Tuesday 16 January 2018

Treasures: Slogans still going strong

Ireland’s fine arts, antiques and collectables column

Guinness For Strength poster
Guinness For Strength poster
Stained glass window at Mealy's

Eleanor Flegg

If he can say as you can Guinness is good for you, How grand to be a Toucan, Just think what Toucan ... The famous advertising jingle for Ireland's iconic stout was written by a British crime novelist. Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957) worked as a copywriter for the London advertising agency S H Benson's, which held the Guinness account from 1929 to 1959.

The Toucan ad was the result of a collaboration between Sayers and the artist John Gilroy (1898-1985), the genius behind the "Guinness for Strength" campaign and creator of the "Guinness Menagerie" of zoo animals. The toucan was the first of these, but it started its life as a pelican with seven pints balanced on its beak. Sayers changed the bird to a toucan, reduced the number of pints to two, and wrote the jingle.

Her experiences at Benson's reappeared, lightly disguised, in Sayers' classic crime novel Murder Must Advertise (1933). The golden age of Guinness advertising stretched from the beginning of the 1930s to the end of the 1950s. As a general rule, any original item of Guinness memorabilia, or "Breweriana", from this period is collectible. A copy of John Gilroy's poster entitled Have A Guinness When You're Tired (c.1936), featuring a speeding tortoise, sold at Christies of London for just over €1,000 in November 2014.

The problem is that there have been so many reproductions that it's difficult to tell what's genuine and what's not. "One of the easiest ways of dating a poster is to look for the printer's stamp," says Eibhlin Colgan, archive manager at the Guinness Storehouse. "The main printers for 1930s-1960s Guinness posters were John Waddington Ltd, Leeds & London and Sanders Phillips & Co Ltd, London, but some posters were also printed by Mills and Rockleys (Production) Ltd, Ipswich."

If you do have a piece and you're curious, the archivists at the Guinness Storehouse are happy to date items and to verify if they are original or not. This service is free of charge, but does not extend to valuation.

A selection of vintage Guinness posters and signage is coming up for sale in Dolan's Clifden, Connemara Auction this August Bank Holiday Weekend. These include a vintage countertop advertising sign from the "Guinness for Strength" campaign (38 x 25cm). It shows a worker cheerily emerging from a manhole, a pint in one hand and pushing a steamroller up into the air with the other (these were the days before health and safety concerns).

It is estimated between €250 and €350. There is also a poster (80.5cm x 56cm) from Gilroy's "My Goodness, My Guinness" series estimated between €300 and €500. It shows a kinkajou hanging by its tail and carrying a stolen pint. The gobsmacked zookeeper is a caricatured self-portrait of Gilroy.

A Christmas poster "Guinness Time" (75cm x 50cm), also by Gilroy, is probably the most unusual of the selection as it was originally created as the cover of an internal staff magazine and only later became a poster. The guide price is €250 to €350.

"I think that the Guinness ads are so popular and have been reproduced so often that people don't realise the value of the originals," says Rory Guthrie of De Veres.

There are other leading brands which also continue to capture the imagination of collectors - the Shell oil company is one of them.

In 2012, a set of vintage Shell advertisements passed through deVeres, selling for between €100 and €440. The metal signage, of the sort that is often seen nailed to the walls of old fashioned garages, was discovered to be unusual because of its pristine condition.

The collection came from Shell's Dublin office, where it had been for many years, and is now up for auction once again at Dolan's with guide prices ranging from €100 to €300. If you have a piece of Shell memorabilia, the archivists at the Shell Heritage Art Collection, which is part of the UK National Motor Museum, will accept enquiries regarding the date of the object.

The image of the mechanical horse fed from a petrol pump and captioned "For the Ultimate Horse Power" was most probably designed by the commercial artist Jean D'Ylen in the 1920s.

The metal sign (35.5cm x 56cm) is estimated between €200 and €300 at Dolan's Clifden, Connemara Art & Antiques auction, which takes place on the Old Quay, Harbour Road, Clifden, on August 3-4 and includes fine art painting, furniture and curiosities as well as vintage advertising.

For more information on the items featured here, visit dolansart.com and guinness-storehouse.com/en/Archive.aspx.

In the salerooms


A portrait of Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre and a great Irish writer in her own right, will go under the hammer as part of an auction of antiques, fine art and rare artefacts at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, on July 21-22.

The portrait, estimated between €8,000 and €12,000, was commissioned by Hugh Lane and painted by Sir Gerald Festus Kelly. Other unusual lots include a complete collection of the belongings of a First World War officer, Major Farrell, from Co Meath (guide price €1,000 to €1,500).

The collection comprises his uniforms, folding bed and mattress, folding chair and table, travel case and cooker with all utensils including cups, saucers, spoons, knives and forks.

The sale also includes a collection of paintings by renowned the falconry artist George Edward Lodge, a number of stained glass windows from Harry Clarke's studios (above); and a collection of 100 tractor seats from all over Europe. Full details are on fonsiemealy.ie.


A number of diamond rings, of estimated values ranging from €500 to €10,000, are coming up for auction at John Weldon auctioneers on Tuesday, July 21.

"I am often asked what makes a diamond valuable," says Weldon. "The simple answer is quality of the diamond; size is not always the more important factor. People sometimes mistakenly think that carat of diamond has anything to do with quality, it doesn't. Carat is simply a measurement of size. I would much rather have a smaller stone of high quality than a larger stone of inferior quality."

The auction also includes a modern Faberge egg pendant which opens to reveal a bird (€1,000 to €1,500). Viewing takes place from July 18, with full details on jwa.ie.


An online-only auction of paintings and modern furniture will take place at DeVere's until July 21. The paintings include many smaller works by well known artists including Louis Le Brocquy (€400 to €600); Patrick Hickey (€500 to €800) and Gerard Dillon (€200 to €400).

Interesting 20th century furniture on offer includes a drop leaf table in teak (300 to €500) by the Irish designer Brendan Dunn, whose work is on display at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, and a graceful Art Nouveau bentwood rocking chair (€200 to €300) by Fischel of Austria.

The auction is on view at 35 Kildare Street from today and full details are available on deveres.ie.

Indo Property

Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life