Wednesday 21 February 2018

From H-Block to auction block Maze memorabilia up for sale

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

A payphone from the North's notorious H-Block prison is up for sale.

The British Telecom callbox, still bearing the phone number of the Maze prison, '0184 6683695', is just one of a number of H-Block-related items going under the hammer in Dublin auction house Whyte's later this month.

These include original key tags to cells where IRA men, including hunger-striker Bobby Sands, were held, along with original CCTV cameras that watched their every move at the prison and memorabilia made by republican and loyalist prisoners in captivity.

The items were acquired by a collector from the demolition company working on the site of the old Maze prison, which was closed in 2000 when more than 800 paramilitary prisoners were freed under the Good Friday Agreement.


"It's so much easier to understand history when you can touch an object or hold it in your hand," said Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte's & Sons Auctioneers.

"It is important these things are preserved so that people understand the whole history of this country."

The Maze prison, which opened in 1976, was built as a modern fortress to house terrorist prisoners at the height of the Troubles.

It featured high walls and watchtowers surrounding eight identical cell blocks in the shape of an H. These 'H-Blocks' became synonymous with the political conflict in the North.

The 2008 film 'Hunger', which looked at the last days of Sands, was just the latest in a line of films, plays and novels to be set in the prison complex.

The auction house is expecting bids from collectors in Ireland and the US.

How much then for a H-Block payphone, described in the catalogue as "a rare and interesting memento of a famous institution in the modern history of Ireland?"

"Our guide price is between €800 and €1,200 but I could see it going for more. Perhaps to an Irish bar in New York," said Mr Whyte.

All the items will be on view, free of charge, from April 20 to 23 at Whyte's gallery in Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Irish Independent

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