Tuesday 20 February 2018

Treasures: A chance to get with the programme

Ireland's fine arts, antiques and collectables column

Memorabilia from the controversial World Cup in South Korea and Japan
Memorabilia from the controversial World Cup in South Korea and Japan
Ireland v Switzerland programme
Ireland v Hungary programme
OTT Irish Regency silver coffee pot

Eleanor Flegg

'He Came. He Saw. He Went Home." That was the tagline for the 2005 musical comedy, I, Keano. The play was set in Ancient Rome, but it was really about football. Specifically, the public clash between the Irish football manager Mick McCarthy and the team captain, Roy Keane, in the run-up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

The Republic of Ireland World Cup squad was training in Saipan when Keane objected to player conditions. There was an epic row and Keane returned to Ireland. The episode, known as the 'Saipan incident', divided the nation.

Did Keane jump, or was he pushed? In retrospect, it seems that there were two of them in it. Either way, Keane missed the World Cup.

The Irish team played without him and were defeated by Spain in a penalty shootout in the second round.

Ireland v Switzerland programme
Ireland v Switzerland programme

In the world of collectibles, drama adds value.

A divisive incident like this is bound to generate interest in the memorabilia associated with the tournament.

A folder of documents and passes from the 2002 World Cup (est €150 to €200) is for sale at Whyte's Eclectic Collector auction on September 9.

The lot includes programmes for the pre-tournament friendlies; a training camp pass; an itinerary; team sheets; and both used and unused tickets.

The folder is part of the collection of Fergus Reid, an ardent Bohemians supporter and lifelong collector of football programmes. The auctioneers describe his collection of 20th century Irish football programmes as "just bordering on complete".

If you're into soccer and have the collecting gene, collecting football programmes is an accessible hobby, made easier by the growth in online auctioneering and interest groups.

Ireland v Hungary programme
Ireland v Hungary programme

Now, most of the activity takes place online. For most people, it's a completionist buzz and collectors will often pay above the odds for a programme that fills the gap in their collection.

In this, it's a bit like stamp collecting. But, while stamp collecting is associated with an older generation, the auctioneers at Whyte's have reported a considerable interest among younger bidders.

Very high prices are rare. One of the exceptions is the programme for Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 8, 1958, which can fetch up to £7,000 (€7,633). It was a match that never happened.

On February 6, 1958, two days before the match, the Manchester United team was due to fly home from Belgrade. It was a young and exceptionally gifted team, known as the Busby Babes. The name came from their manager, Matt Busby, who travelled with the team. The plane stopped to refuel in Munich and exploded shortly after takeoff.

Twenty-three people died as a result of their injuries, including eight of the players, while two more were injured to the extent that they never played again.

The match scheduled for February 8 was cancelled, but the programmes had already been printed.

Most were destroyed, but a few made it into circulation. It's now regarded as the Holy Grail of football programmes.

Although the collection for sale at Whyte's doesn't boast anything in this league, it does include a unique memento of the ill-fated Busby Babes: the programme for an exhibition match, Home Farm Selection v Manchester United, at Dalymount Park on April 23, 1956; along with two pages from an autograph book signed by both teams and managers (est €200 to €300).

In general, collecting football programmes is more popular in the UK than in Ireland and matches that involved the big British teams, or international contests, are likely to fetch higher prices than Irish matches. The programme for Ireland's match against Germany at Dalymount Park in October 1936 is one of the most valuable (and not just because Ireland won 5:2). A copy of the programme, boldly emblazoned with the swastika and the Irish flag, sold at Whyte's for €900 in 2014.

There's nothing so controversial in the current sale, but the collection amassed by Fergus Reid is of similar vintage.

It begins in the 1930s with a programme for the Ireland v Hungary match that took place at Dalymount Park on December 6, 1936 (est. €250 to €350).

Ireland lost the match 2:3 and Hungary went on to reach the final of the 1938 FIFA World Cup in France. They lost the match to Italy 4:2.

The following year, Hungary returned to Ireland. On March 19, 1939, they met the Irish side at the Mardyke Arena in Cork in front of 12,000 spectators. The match, thanks to a late goal from Jackie Carey, was a 2:2 draw.

The programme for this match (est €250 to €350) is also included in the sale. There's also a particularly pretty programme, incorporating the flags of both nations, for the Ireland v Switzerland match at Dalymount Park on September 18 1938 (est €250 to €350).

The early programmes are simple, attractive documents, slightly larger than A5. Often, they are just a folded piece of paper, printed with the details of the match and the names of the players.

The miracle is that so many of them survived.

The quality of paper was nothing special.

The programmes were folded into pockets, exposed to wind and rain, taken to the pub, and brought home on the bus.

Their chances of making it home intact must have been slim and each survivor represents a little chapter of Irish football history.

See whytes.ie

In the Salerooms


Someone is selling the family farm at Adam's At Home auction, which takes place on September 10 at 11.30am. They're selling the family zoo, too - in miniature form. The collection of 168 pieces from Britain's die-cast and painted toy farm and zoo set (est. €400 to €600) shows how the toys of one generation become the collectibles of another.

Other whimsical pieces in the sale include a 19th-Century band of animal musicians, made in Dresden porcelain, blue sword mark (est. €1,000 to €2,000). Ornaments aren't everyone's cup of tea, but this gang is loads of fun.

The bear is playing a double bass, the fox is on the fiddle, and the dog plays a tin whistle. It's all very much of its time and will probably find a happy home amid other Victoriana.

Slightly more serious pieces include a lively portrait of a young gentleman on horseback with a black retriever by his side (est. €1,500 to €2,500) by James Henry Brocas (1790 to 1846).

OTT Irish Regency silver coffee pot

There is also a gloriously OTT Irish Regency silver coffee pot (pictured above, est. €1,000 to €1,500) Dublin 1819, mark of William Nolan, profusely decorated with vines, foliage and cartouches, and an equally resplendent French carved giltwood mirror with scallop shell cresting (est. €700 to €1,000). See adams.ie.


Using sports people to advertise cigarettes wasn't always a problem. In the 1950s, John Player Cigarettes produced an ornament of a hurler and a footballer in Dublin and Louth jerseys on a plinth that reads: "On all grounds - Player's Please".

This curiosity, which formerly decorated the bar of P. Campbell, Ardee, General Merchant, is for sale at The Eclectic Collector auction at Whyte's on Saturday, September 9, at 11.30am. It's estimated to sell between €150 and €200.

This is one of several vintage advertisements in the sale, which also includes an enamel sign promoting Mick McQuaid Tobacco (est. €300 to €400).

With a navy border enclosing a cream background, the sign shows a man in tweed suit with the caption "The Best Tobacco in the World." See whytes.ie.

City Auction Rooms

Is brown furniture on the way back? A concave three-door mahogany bookcase (est. €400 to €600) sold at City Auction Rooms for €1,050 on August 21.

A four-door Victorian mahogany bookcase (est. €1,200 to €1,500) sold for €2,800; while a late Victorian mahogany inlaid bed (est. €600 to €1,000) fetched €1,750.

Other pieces sold within their estimates: an inlaid mahogany three-tier dumbwaiter realised its lower estimate of €400; and a Victorian rosewood fold-over tea table sold for €920. For full results, see antiquesireland.ie.

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