Sunday 24 June 2018

Treasures: Tasty items on sale menu

Ireland's fine arts, antiques and collectables column

Photograph of Arthur Griffith from 1922.
Photograph of Arthur Griffith from 1922.
The menu of the meal during Treaty negotiations

Eleanor Flegg

Economic Cutlets with Reparation Gravy, anyone? Or how about some Minced Ulster with North East Sauce?

These unappetising entrées come from a handwritten menu for a meal that took place in London on November 10, 1921. At this time, the War of Independence in Ireland had been suspended by a truce and an Irish delegation, under considerable pressure, was negotiating in London on behalf of the Dáil.

The Irish delegates, including Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and many of their advisors, attended the meal in question.

There were two types of soup on the menu: Peace (thick) or Publicity (clear), and the fish course offered a choice of Hans Plaice or Caddugan Steaks (the Irish delegates were staying at Hans Place and Cadogan Gardens). The joint of the day was Roast Beef of Old England with Aide Memoire of Potatoes (Delegates' Solution) or Formula of Beans (English Solution). The sweets were Compote de Fruits (Gerty, Ellis, Alice, Kathleen, Lily). These were the names of the Irish secretaries, the "Dáil girls" who travelled to London with the delegates in the autumn of 1921.

The menu was handwritten on a printed form and clearly intended to lift the mood of what must have been an intolerably stressful situation. The delegates were caught between a rock and a hard place and, given the context, it's hard not to be moved by this gentle lampooning of the negotiations.

The delegates seem to have appreciated the joke, as the menu is signed by Micheál Ó Coileáin (Collins), Art Ó Gríofa (Griffith) and E.S. Ó Dúgáin (Duggan) as well as three of their advisors, Collins' 'minders', and several others. The menu came from the archive of Kathleen Napoli McKenna, personal secretary to Arthur Griffith, and is coming up for auction at Adam's on April 19. It's estimated to sell between €2,500 and €3,500 but may well fetch more.

In 2011, the same menu sold at Adam's for €4,200.

As a woman and a secretary, McKenna is a minor figure in the historical narrative but many of the most important documents of the time passed through her typewriter.

She worked as a typist for The Irish Bulletin, a daily fact-sheet published by the Dáil government between 1919 and 1921. The Irish Bulletin was intended to publicise the repressive actions of the Crown forces in Ireland, a job that it did so well the British attempted to counterfeit it.

Once the Free State was established, McKenna worked as typist and confidential secretary for senior ministers including Michael Collins, Desmond FitzGerald, Kevin O'Higgins and WT Cosgrave. In 1931, she left the Civil Service, married an Italian general, and went to live in Rome.

Two collections of photographs and other memorabilia from her archive are included in the auction (each lot is estimated between €300 and €500). The photographs were taken during the Treaty negotiations and show McKenna as part of the delegation and on board a ship with Griffith and two of the other secretaries.

"Kathleen McKenna had a great deal of time for Arthur Griffith," says Kieran O'Boyle of Adam's. Her memoire, A Dáil Girl's Revolutionary Recollections (2014), gives a vivid account of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations and the toll they took on both Griffith and Collins.

As the flurry of sales around the 1916 centenary passes, auctioneers are on the lookout for the next big thing. Free State memorabilia is predicted to rise and anything connected with Michael Collins is guaranteed to garner attention.

A photograph of Collins in Volunteer uniform, also at Adam's, is of double interest as it was presented by Collins to Kathleen Clarke, widow of Tom Clarke, first signatory of the 1916 Proclamation.

Although she wished to fight alongside her husband in the GPO, Clarke was asked to remain at home and assist the survivors. She did this most effectively by establishing the Irish National Aid Association and Volunteer Dependants' Fund, an organisation that both shaped the popular memory of The Rising and helped the republican movement to reorganise itself.

When Collins was released from internment, Clarke appointed him as her assistant, giving him his first post of responsibility within the independence movement. The photograph was taken around 1918 and is estimated between €3,000 and €5,000. Kathleen Clarke's own Easter Rising medal is also included in the sale (€15,000 to €20,000).

A pair of lithographic prints, portraits of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith by Sir John Lavery, is estimated to sell between €4,000 and €5,000. Both Griffith and Collins sat for Lavery during the Treaty negotiations and the prints are signed by both the artist and the sitters.

Collins' name was romantically linked with that of the artist's wife, the beautiful Hazel Lavery, but Collins had a way with women and there's no evidence of anything more than mutual appreciation.

A pair of photographic portraits of Collins and Griffith, possibly hand-tinted in detail, shows Collins, the soldier, in his military uniform and Griffith, the statesman, in a brown tweed suit (€1,000 to €1,500).

The photographs are signed by the photographers, C & L Walsh of Dublin, and dated 1922. They were probably published as a memorial to the two men, who died within 10 days of each other in 1922. Both were casualties of the political situation.

Griffith died suddenly on August 12 of a cerebral haemorrhage, presumably brought on by years of overwork and the distress of the Civil War. A photographic postcard of his funeral shows Kathleen McKenna near the graveside.

Collins also attended the funeral but died shortly afterwards, shot following an ambush in Cork on August 22. Like Griffith, Collins is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, where he still receives cards on Valentine's Day.

The History Sale at Adam's will take place on April 19 with full details on

In the salerooms


The Irish Antique Dealers Association (IADA), in conjunction with the OPW, will hold a fair at Castletown House, Celebridge, Co Kildare on Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10.

The fair will take place in the Stables wing from 10am to 5pm and entrance is free on both days. Twenty of the leading IADA members will take part in this fair, including specialist dealers in fine furniture, paintings, silver, jewellery, books, prints, and porcelain.

Vanessa Parker Rare Books will bring a very rare copy of the Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, an early account of the Easter Rising. This is a first edition, published in 1917 and includes the coloured map that is often missing from surviving copies.

On the 1916 theme, Courtville Antiques will have some buttons embroidered by Countess Markievicz while she was in jail in England. George Stacpoole of Adare will have a collection of drawings by members of Markievicz's family, the Gore Booths of Lissadel.

He will also have an exceptionally rare Irish delft plate (c1760) by John Stritch of Limerick.

JW Weldon will have an antique Irish 18ct gold pendant with 6.8ct mixed cut pink topaz (c1835) made by Joseph Johnson of 22 Suffolk Street, a rare and early piece of Irish gold jewellery.

For further details see


An Antiques & Vintage Fair will take place in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, this Sunday.

Expect more than 30 traders with offerings ranging from furniture, jewellery and fine porcelain to books, prints and 20th century memorabilia, including a collection of vintage Guinness advertisements from James Howell Rare Books and Collectables.

The fair will run from 11am to 6pm and admission is €3.50. Up north and also this Sunday, Ava Antique & Collectors Fairs will hold a fair in the White Horse Hotel, Campsie, Co Derry. Expect an eclectic mix of dealers selling a wide range of items.

The fair runs from 11am to 6pm. Admission is £2, with all door proceeds going to Foyle Hospice, Children go free.


Lev Mitchell & Sons Auctioneers & Valuers will hold an antique auction on Monday.

The auction takes place at 5pm in Milltown Country Auction Rooms, Milltown, Dromiskin, Dundalk, Co Louth and will include the complete contents of a period farm house in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, as well as the contents of 12 Strand Hill, Clotherhead, for the representatives of the late Patricia Copas.

Interesting pieces in this auction include a 17th century oval oak drop-leaf farmhouse kitchen table; Georgian oak chest-on-chest; and a pair of Georgian garden seats.

There are also several Chinese items: a 19th century Chinese cupboard; a Chinese hand-painted bowl (c1890); a carved Chinese nephrite jade centrepiece; and a Chinese cloths and document cabinet.

There is also a 32 piece Lenox hand painted dinner and tea set. Viewing is this Saturday, (10am to 6pm), and Sunday (12pm to 6pm) and Monday (10am to 5pm).

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