Family-owned and operated auction house Victor Mee Auctions have been given the trusted role of finding the next caretakers for key pieces of Irish history in their upcoming Irish Connections Collectors sale, scheduled to take place tomorrow and Thursday in their Cavan-based auction house. Featuring head-turning pieces including one of only three known surviving first-anniversary copies of the Irish Proclamation, printed using the same printing blocks as the original, a vast collection of rare signed and dated books by Seamus Heaney, and a highly valuable collection of whiskies including a highly-valuable 1890s bottle of precious George Roe Irish Whiskey predicted to sell within the range of €6,000 to €12,000 to a keen collector.

With bidders currently registered from across the globe including enthusiastic Irish-American bidders, high-end whiskey collectors from Hong Kong, and Irish history collectors from across Ireland and further afield, this sale is reflexive of the increasing popularity of Victor Mee Auctions as a leading auction house in Ireland with a trusted reputation in selling high-quality and unique pieces.

Rare 1917 Proclamation

Bidders will have a unique opportunity to own a piece of rare Irish national history when one of only three known surviving 1917 copies of the Proclamation reaches the auction block. Printed on the one-year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the poster was taken down by a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police at Butt Bridge in Central Dublin on orders of the High Sheriff of Dublin to avoid political unrest. He later visited a man living nearby, Robert Bradley, a retired Sheriff of Dublin who had retired in 1910 and gave the poster to him. The piece was later passed on to the McKay family – friends of Robert Bradley – who safely kept the piece for over six decades, passing it down to the current owner.

The current owner says, “The Proclamation was given by the sheriff to my father, who was a young boy at the time, with the words ‘look after this it will be important someday’. My father kept it safely over six decades until finally it became my responsibility.”

The seller’s father nearly parted with this rare piece of history in the 1960s, when an American businessman had placed an advertisement in the local paper looking for Proclamations. Luckily for the seller’s family, the copy had been so safely stowed on the top of a wardrobe that it could not be located at the time.

“My father had obviously hidden it away for safe keeping many years before then and had forgotten where he had put it.  Over all the years it was kept folded in a dark place.”

The piece has been framed to preserve the artefact when signs of deterioration began to appear along the folds. It continued to be stored in the dark to the present day.

This unique piece of history – printed by Cumann na mBan with the original printing blocks used for the original version after they were gathered from the wreckage of the GPO –is only one of three of these Proclamations known to be in existence, with one additional copy also housed in the Jackie Clarke Collection, Ballina, County Mayo. This prestigious collection also includes a copy of the 1916 Proclamation.

In addition to the first-anniversary copy of the Proclamation, which is estimated to sell for €10,000 to €20,000, the sellers have also appointed Victor Mee to sell an original Royal Irish Constabulary plaque, originally taken down from a police station in Dublin.

Commenting on these pieces of our national history, auctioneer Victor Mee said, “We are honoured to have been chosen to auction off these poignant artefacts that represent such a poignant time in Ireland’s history. There are only three of these proclamations known to be in existence so we believe this piece will draw many bidders from around the world to the auction house in May.”

Personal pieces from an Irish literary giant

The upcoming sale at Victor Mee will also offer bidders an incredibly rare chance to take home a piece of Irish literary heritage with a bid on a number of rare books by much-loved Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Offering more than fifty books by the Nobel Laureate – some signed or dated and some inscribed including both, the books include:

  • One of 50 deluxe copies printed of The Door Stands Open: Czeslaw Milosz 1911-2004.
  • In Their Element. A selection of Poems by Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon. This copy is signed by Heaney over his respective portrait.
  • District and Circle. A rare signed first edition of the 2006 book of poems.
  • Place and Displacement. Recent Poetry of Northern Ireland. A Seamus Heaney signed and dated copy, 1985.
  • Limited first edition of The Riverbank Field by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Martin Gale, 2007.

Heaney penned his first verses as a young teacher in Belfast in the early 1960s. His poems first came to public attention in the mid-1960s as part of the rising ‘Northern School’ of Irish writers. His beginnings as a poet coincided with his meeting the woman whom he was to marry, Marie Devlin. Like her husband, Marie came from a large family and several of her family members were also writers and artists.

In the course of his career, Seamus Heaney contributed to the promotion of artistic and educational causes, both in Ireland and abroad, and was also involved for a decade and a half with Field Day, a theatre company founded in 1980 by the playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea.

Heaney, who was born in 1939 and raised on a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry / Londonderry, Derry is the “country of the mind” where much of Heaney’s poetry is still grounded.

Heaney’s poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s when he was active as one of a group of poets who were subsequently recognized as constituting something of a “Northern School” within Irish writing. In the course of his career, Seamus Heaney always contributed to the promotion of artistic and educational causes, both in Ireland and abroad.

“We are very excited about the fantastic Heaney collection we have acquired for the Irish Connections Collectors sale and believe these pieces will be especially popular with a wide range of bidders – the literary audience, in particular,” said Bryan Mee.

A fine collection of rare Irish whiskey

Irish Whiskey and advertising is a continuing area of expertise for the family run auction house and a prominent theme in many sales, with this sale being no exception. Hitting the auction block this May will be an exquisite collection of Irish whiskey from Des McCabe, previously the owner of a pub in Warrenpoint, inherited from his Aunt from County Armagh including a showstopping piece which is gaining attention from enthusiastic collectors world-wide, a precious 1890s bottle of George Roe Irish whiskey – one of the rarest bottles of Irish whiskey to ever come on to the market.

Remarking on the rarity of this bottle, Bryan Mee at Victor Mee Auctions said, “Unfortunately these bottles were just drunk and not saved. The bottle itself is in excellent condition with some evaporation and depicts the Thomas Street Distillery. It is estimated to sell within the range of €6,000 to €12,000 to a keen collector and we are very excited to see the turnout for bidders who for this piece who will tune in online, by phone, and come to our auction house to bid in person.”

George Roe Whiskey had its beginnings in 1757 when Peter Roe bought a small distillery on Thomas Street in Dublin. Roe whiskey passed through many hands of Roe’s from 1757 to 1832, during which time another distillery was founded on Pimlico street by Nicholas Roe. It was in 1832 that George Roe took over both distilleries to consolidate and expand them into a large complex. The resultant organisation became George Roe & Company or Geo. Roe & Co. distillers. In 1887, George Roe & Company became the largest distillery in Europe, and at that time the Thomas Street distillery covered seventeen acres, producing over two million gallons of whiskey annually.

In 1889 George Roe & Co. Distillers joined William Jameson & Co and the Dublin Whiskey Distillery (D.W.D) to form a trading unit called the Dublin Distilling Company Ltd. Each distillery continued to market its own whiskey under its own name, but during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – a difficult period for the whiskey industry in Ireland due to increased competition from Scottish whisky, prohibition in the United States and the decline in the social and economic power in Ireland which caused many distilleries to fail – Geo. Roe & Co. Distillers along with its two partners ceased to produce whiskey in 1926, leaving large quantities of unsold stock. It wasn’t until the mid-1940s that Geo Roe & Co. distillers dissolved, and Guinness took over the site of the old Roe Thomas Street distillery.

In addition to this historic label of George Roe Whiskey, the sale at Victor Mee will also include a rare 1940s JJ&S Liqueur Dublin Irish Whiskey, a blend of 100% John Jameson whiskey, distilled and bottled by John Jameson & Son Ltd. The hexagonal shaped bottle with includes a label which discloses, `Not a drop is Sold till it`s Twelve years old.’ Imported into United States by WA Taylor & Co. New York, this particular bottle was sold in America only and it is very rare to find it unopened and completely sealed. This bottle – which features some evaporation due to age – was most likely brought back to Ireland as a gift by a distant cousin and is estimated to sell for €800 to €1200.

In addition to these outstanding bottles, the team at Victor Mee are also expecting high interest in two bottles of 1950s John Jameson Whiskey, estimated to earn €400 to €600.

Rare Belfast advertising piece

Also of interest to many publicans and collectors of vintage advertising will be a late Victorian Gallahers Gold Plate Cigarettes, two flakes tobacco advertising mirror. Established in 1857 by Thomas Gallaher and originally opened in Londonderry, the company went on to become one of the biggest tobacco suppliers in the world. The business flourished and in 1863 it made the move to bustling Belfast city.

In 1896, Gallaher opened what was then the largest tobacco factory on the planet and was a brand that put Ulster’s industry on the map. The advertising mirror is estimated to sell at auction between €4,000 and €6,000.

Irish Decorative Interiors

The well-rounded Irish Connections Collectors sale will also offer a number of superb furnishing pieces that are sure to be of interest to collectors of rare Irish interiors or decorators with an eye for unique pieces. An exquisite Killarney Davenport dating from the mid-19th century and made from arbutus, oak and yew wood will be on offer for interested bidders. The piece is ornately inlaid with trailing shamrocks and harp and stag motives with scenes depicting Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle.

Commenting on the on craftmanship of unique the Killarney Davenport up for auction auctioneer Victor Mee said, “The Killarney Davenport is a perfect example of the range of skills that could be employed for a tourist trade in the Victorian period in Ireland. Exquisitely decorated, we believe this item will sell between €4,000 and €6,000.”

The upcoming Victor Mee Auctions’ Irish Connections Collectors sale will also showcase two pieces from well-known Irish pottery brand Belleek; a second period Belleek miniature bust of Michael Collins and miniature bust of Arthur Griffith.