100 years after his death, collector Robert Day is celebrated

He was probably the Chester Beatty of Cork, but Robert Day, one of the great collectors, has never been fully studied — or widely appreciated.

100 years after his death, collector Robert Day  is celebrated

This weekend will see the first conference and detailed study of Robert Day (1836-1914), whose gold, Viking silver, jewellery, and medieval religious items ended up in the hands of the world’s richest men such as newspaper magnate Randolf Hearst, and in museums.

The event on Saturday, as well as a special publication on what is known of his vast collection, is hosted by the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, of which he was a president.

His collection was so large and important it was second only to the National Museum of Ireland.

To house it all, he built a private museum next to his home on Lovers’ Walk, Montenotte, explained Dr Griffin Murray of University College Cork’s Department of Archaeology. He is one of the organisers of Saturday’s conference.

“Sadly, the collection which contained thousands of objects, was dispersed during major auctions before and after his death in 1914, with the result that many important Irish treasures have been lost to the country,” Dr Murray said.

His collection included large quantities of prehistoric flints, Bronze Age tools and weapons, and “an impressive quantity of prehistoric gold jewellery”.

The family business, in saddlery and sports and such, on Patrick St, meant he had a central location for anyone wishing to sell to him.

He was widely published and lectured a lot, as well as showing his treasures at exhibitions. He was part of a great network of antiquarians spanning Europe and the US of the 19th and early 20th century.

Lectures on Saturday will present new research including details of a little-known Iron Age hoard of silver torcs from Rathcormack. Another lecture will examine Day’s controversial involvement in an Iron Age gold hoard found in Derry and his successful battle to see it returned to Ireland from the British Museum.

The seminar begins at 10.30am at the Crawford Art Gallery on Saturday. All are welcome and the admission fee is €5. Registration is at 10.15am.

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