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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
# living history
Historical Irish items saved from being dumped are up for auction
The special centenary auction has over 600 items available to be bought.

261.1 _ Byrne (Thomas J.) Volunteer. A good collection of his personal belongings from his time fighting for Ireland A collection of personal items belonging to Thomas J Byrne, a Volunteer, are up for auction

SOME OF THE hundreds of items up for grabs at next weekend’s giant Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers centenary auction in Dublin might have ended up in the dustbin.

Were it not for the quick-thinking of family members of Richard King, two of his drawings for the Kevin Barry stained glass window (now on show in UCD), for example, would have been dumped, George Fonsie Mealy told

volunteer uniform A volunteer uniform

He also said that a handkerchief believed to have been the Rising rebels’ ‘white flag’ that announced the 1916 surrender also narrowly missed out on being consigned to the dustbin. The item was among the belongings of Captain Michael William O’Reilly.

Luckily these items were saved and are now are among 600 lots to be auctioned at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers’ centenary sale on Saturday 23 April.

It’s due to take place at the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street, Dublin, an area that played witness to much of the Easter Rising’s events.

587 _ Keys from The G.P.O. Keys from the GPO

“The reaction has been very positive – there is a lot of interest in a lot of the stuff,” Fonsie Mealy said. “Most of the items up for offer are under the block for the first time. They are fresh to the market, which is what collectors are looking for.”

He said the lots include many unique items and all have “an impeccable provenance”. They date from 1798 to the Civil War and include medals, letters, prints and posters.

“Some are by direct family descent, some are private collectors or investors,” he added.


The items have been collected over the past couple of years with an eye to holding a centenary auction. Asked what sort of buyers they expect, Fonsie Mealy said:

There will probably be institutions, universities, the National Library… some of the local museums; also private collectors as well.


The sale will include items from the 1798 Rebellion, the Fenian Rising, signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, a wide variety of signed books, manuscripts, correspondence, archives, medals and other artefacts.

Items up for auction include:

  • An original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, with guaranteed provenance to Dr James Ryan, medical officer to the GPO garrison, later a Fianna Fáil Minister.
  • A rare original Irish volunteers uniform jacket, circa 1915, which once belonged to volunteer Thomas J Byrne who was part of the Dublin Brigade, together with his medals and other artefacts.
  • A collection of signatures, letters and files relating to Irish female prisoners during the 1920’s, who were known as The Dangerous Ladies.
  • A bundle of four old keys belonging to the GPO, with a contemporary note on the ring stating that the keys were found in the ruins of the GPO after the Rising in 1916. 
  • Two of the original pencil drawings for the Kevin Barry memorial stained glass window made at the Harry Clarke Studios, by Richard King.
  • Early GAA memorabilia, including a manuscript diary of Pat Davin, brother of Maurice, the first president of the GAA; a collection of early GAA programmes , pamphlets and medals.

Public viewing will take place on Thursday and Friday, 21 and 22 April from 10.30am – 7pm each day in the O’Connell Suite at The Gresham Hotel. The sale will take place at the same venue on Saturday, 23 April from 10.30am.

Read: These gold and silver coins with phrases from the Proclamation have been released today>

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