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Important Items from Ireland’s Past at Auction

A rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation

By Molly Ferns, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2012

Only fifty original copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic remain in existence. The proclamation, which famously called for a provisional government of the Irish Republic and proclaimed the country’s independence from the United Kingdom, was distributed and read aloud by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office, marking the beginning of the Easter Rising.

On April 18, one of these original copies sold for €124,000  at a James Adam & Sons auction in Dublin that dealt with important political, literary and military items. The proclamation had been expected to sell for between €60,000 and €80,000.

The sellers were an elderly couple from Longford who had strong republican ties, according to Kieran O’Boyle, an auctioneer with James Adam & Sons.

“They want to make sure that it is bought by a passionate collector. That way it is preserved,” said O’Boyle. The proclamation went to an unnamed bidder who informed the auctioneers that he intends to keep the historic document in Ireland.

The same April 18 auction was supposed to feature another item of great historical significance – a lock of Michael Collins’ hair.

When Michael Collins lay in state at Dublin City Hall, thousands of mourners passed his coffin to pay their respects. Among them was his sister Kitty, who took one final keepsake to remember her fallen brother – a lock of his hair.

She later gave it to friends, an unnamed couple, during the 1950s. The couple put the lock of hair up for auction with James Adam & Sons Auctioneers on April 18.

It was estimated to sell for upwards of €5,000. However, they decided to withdraw the lock of hair from the auction because it was “not for monetary gain,” said auctioneer Stuart Cole.

Instead, the owner donated it to the National Museum of Ireland.

The lock of hair is enclosed in an envelope labeled “Hair of head of Michael Collins when laid in State in the City Hall August 1922,” and is signed by Kitty Collins, dated Christmas 1958.

Auctioneer Kieran O’Boyle described it as “a poignant item. There is still a deep level of interest in all things related to him,” he said.

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