Ulster Covenant signed by Carson and Craig lay hidden in sock drawer
One of the most significant documents in Northern Ireland's history has come up for sale in a Belfast auction house after years of lying in a sock drawer.
An original Ulster Covenant - bearing the signatures of Edward Carson, James Craig, Admiral Charles Beresford and Lord Londonderry, as well as some of the best known political figures of the day - will go under the hammer next Tuesday.
Auctioneer Karl Bennett from Bloomfield Auctions said he has no idea why the document is not in a museum, adding that it's one of the most significant pieces of local history to pass through his auction house.
He said it had lain in a collector's drawer in Newtownards for many years.
Bids of £200-£400 are expected, but he's hoping it will go for much more than the guide price.
"It has been signed by John Johnston but has also been signed around the edges by the likes of Carson and James Craig and many other well known political figures," said Mr Bennett.
"To have those signatures all in one place like this is very rare; it's certainly one of the most important pieces of Northern Ireland history I've seen.
"A collector bought it years ago and it's been in his sock drawer ever since."
One likely bidder could be the Orange Order Museum. However, a spokesman declined to say whether it hoped to write any cheques for the historic item.
However, National Museums of Northern Ireland, which is responsible for the Ulster Museum, has ruled itself out, saying it was unlikely to bid on the item.
A spokeswoman said: "At the moment there is no budget for acquisitions. That said, our director of collections may contact the auctioneer to enquire as it is not a huge amount of money for what it purports to be."
Almost half a million unionists signed the Ulster Covenant and corresponding women's Declaration on September 28 1912.
The Ulster Covenant was a protest in response to the latest Home Rule Bill proposed in Westminster to give Ireland limited autonomy.
Other lots at the auction include rare Harland & Wolff records mentioning RMS Titanic and a teapot originally used in Hermann Goering's dining wagon of the Sonderzug (special train).
The Militaria & Memories Auction will be held at Bloomfield Auctions at the Owen O'Cork Mill complex on Belfast's Beersbridge Road on June 20.