Ceremonial urns, Chinese vases, and paintings part of huge Hart family collection

Hyper-aware, expert in the language of gestures, George Mealy moved bidders swiftly towards the magic number to acquire their chosen piece from among the 750-plus lots under the hammer at yesterday’s auction of the entire contents of Lotabeg House at the Clayton Silversprings Hotel in Cork City.

To a novice, detecting the raised paddle was almost impossible, to the seasoned Mr Mealy, reared in a family more than eight decades in the auctioneering business, spotting the bidding stick was a doddle. Business got under way a little later than the scheduled 10am start because of problems with wifi.

The importance of the internet soon became clear. One of the morning’s highlights was the live online bidding for a piece that to a philistine like me looked like a graceless prop from a Star Wars movie but which was in fact a carved wooden ceremonial urn and cover.

The catalogue price guided at €250-€300 but that fell quickly by the wayside when, as bidding jumped in increments of €500 and €600, the hammer finally fell at €11,100.

Carved wooden ceremonial urn and cover sold for €11,100.
Carved wooden ceremonial urn and cover sold for €11,100.

“Sold,” said George, maestro of the podium, “to the online bidder for €11,100.

“Now you know why we needed to get the wifi right,” he added to laughter from a room packed with everyone from antiques’ collectors, to the retired and the wealthy, to those with an interest in historical collectibles to the plain nosey, keen to see how the other half lived.

The collection on sale was acquired by the Hart family over a century and maintained in tip-top condition by their descendants within the walls of Lotabeg House.

George Mealy of Mealy Auctioneers, takes a bid at the auction of contents of Lotabeg House.
George Mealy of Mealy Auctioneers, takes a bid at the auction of contents of Lotabeg House.

Tony Honan of Honan’s Antiques, Abbey St, Ennis, Co Clare, wasn’t giving anything away when asked how much he had spent on a morning’s acquisitions.

“I bought five lots, including a couple of Chinese vases,” he said before turning the conversation to hurling and how Cork could do with a few Clare imports.

The Queen’s Old Castle store (1848) sold for €2,600.
The Queen’s Old Castle store (1848) sold for €2,600.

Olgun Bilginer, from Turkey but married to a Cork woman, lost out on a 19th century bowl that sold to another bidder but didn’t leave empty handed after picking up a pair of late 19th century porcelain candlesticks for €160.

Jean Foley from Cobh at the auction.
Jean Foley from Cobh at the auction.

Jean Foley of East Grove House, once home to the 1980’s Lehman bank CEO, Lewis Glucksman, bought a pair of bronze and gilt horses with groom in keeping with her period home. Janna Finlay and Karen Sheehan, both doctors at Cork University Hospital said they had a “casual interest in antiques” and were interested in items collected by the medic in the Hart family, Captain Jack, who travelled extensively in China and India.

Janna also had an interest in the Order of the Star of India, awarded to Vincent Hart by King George V for his engineering achievements in India. It sold for €2,200. It was a hectic day for George Mealy and his team in the hotel’s Regency Suite where mathematical alacrity, vocal chord stamina and a certain degree of performance art gave a nice theatrical feel to proceedings.


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