It is 2016 and the centenary of the Irish Rising is upon us. The seminal events of 1916 when Ireland — closest geographically to the heart of the then British Empire, and the first country to break free of it since American Independence — will be marked by many commemorative events.
The sales rooms are gearing up for it. Surviving 1916 copies of The Proclamation of Independence of the Irish Republic are the most valuable of all memorabilia of the Irish Rising.
One sold at Sotheby’s in London in December for £305,000. About 1,000 were printed, but most did not survive the storming of Liberty Hall by British defence forces.
It is thought that less than 50 survive. The text was read from the steps of the GPO in Dublin on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, by Padraig Pearse. He, along with Thomas J Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett, were the signatories.
There are many other unique, rare and valuable mementoes. It is likely that a share of them will emerge at sales up and down the country in this centenary year.
In Dublin, James Adam has been running Independence auctions for a number of years, and Whyte’s has established a market in memorabilia.
Just last month a rare photograph of a meeting of the Irish Constitution Committee at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin in 1922, in what is now the Constitution Room, sold for €550 at hammer at Mealy’s and the report of a trades’ union investigation entitled Who Burnt Cork City? sold for €240. Avid collectors can expect to see much material of this sort at auctions in 2016.