The London-made instrument was used by her to accompany the poet reciting his work, and she later gave it to her friend Siobhán MacCurtain. The daughter of murdered Cork Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain, commander of the IRA’s Cork No 1 Brigade up to his death in March 1920, had a school for harpists in Cork.
Whyte’s auctioneers in Dublin had placed a pre-sale estimate of €10,000 to €15,000 on the harp, less than a metre high and made by Frederick Grosjean in the early 19th century. Strong bidder interest pushed the final price up to €37,000, before the addition of auction fees that pushed the cost to the buyer close to €45,000.
“It went to a collector in Donegal after a five-minute tussle with a bidder from Belfast,” said Stuart Purcell, head of collectibles at Whyte’s.
In the same weekend sale of nearly 400 lots of Irish historical and literary interest, one of the most famous images from Ireland’s role in the First World War also sold above its estimate price. The sale of a print of Fortunino Matania’s poignant painting The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Boiscame a century to the day after a fight that cost the lives of 151 members of the Munster Fusiliers’ 2nd Battalion.
The picture depicts them receiving absolution from Fr Francis Gleeson on the eve of the Battle of Aubers Ridge, which happened on the Western Front in France on May 9, 1915. It was signed by him in 1919 and bought on Saturday for €4,000 by a member of his family, higher than the €2,000-€3,000 guide price.
The centenary was marked at the weekend by visits to the sites of the absolution and the battle by members of the Royal Munster Fusiliers Association, including many descendants of the men who were there.
A wreath was laid at the First World War memorial in Cork city centre on Saturday to commemorate the events.