NEWS

Donegal man strikes it lucky with historical treasure trove

Cigar box bought at auction reveals items linked to Michael Collins

Staff Reporter

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Staff Reporter

Donegal  man strikes  it lucky with historical treasure trove

Cliffy Kelly with the box of memorabilia which he bought on line from an auction. Photo: Brian McDaid.

A wooden cigar box bought by a Donegal antiques collector has unveiled a treasure trove of Irish historical artefacts linked to two of the most important periods in modern Irish history, including cards written by Michael Collins' fiancée, Kitty Kiernan.
The wooden box was bought online at an auction in Offaly by Letterkenny man Cliffy Kelly.
Mr Kelly bought the box, which he believes dates to the 1950s, without an idea of what the contents were.
When he opened it late last year at his recently opened antiques shop in Churchill, it unveiled personal items that appear to have belonged to Kitty Kiernan.
She was engaged to Michael Collins when he was shot dead at Béal na Bláth in Co Cork in August 1922.
Ms Kiernan went on to marry Felix Cronin, the Quartermaster General in the Irish Army.
Some of the contents of the box reveal how Collins stayed in her thoughts.
Three of the items in the box contain her handwriting.
One of the notes written by her is dated St Patrick's 1927. “In Rememberee (sic) of our beloved friend General Michael Collins, born 1890, murdered 1922. Always loved and Remembered by your loving friend Kitty Cronin Kiernan,” one card has inscribed on it.
A black paper envelope addressed to Kitty reads: “To Kitty, best wishes and fond memories of the old days. Sean Mac. Bless his memory forever. Big Fella RIP.”
The box also contained several religious cards and artefacts such as scapulas and rosary beads with a booklet from a mass commemorating the tenth anniversary of Collins’ death.
Added to the contents were 20 holy medals which are attached to cards which stated the medals were sown into blankets belonging to hunger strikers from the Maze prison in 1981.
There was also a cigar from the 1965 Fianna Fáil convention contained in the box.
Mr Kelly, who runs “Mary Alice’s” Antique Shop in Churchill - which is named after his wife Bernadette's grandmother who was from Glendowan - said he had no idea what was contained in the box.
“When you see a box like that you know yourself what the box is worth and you gamble on the contents. It’s more for the fun of going through the boxes and finding out what is in it.”
When he opened the box, the first thing he noticed were the holy medals attached to pieces of card with a handwritten description of them as medals which belonged to hunger strikers.
“I read it and I was taken aback. I did get very emotional touching it and the thought of what they were. Then I started digging deeper and reading the contents.”
One of the cards states: “Permission granted by the families of our fallen comrades to our friends in the great Republican movement.”
The Vega Fina cigar box with a built-in humidifier has kept the items in pristine condition. There is also an Easter lily emblem which dates from 1919.
Mr Kelly’s brother Kieran Kelly, a historian in Letterkenny, has contacted the National Library and the National Museum about the contents of the box.
Cliffy said he will hand the items over if there is a home for them.
“I want to do a lot of work (to find out more about the items).
“I am more interested in the historical value than the monetary value.
“It depends what the result of that work is, if they are needed somewhere else,” he told the Democrat.