MacSwiney letter could sell for up to €2,000
By Eoin English – Saturday, October 06, 2012
A previously unknown letter written by Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, who died on hunger strike in a British jail in 1920, could fetch up to €2,000 at auction next week.
The letter came to light as part of a routine valuation of a family collection by West Cork antiques dealer Ted Hegarty.
MacSwiney wrote the letter while interred in Richmond Barracks just months after the 1916 Easter Rising, to thank the West Cork family for their support. Mr Hegarty said the letter, which has been in the family’s possession for almost a century, will be offered for sale as part of an auction of the Keyes McDonnell collection on Oct 16. “It is expected to fetch between €1,000 and €2,000,” he said.
Also discovered in the collection is a sketchbook of Walter Osborne drawings which has not been seen in public since it was presented by the artist’s son-in-law, Professor Stockley, to fellow artist William Keyes McDonnell in 1935.
There are also letters from Lord Asquith and Lady Beaverbrook relating to the Easter Rising, various Irish republican memorabilia, medals, and a copy of the book Guerilla Days in Ireland, with a personal inscription by Tom Barry.
MacSwiney, born in Kilmurry in 1879, helped to found the Celtic Literary Society and the Cork Dramatic Society, and wrote several plays. His writings in the Irish Freedom newspaper brought him to the attention of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which led to his involvement with the Irish Volunteers, Sinn Féin, and the struggle for freedom.
In 1913, he founded the Cork brigade of the Irish Volunteers and became president of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin.
He was arrested in 1917 for wearing an IRA uniform, and following the murder of his friend and colleague, Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain in Mar 1920, was elected mayor.
He was arrested in Dublin on Aug 11, 1920, charged with making a seditious speech, and for possession of a secret police code and a Cork Corporation resolution recognising Dáil Éireann. He was sentenced to two years in Brixton Prison, where he went on hunger strike.
He died on Oct 25 after 74 days without food. Almost 30,000 people filed past his body at it lay in repose at Southwark Cathedral, London.
His funeral in Cork on Oct 31 was one of the largest the city had ever seen. His remains are buried in the city’s St Finbarr’s Cemetery.
The auction takes place in Hegarty’s auction rooms on the bypass, Bandon, on Tuesday, Oct 16.