" and will be put up for auction later this month.

Artist Robert Ballagh, who was commissioned to create the pencil drawings by the club's previous owner Hugh 'Hugo' Flinn, said he was disappointed. "Sadly, Hugo is no longer with us and it seems the new management have decided to divest the house of these proudly nationalist emblems.

"The portraits of the 1916 signatories have been there since Druids Glen opened and I believe they should remain there," he added.

Mr Flinn, the son of Fianna Fail TD Hugo Flinn, who served as parliamentary secretary under Eamon de Valera, was the founder of the international engineering company, the PW Group. He died last year at the age of 88 and the Druids Glen Resort is now headed by chief executive Richard Collins.

"Hugo was a patriot and noted that if you played golf at Royal Lytham & St Annes, or anywhere in England, they'd have the Union Jack flying overhead and a picture of the queen in the clubhouse," said Mr Ballagh.

"He felt anyone playing golf in Druids Glen should know they were in Ireland, and in a republic."

The artist said he was "shocked" at the €8,000-- €10,000 guide price for the set of seven portraits.

Other lots in the sale, also created by Mr Ballagh, include portraits of Mr De Valera and John Costello with a guide price of between €1,500 and €2,000 each, and an oil painting of Bernadette Devlin which has an estimate of €8,000-€10,000.

"I liked Hugo. I did all of this work at very, very cheap rates but if you look at estimates in the catalogue for the exhibition, they are not selling at cheap rates," said Mr Ballagh.

The works will go under the hammer in Whyte's 'Important Irish Art' auction which takes place in the RDS on November 28. When contacted by the Irish Independent, Ian Whyte, managing director of the auctioneers, described the portraits of the 1916 leaders as "not suiting the ambience of a golf club".

"Let's put it this way. They (Druids Glen) are trying to attract business from around the world so this really doesn't gel and also the resort is currently undergoing some refurbishment and it was felt that the collection of over 30 very similar portraits needed to be reduced," said Mr Whyte.

The auctioneer said the works had been replaced by a temporary exhibition showcasing contemporary Irish artists.

"It is probable that the resort will use the funds raised by the sale of the decommissioned works to acquire new paintings by contemporary Irish artists thus continuing the tradition of artistic patronage started by Druids Glen founder Hugo Flinn," added Mr Whyte.

A spokeswoman for Druids Glen said the paintings are being sold ahead of a €2m refurbishment of the resort.

Irish Independent

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