BY PAULINE MURPHY
AN unusual Michael Collins item will go under the hammer this month – the cutlery he used during a meal at the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen on August 22nd 1922, hours before meeting his death at Béal na Bláth that evening.
The knife, fork and spoon are mounted on a green silk banner in the shape of a shamrock, flanked by a harp flag and tricolour flag, against a black fabric panel.
Measuring 51cm x 61cm, the historical one-of-a-kind item comes with a letter of provenance which informs us the cutlery was kept by the hotel manager who had it mounted on the silk banner and presented to Kitty Kiernan, famed fiancée of Michael Collins, following his death.
It was passed on to Kitty’s sister Maud following her early death in 1945. It then passed through Maud’s husband’s family. It was previously sold in 2013 at Sheppard’s Auction for €2,000.
The family-run Eldon Hotel, which opened in 1885, was one of the last places Michael Collins visited on the day of his death in 1922. Today a plaque outside the hotel marks the historic visit. In 1922, the Eldon Hotel was run by Joe Clancy who was a friend of Collins’. Collins attended the wedding of Joe’s sister Lil to her fellow Skibbereen native Michael O’Brien in Rathgar, Dublin, the day after Bloody Sunday in November 1920.
Bloody Sunday began with Collins’ squad shooting British agents in various locations across Dublin. In response, that afternoon crown forces shot dead 14 people at a GAA match in Croke Park. Regardless of the danger and the bounty on his head, Collins went to the wedding of his West Cork friends.
Apart from his last meal, the Eldon Hotel was also the location for one of the last photographs taken of Collins. He was snapped as he was getting into his car outside the hotel on Skibbereen’s Bridge Street.
The estimated price is €2,000 for the sale at the Collector’s Cabinet auction in Mullen’s Auctioneers, Co Wicklow on Saturday, March 11th.