Sunday 21 April 2019

Treasures: Of Mansfields and Lattins

  • ‘Jack Lattin dressed in satin, Broke his heart of dancing, He danced from Castle Browne, To Morristown.’
Nineteenth-century High Sheriff of Ireland (Co. Kildare) uniform
Nineteenth-century High Sheriff of Ireland (Co. Kildare) uniform
A poster by Shepard Fairey

The Lattin family of Morristown Lattin, County Kildare, are famous for having a family member who died from dancing.

Young Jack Lattin (1710–1731) was a gentleman musician, “matchless on the fiddle,” who danced the eight miles of road between Morristown Lattin and Castle Browne, only to drop dead of exhaustion when he arrived. His untimely death was commemorated in the popular dance tune, ‘Jockey Lattin’, and the story retold in ‘The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Kildare’ by Turtle Bunbury and Art Kavanagh, based on research by Sean Donnelly for the Kildare Archaeological Society.

As a prominent Catholic merchant family, the Lattins were squeezed tight by the Penal Laws, but managed to hang on to their land. In 1692 they built a new house at Morristown Lattin, which passed by marriage to the Mansfield family in 1836. Part of the collection from the house, and relating to the family, is coming up for sale at Fonsie Mealy’s Summer Chatsworth Fine Art Sale of July 10 and 11.

Many of the Mansfield family items are silver, and much what you’d expect to find in a Big House collection, but including an eighteenth-century Irish Penal Chalice (est. €700 to €1,000, below right) that has been in the family since the 1700s. It is 20cm high with a gilded interior, a circular moulded base inscribed ‘Ex Donis D. Guil O’Meara Dce. Elizab. Ryan ats Mc Carthy 1740’, and a small engraved design of the Crucifixion.

It comes with a matching paten (a plate used to cover the chalice and hold the bread during the Eucharist), and both the bowl and the base of the chalice can be unscrewed from the stem so that the chalice could be dismantled and hidden away.

The Penal Laws spanned several centuries and were changed over time, but basically aimed to eliminate Catholicism in Ireland. The political theorist Edmund Burke described the legislation as: “a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

In 1704, the Registration Act required “all popish priests” to register and give “two sureties of fifty pounds for peaceable behaviour”. The Act concluded that: “all popish priests who shall not so register shall be committed to the common gaol till they be transported.” Faced with the choice of paying an impossible amount of money or being thrown in gaol, many priests chose to operate under the radar. Mass was celebrated in secret. Hence the need for chalices that could easily be concealed.

The Penal law that barred Catholics from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces was rescinded by the Militia Act of 1793. This was motivated more by fear of invasion and internal unrest than a desire for justice, but opened up the possibility of military careers for Catholic families. Militias were raised for every county in Ireland, as well as the major cities. A late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century Kildare Militia red coat (est. €700 to €1,000, above left) is included in the sale. With velvet collar and cuffs, silver bullion lapels and neck straps, and multiple silver-plated buttons with a shamrock design, inscribed ‘Kildare’ by Foley, Dublin, it is a magnificent garment. The reverse tails are similarly designed, terminating in heavy star-shaped silver crests, their centres embroidered ‘Kildare Militia’.

Even before the Militia Act, the Lattins had been involved in the Military. Son Ambrose Lattin died fighting for the Austrian army in Germany in 1789 and his brother Patrick Lattin (nephew of the ill-fated dancing Jack Lattin) was the close friend and aide-de-camp to Count Arthur Dillon, commander of Dillon’s Regiment of the Irish Brigade of the French army. Bunbury recounts that Lattin was in Dillon’s carriage when Dillon was “dragged out of his cabriolet and murdered by French soldiers for his Royalist sympathies in 1794”. Lattin immediately resigned his commission and returned to live at Morristown.

In 1874, George Mansfield of Morristown Lattin became High Sheriff of Co. Kildare, a ceremonial officer representing the British Crown. A nineteenth-century High Sheriff of Ireland (Co. Kildare) uniform (est. €400 to €600) is included in the sale. It comprises a bicorn hat, jacket and trousers, decorated with silver and gilt thread, brass buttons with crowns, and a decorative gold thread belt with snake clasp buckle, inscribed ‘ubique’ and flanked with lion rampant and crowns.

At some stage in the nineteenth century, one of the Mansfield family may have worn a red court coatee (est. €400 to €600), uniform of the Deputy Lieutenant of Ireland (Co. Kildare). Again, it’s a gloriously ceremonial outfit. Its collar and cuffs are embroidered with an interwoven pattern of silver shamrocks, its silver-plate buttons stamped with crown and shamrocks by Jennens & Co., London, and it comes with a fancy pair of black trousers decorated with a silver thread shamrock design.

The Summer Chatsworth Fine Art Sale is conducted by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers and takes place on Tuesday, July 10, and Wednesday, July 11, at Chatsworth Auction Rooms, Chatsworth Street, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. The auction begins at 11am. Viewing is on Sunday (8th), 1pm to 5pm, and Monday (9th), 10am to 5pm. See

In the Salerooms


A poster by Shepard Fairey

American street artist Shepard Fairey (b. 1970) is best known for a series of posters supporting Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Another poster, Be The Change 2009 (est. €500 to €700) (below) was created to celebrate Obama's inauguration. One of these (36 x 24 inches, signed and dated) is coming up for auction in Whyte's July 9 sale of affordable art taking place at the Freemason's Hall, 17 Molesworth Street.

There are three other Fairey prints in the sale; all are signed and are artist's proofs. Ice-T Og (Red), 2016 (est. €300 to €500) is also signed by the photographer Glen E. Friedman and by Ice-T. The collection also includes Tomas Young Tribute, 2007 (est. €300 to €500), inspired by the Iraq veteran and campaigner against war and injustice; and We The People [Are Greater Than Fear] 2017 (est. €300 to €500).

All of the prints are framed and were gifted to the present owner by the artist in Los Angeles. Each one comes with a selection of Shepard Fairey's trademark stickers.

Viewing continues at Whyte's Galleries, 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin, from 10am to 5pm today; 2pm to 6pm tomorrow and Sunday; and from 10am to 4pm on the day of sale. The auction begins at 6pm. See

John Weldon Auctioneers

The difference between a good sapphire and a great sapphire is the colour of the blue, and also if it has been heat-treated to improve the colour of the stone (this detracts from the value).

A fine sapphire & diamond cluster ring (est. €30,000 to €35,000) is coming up for sale in John Weldon's next auction which takes place on Tuesday, July 10, from 2pm.

"This is a beauty," Weldon says. "It is certificated as having no heat treatment, and it's from Ceylon where some of the best sapphires in the world have been mined."

The sale also includes a diamond and emerald bracelet (est. €70,000 to €90,000) set with round brilliant cut & baguette cut diamonds (26 cts). The estimated weight of emeralds is 4.50 cts. Not an everyday piece so…

Jewellery in the potentially affordable bracket includes a diamond and pink sapphire cluster ring (€400 to €600).

Viewing is on Saturday and Sunday, July 7 & 8, in Cows Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin. See

Antiques & Vintage Fair

The regular North Dublin Antiques & Vintage Fair will take place at Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin 3, on Sunday, July 8, 11am to 6pm.

Expect around 30 specialist and eclectic traders from across Ireland and the UK with an array of books, coins, antique and vintage jewellery, oddities, collectibles and curios, as well as a range of items for the home ranging from silver and ceramics to crystal and glass.

Admission is €3.50; entry for Under 15s is free (when accompanied by a supervising adult).

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