Sunday 17 November 2019

Gun of 'Rebel Countess' to be sold at auction

Louise Hogan

Countess Markievicz aims the Smith & Wesson revolver circa 1911, above. Below: George Mealy, of Mealy's Auctioneers, Co Kilkenny, with the gun and an Irish Citizen Army uniform. Bottom: the Con Deere medal, a historical artefact from the Easter 1916 Rising. Dolans Art Auction House/Dylan Vaughan

SHE was the State's first female minister and now there is proof that 1916 leader Constance Markievicz was also a crack shot.

A target card bearing two bullseye hits and a .32 small Smith & Wesson handgun once owned by the 'Rebel Countess' will go under the hammer later this month as part of a cache of rare historical items associated with the 1916 Easter Rising.

The quirky items are among hundreds expected to spark the interest of historians, collectors and museums when they go up for auction at the Independence sale on April 19 at Adam's Auction House, St Stephen's Green, Dublin.

The revolver was passed down through the family of Jim (Seamus) Babington -- from the 3rd Tipperary Brigade of the IRA, one of the infamous flying columns during the Civil War.

"The gun was given as a gift to Jim Babington just months after 1916 and (the countess's) involvement," explained George F Mealy, from Kilkenny-based Mealy's auctioneers, which is also involved in the sale.

Nestled among Mr Babington's archives were the gun and a note in Countess Markievicz's own handwriting accepting an invitation to visit Tipperary in 1917.

The role of the countess -- who went on to become the State's first female minister -- in the struggle for independence has captured the imagination of people worldwide.

The countess, whose former family home was Lissadell House in Sligo, took up a leadership role in the Easter Rising at the Citizen Army post at St Stephen's Green.

It's also been said she shot at least one British officer as they advanced. The countess, who often campaigned on behalf of the poor, was sentenced to death along with the other leaders in the Rising but was later released under an amnesty.

Three hundred thousand people thronged the streets for her funeral at which Eamon de Valera gave the oration after she fell ill and died in a public hospital ward in 1927.

Dr Niall Dolan, the founder of Dolan's Art Auction House, recently sold a photograph of Constance Markievicz aiming a gun similar to the one up for auction later this month.

Mr Mealy said files collected by Mr Babington revealing insights into how the brigade operated will spark the interest of historians.

"It contains original drawings and manuscripts on how to derail trains and drawings for ambushes," Mr Mealy explained.

The file is expected to fetch between €4,000 and €6,000, while the gun is more modestly priced with an estimation of between €700 and €900.

The National Museum already has four weapons which belonged to the countess. These include a pistol which she kissed before surrendering at the College of Surgeons in 1916 to Major de Courcey Wheeler, a relation.

An item expected to earn more than €100,000 is a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence -- the founding document of the Irish Republic.

"There has been interest from everyone in the Independence auction over the years," he said. "The majority of the items are fresh and have never been seen before."

Irish Independent

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