Des O’Sullivan takes a look at an auction world that’s adjusting to the new normal.
Offering everything from the theatre programme for the first production of The Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey Theatre in 1907 to the poetry of Terence McSwiney to the GAA medals of Leonard McGrath and a cache of old IRA documents from 1924-31, the online collectors sale by Fonsie Mealy is brimful of interest.
The timed auction of 439 lots runs until next Tuesday. It features scarce modern literature items, signed copies, limited editions, manuscripts, sporting memorabilia, Republican material, cinema posters, pub memorabilia, rare Irish and Scotch whiskies, bourbon and liqueurs, and even some designer handbags, purses and scarves.
The Leonard McGrath collection is, at €15,000-€20,000, the most expensively estimated lot.
He played a starring forward role in Galway’s first All-Ireland hurling win in 1923 and also played on the winning 1925 football team.
A member of the elite group of 16 players to achieve such a success in both codes the Australian-born Galway-reared McGrath was, as a member of the winning Galwegians rugby team in the 1926-27 season, expelled from the GAA for playing a foreign sport.
The lot includes a large bundle of musical scores signed by Leonard McGrath and used at competitions and various singing events and Feis Ceoils A programme for the 1931 All-Ireland hurling final in which Cork drew with Kilkenny is estimated at €500-€700. Cork won the replay.
Lot 274 is a file of IRA Army Council archives from 1924-25 and 1929-31. It comprises documents sent to and issued by the IRA’s Chief of Staff who for much of the period covered was Moss Twomey.
More than 300 documents over 500 pages give detailed accounts of activities and internal procedures. The lot is estimated at €1,000-€1,500.
A scarce 1918 book of poetry by Terence MacSwiney, Battle Cries, in grey printed wrappers with proceeds in aid of the Dependents’ Fund has an estimate of €150-€200.
There is no publisher or censor’s approval. The author was elected Lord Mayor of Cork after the murder of Tomas MacCurtain in March of 1920.
Arrested later that year and charged with having seditious documents, the Lord Mayor of Cork died aged 41 on the 74th day of his hunger strike in Brixton Prison on October 25, 1920.
There is a limited edition book of poetry from John Montague. A Fair House: Versions of Irish Poetry was printed in 1972.
It is being sold together with another Montague work, The Lost Notebook, with illustrations by John Verling published by the Mercier Press in 1987. The estimate is €100-€150.
There are first editions by authors ranging from Liam O’Flaherty and Frank O’Connor to Ian Fleming as well as cinema posters and historic rugby programmes.
The Abbey Theatre programme for Saturday, January 26, 1907 for seven nights including the first production of The Playboy of the Western World by Synge is estimated at €200-€300.
This was one of the most celebrated and controversial productions of the Irish theatre. All lots can be viewed on The Saleroom.
Slowly, gradually, the auction world is beginning to adjust to the new normal.
The programme is beginning to fill up with events, many with a slightly unusual twist.
Among these is a Covid-19 sale to raise funds for the International Rescue Committee.
Sotheby’s has teamed up with Google to offer a variety of virtual experiences including a chance to record with Sting, a Shakespearian acting lesson from Sir Patrick Stewart, a visit to Highclere with the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and actors Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, tea with Madeline Albright and a conversation with David Milliband, President of the International Rescue Committee. It runs online until May 8.
Bandon-based auctioneers Hegarty’s had bidders from all over Ireland, Europe, Australia and the US at their first-ever online-only auction. Their second online sale finished last night.
Doneraile-based Aidan Foley has also found an answer online and he will hold two days of live online internet auctions at Easy Live Auctions tomorrow and Monday. Each sale comprises 300 lots and will start at noon.
Sotheby’s is offering an arresting image of Kate Moss in a torn veil, Marrakesh 1993 by Albert Watson at an online sale entitled Eclectic, London which runs to May 7. It is estimated at £7,000-£10,000.
Bonhams will offer British and Irish art online on May 12 with Irish lots by artists Cecil Maguire, Graham Knuttel and William Crozier.
Meantime the London Original Print Fair, normally held at the Royal Academy, is online this year.
It opened yesterday and continues for the entire month.