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New novel imagines Collins’ driver’s reaction

December 23rd, 2022 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

The silver hallmarked seal, engraved with ‘MC’, sold for €4,800.

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By Emma Connolly and Pauline Murphy

A FORMER Irish Times journalist has imagined what the driver of the car which carried Michael Collins on the day of his death might have seen.

In his new novel, Sean Hillen, a former foreign correspondent for The Irish Times, uses the device of a mystery diary found in the attic of an old stone cottage in Donegal, to reveal long-held secrets about the assassination of Collins, 100 years ago.

In his historical fiction, Hillen  gives his own dramatic interpretation of the tragic event that shaped the future of Ireland for generations. 

‘The shooting of Collins, the most popular man in Ireland at the time, remains the country’s most infamous unsolved murders,’ said Hillen, whose book is available on Amazon. 

‘He could easily have been the leader of the nation and, unlike Eamon De Valera, who allied himself closely with the Catholic Church, Collins had little respect for the Church and more for the socialist traditions of those who died in Easter 1916. 

‘As such, Ireland could have been a very different country today if Collins had lived. Certain people in high places were fully aware of this and with Collins winning the Civil War, it was important for them that he be eliminated, and fast.’

Hillen imagines a fictional diary, found in a Donegal cottage, around which much of the novel’s suspense revolves, was written by the driver of the armoured car Collins was in when shot in the head, dying on the roadside. That driver saw everything that happened that fateful day, but was afraid to speak out due to the all-pervasive power and influence of those people who planned the ambush, writes Hillen. 

Meanwhile, a shillelagh stick which once belonged to the Big Fella was sold for €4,000 at a recent auction. The stick is pierced for hanging and was handed down through the Collins family. It went under the hammer at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers in Co Kilkenny.

The accounts for the Treaty negotiation team in London in 1921 sold for €3,200. The two-page typescript included handwritten side notes by the meticulous Collins.

A short handwritten letter by Collins from 1919 was sold for €2,100, while a letter from Collins in 1920, in which he was seeking information on an unnamed person of interest, was sold for €3,900. An interesting item named ‘The Big Fella’s Seal of Approval’ – a silver hallmarked seal, two inches in height and engraved ‘MC’ sold for €4,800. It was used by Collins to seal State documents during his brief time as head of the Irish Free State. 

The highest price paid for a Collins item at the auction was a cryptic letter written by him in 1920. The letter, written on Irish Volunteers HQ paper, was sold for €5,800.

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