Skibbereen collector's Signatures for sale: 20th century in autographs

A history of the world in the first half of the 20th century is contained in 17 lots from a Skibbereen autograph collector to be sold at Whyte’s in Dublin on September 20.

Skibbereen collector's Signatures for sale: 20th century in autographs

Political leaders from Konrad Adenaur and Paul Spaak to Moshe Dayan, archibishop Makarios and Constantine Karamanlis, military personages like field marshall Montgomery and anyone who was anyone on the Allies’ side in the Second World War, literary figures like Boris Pasternak, British prime ministers Anthony Eden and Clement Attlee, admirals of the fleet, including the Earl of Cork and Orrery, William Boyle, and celebrities such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and James Cagney are peppered through this collection.

The collection of Michael O’Sullivan, now retired and still living in Skibbereen, is extraordinary. He wrote to and received replies from people like Egypt’s general Nasser and Franco of Spain, admiral Jerauld Wright, commander-in-chief, the US Atlantic Fleet, and astronomer Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell, builder of the Jodrell Bank telescope, which tracked Sputnik in 1957.

In these days of fast-paced global communications, the creation of such a collection might not seem so difficult. In the 1950s, it was nothing short of exotic.

There were apologetic refusals from, among others, the Queen of England, Winston Churchill, Harold MacMillan, Lord Home, President Eisenhower and the Shah of Iran.

Michael O’Sullivan explained that as a student in the late 1950s he was an avid reader. He had a deep interest in the history of the Second World War, and in current affairs.

“I acquired a copy of The Daily Mail Yearbook, which cost me five shillings and six pence. It was full of the information I needed to start an autograph collection,” he said.

He started with the British forces — the field marshals, admirals of the fleet, and marshals of the Royal Air Force — all of whom were well known heroes of the World War. The response was quite remarkable. He then moved on to the members of the British government, and leading public figures.

After that came world leaders. His efforts met with great success, and many responded with signed photographs. Most replies are on official notepaper.

The autographs were locked away safely for 50 years. Now he has decided to sell them. They are divided into six albums, each accompanied by brief biographical details of the person concerned.

This will be followed by 13 rare autographs to be sold individually. These are the duke and duchess of Windsor, Mountbatten of Burma, field marshall Montgomery, group captain Leonard Cheshire, group captain Douglas Badar, general Adrian Carton di Wiart, Boris Pasternak, general Nasser, general Franco, Oswald Mosley, colonel Otto Skorzeny, James Cagney and the runner Emil Zatopek.

Mr O’Sullivan’s collection of 30 Irish autographs will be included in Whyte’s History sale in mid-November. Among the names in this collection are Sean T O’Kelly, Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch, Erskine Childers, Oscar Traynor, Patrick Hillery, John A Costello, James Dillon, General Richard Mulcahy and the entire cabinet of the 16th Dáil (1957-1961).

Michael O’Sullivan is a retired clerical worker. His wife Maura is a driving instructor and they have two grown up daughters, Audrey and Gillian.

He enjoys reading, book collecting and local history. As a member of the De La Salle PPU (St Fachtna’s Branch) he was part of the editorial team which published And Time Stood Still, the highly acclaimed pictorial history of Skibbereen and District in two volumes published in 2003 and 2008.

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