By Claire O’Sullivan, Irish Examiner
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
A previously unknown letter written by a Cork lord mayor who died on hunger strike in a British jail has been sold to the National Archives. Terence MacSwiney’s letter was sold for an undisclosed sum in advance of auction in Bandon, West Cork, last night. It had been expected that it could fetch up to €2,000 on open market. The letter, which he penned while interred at Richmond Barracks after the 1916 Easter Rising, came to light as part of a routine valuation of a family collection by West Cork antiques dealer Ted Hegarty. MacSwiney had written to the Keyes McDonnell family to thank them for their support.
Also discovered in the collection was a sketchbook of Walter Osborne drawings which has not been seen in public since it was presented by the artist’s father-in-law, Professor Stockley, to fellow artist William Keyes McDonnell in 1935. It sold to a Dublin buyer for €3,400.
A letter from Lord Asquith relating to the Easter Rising sold to another Dublin buyer for €340 while a copy of the book Guerilla Days in Ireland, with a personal inscription by Tom Barry was bought by somebody from Cork for €520. Letters from Lady Beaverbrook relating to the Rising, various Irish republican memorabilia, and medals were also auctioned.
The Keyes McDonnell family, based at Castlelack near Bandon, Co Cork, played a key role in Ireland’s struggle for independence. William and his wife, Kathleen, were closely associated with the former lords mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain. William organised the first Irish volunteer battalions in Kilpatrick and Bandon, under direction from Eoin MacNeill.
MacSwiney, born in Kilmurry in 1879, 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.