Treasures: Prepare to be bowled over
Earlier this year, someone rescued an old cricket bat from a bonfire. It turned out to be signed by 13 members of the 1939 Yorkshire cricket team.
These included some famous stars of their day: Len Hutton, Wilf Barber, Arthur Mitchell, Hedley Verity and Herbert Sutcliffe.
The bat sold here for €300 at Whyte's Eclectic Collector auction in June. It's a sign of a rising interest in Ireland's long lost cricket legacy, directly related to the strong performance of our current national team.
So this is the thing: if Ireland manages to become the 11th Test nation (and the omens are good), expect a corresponding rise in memorabilia prices.
In the UK where cricket is officially the national sport, related memorabilia has an ardent collecting fraternity with specialist auctions to cater for their interest.
Wisden, the long-running Cricketers' Almanack is one of the key collectibles and there's a vibrant market for old copies in good nick.
The first hardback edition of Wisden (1896) might reach up to £9,400 (€13,117), but the first softback edition of 1864 and the rare 1875 edition are also very collectible.
So if you had relations with an interest in cricket, look out in family attics especially for pre-1900 editions, and also those from 1916 and 1919.
This September, a 1900 edition of Wisden Cricketer's Almanack sold at Knights Wisden in England for £2,600 (€3,645); a 1909 edition reached £550 (€771). An Irish alternative to Wisden, John Lawrence's Handbook of Cricket in Ireland, was published between 1865/66 and 1881.
This year, a slightly raggedy copy of the first edition (1865/66) sold at Whyte's for €220. It's not big money, but as I was saying, those in possession of old copies might want to take good care of them with a keen eye to the fortunes of our national team.
Cricket was once a popular sport in Ireland, played by farmers and labourers across the country. In 1835, the author and hedge-school manager Amhlaoidh Ó Suilleabháin described cricket in Callan, Co Kilkenny, as "iomáin gallda" or "foreign hurling".
By 1867 there were 80 cricket clubs in 21 counties across what is now the Republic of Ireland and not counting those in the six counties.
The clubs were often linked to workplaces or factories. In Kilkenny, where cricket thrived, there was a famous club at Norelands (later Mount Juliet), three or four creases in the city, and Kilkenny Woollen Mills and Kilkenny Woodworkers had clubs for their employees.
In May this year, Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers sold Kilkenny Castle Cricket Club's score book (1909 - 1914) for €450.
At the turn of the 20th century a dual county star was quite likely to have been a cricketer and a hurler. Michael O'Dwyer's book, The History Of Cricket In County Kilkenny: A Forgotten Game (2007), records a 1895 letter to the Kilkenny Journal asking the cricket clubs to support the GAA by playing football and hurling in the winter months: "They should now form themselves into football clubs or perhaps I should have said hurling, or both… The GAA should have its own club in every parish."
While ephemeral items of cricket memorabilia won't make big money, photographs of teams where the players are named may be of interest to museums. Early cricket posters, programmes and Irish medals could potentially be valuable.
Another sport with unexpected Irish legacy is croquet. This lawn game was introduced to England from Ireland in 1850. Most people think the game originated in France, but was first recorded in 1830s Ireland where it was played in Portarlington, Kilkee, and Kingston (now Dun Laoghaire).
The game also spread to America, where it became associated with drinking, gambling and philandering (recently there have been claims that a second only photo of Billy The Kid has been unearthed, and in it the outlaw is playing croquet).
Croquet sets do come up at auction, with Jaques of London croquet sets selling for between €200 and €300, although a modern set (left) sold at Adam's this October for €1,000.
Edwardian croquet was dominated by a group of brilliant Irish players: P Duff Matthews, Leslie O'Callaghan and the Corbally brothers, Cyril and Herbert. Cyril, five times winner of the English Open Championship, is gently lampooned in The Croquet Alphabet (1929), a nonsense book in pictures and rhymes by HF Crowther Smith.
The cartoon shows the supreme player of his generation stooped over the mallet and is captioned: "C is for Cyril, and he stand like this / 'Cause he finds it prevents any chance of a miss".
A copy of the book, which once belonged to the Corbally family, is coming up for sale in Sheppard's Dublin and Provincial sale, Tuesday, December 1 and is estimated between €200 and €300.
See whytes.ie, knightswisden.co.uk, fonsiemealy.ie, sheppards.ie.
In the salesrooms
LYNES AND LYNES
An auction of the contents of Mercy Convent, Balloonagh, Tralee, Co Kerry will take place tomorrow, November 14 at 10.30am.
Viewing takes place at the convent today from 10am-6pm. The convent, which is now closing, opened in 1858 and was built in a Gothic Revival style after Pugin.
Expect good solid 19th century furniture, constructed for large rooms, and many items of religious interest.
Additionally, the Mercy Order has decided to add the entire contents from their convent at Rosscarbery to this auction.
These include some fine Robert Strahan furniture whose firm was founded in Dublin in 1776 and who designed furniture for such Irish country houses as Doneraile Court, Co Cork and Lisnavagh, Co Carlow.
Pieces by Strahan in the auction include: a large oak seven-door breakfront bookcase with the Collis-Sandes crest (c.1860), a well-made oak sideboard stamped Strahan & Co, also with Collis-Sandes crest; and a fine library table (c.1860). There's also a large oak dining table by Strahan with five spare leaves and a set of 24 chairs. For further details, see lynesandlynes.com.
With the season of presents looming, O'Reilly's Auction Rooms will be holding an auction geared towards gifts on Wednesday, November 18.
It includes a number of men's watches, some estimates beginning at less than €100, alongside other more upmarket gifts such as an understated and discrete Patek Phillipe watch (€3,500 to €4,000).
Bear in mind that a new watch from this Swiss horologist would set you back at least €20,000. At a slightly more accessible level, a silver money clip in the shape of a stirrup is estimated between €500 and €600. Clip clop.
For women, a tanzanite ring (below) by Tiffany & Co is estimated between €2,800 and €3,200. The blue-violet stone - it changes colour according to movement and changes in light - is named for Tanzania, where it was discovered.
The auction also includes an antique necklace of rose-cut tourmalines (pinkish stones cut for extra twinkle and estimated between €1,500 and €1,800). Full details at oreillysfineart.com.
The interest in obscure sports memorabilia was evident in the most recent sale of John Weldon Auctioneers where, on November 3, a single bidder bought an entire collection of tug-of-war medals.
All the medals were won by J Blunt who worked for the Royal Irish Constabulary in the early 1900s and were sold in separate lots. Three RIC gold medals reached €310 each, as did a lot that combined gold and silver medals dating from 1911.
A lot of four silver and gold medals from Ennis (1902 and 1903), Longford (1903), and Balmoral (1918) sold for €430. Top lots at the auction included a fine Victorian diamond set of bangle, necklace, brooch and earrings (€2,550); a diamond single stone ring (€6,250), and a pair of diamond and ruby drop stud earrings in 18ct gold (€4,150).
For full results see jwa.ie.