Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

€105,000 for teen execution letter

A letter written by Kevin Barry in a cell in Mountjoy Prison in 1920 fetched 105,000 euro
A cap badge reputed to be worn by Michael Collins went under the hammer in Dublin

A hand-written letter from a teenager on the eve of his execution during the War of Independence fetched a massive 105,000 euro - seven times its asking price - when it went under the hammer.

Bidders battled it out at a Dublin auction house to get their hands on the poignant document, penned by 18-year-old medical student Kevin Barry in a cell in Mountjoy Prison in 1920.

Barry was hanged over his part in an ambush of a British Army lorry and his execution sparked public anger because of his young age.

"There was a huge amount of interest in the letter, with numerous bidders in the room and on the phone," Aoife Leach of Adam's auctioneers said.

Now in its fifth year, the Independence auction included 600 lots of newspapers, photographs, books, posters, medals, prison craftwork, letters and documents.

Other sought-after items included Kevin Barry's typed interrogation statement which sold for 8,500 euro and a cap badge reputed to be worn by Michael Collins on the day of his death.

A pair of late 19th century steel handcuffs thought to have been used by Collins were snapped up for 1,700 euro - well above their pre-sale estimate of 150 to 250 euro.

There were also several other historical items not directly linked to Irish independence, including the announcement of the discovery of the Northwest Passage which fetched 16,000 euro.

Written by Wexford man Robert McClure in 1850, the letters sent home news of his discovery and how his ship, The Investigator, was subsequently stuck in ice for almost two years until its crew was rescued by HMS Resolute.

A rare original copy of the 1916 Proclamation sold for 220,000 euro at last year's sale.

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