Wednesday 18 September 2019

Patrick Pearse surrender letter withdrawn at auction at €770,000

Sarah Kinlen dressed as a member of Cumann na mBan with Carmel O'Donoghue, Pauline McKenna and Teresa Quinn, look at a letter of surrender from Padraig Pearse at the GPO exhibition Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sarah Kinlen dressed as a member of Cumann na mBan with Carmel O'Donoghue, Pauline McKenna and Teresa Quinn, look at a letter of surrender from Padraig Pearse at the GPO exhibition Photo: Gerry Mooney

Ed Carty

The hand-written surrender letter by one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising has failed to sell at auction.

The instruction from Patrick Pearse to soldiers in the Four Courts in Dublin had a guide price of between €1m and €1.5m.

Auctioneers regarded it as one of the most historically significant artefacts from the rebellion years to have been offered publicly.

A spokesman for James Adam's auction house in Dublin confirmed the letter was withdrawn from sale at €770,000.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to get the Government to buy it.

Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin, said the letter did not belong in an auction and that the sale debases Irish heritage on the 100th anniversary of the rebellion.

Pearse wrote the surrender letter in his prison cell on April 30 1916 shortly after he had given up the fight.

He was executed three days later.

A number of typed copies exist but the handwritten and signed letter put up for sale at Adam's is one of a kind.

The seller has not been named and was described by the auctioneers as non-Irish and living outside the country.

They paid €800,000 for it at auction in 2005 despite a guide price as low as 50-70,000. The letter was loaned to the GPO Witness History museum where it has been on public view.

It had been hoped that it would be bought for the state or that interest would be piqued among the Irish-American community, particularly on the east coast of the US.

Stuart Cole, a director at Adam's, said, "The owner, based overseas, has requested that Adam's apply for an export licence to formally notify the Government that the document will be leaving Ireland and for the process to be expedited.

"The owner was saddened that the Government refused to bid for the document but now feels relieved of his obligations to keep the document in Ireland."

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