Old treasures immortalised in new book

December 22nd, 2018 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

NIall O'Driscoll, above, with daughters Leila and Yasmine.

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A BANDON man who has still has the cigarette box that saved his great-grandfather’s life after he was shot at by the Black and Tans in 1920, features in the new ‘National Treasures’ book – the latest instalment of the National Treasures project that aired on RTÉ 1 earlier this year.

Bill Smith who brought the old cigarette box along to a National Treasures roadshow in Cork is one of a select few to be featured in the publication that is on sale for Christmas. 

The project was a campaign to collect objects cherished by people and families that explore the history of the island of Ireland over the past 100 years.

‘This is a silver cigarette box that saved my maternal great-grandfather’s life. His name was Macca Powell and he was the CEO of Mangan’s Jewellers on Saint Patrick Street in Cork City,’ said Bill.

‘In 1920 he was chased through the store by the Black and Tans and he was shot at by them and at one stage they shot at his heart but he had the silver cigarette box inside his waistcoat and the bullets hit the box instead of him and saved his life. A rare case where cigarettes are good for you!’

Bill also had a picture of his father Ronnie – Macca’s grandson – on the roof garden of Mangans, where he lived up to the age of 10 years.

With a foreword by RTÉ’s John Creedon, this fascinating book reveals a selection of 200 diverse and fascinating objects that were unearthed by a project and presents them alongside the owners and the personal stories attached. From a pair of Sonia O’Sullivan’s Olympic running shoes to a War of Independence grenade, the stories contained within are profound, entertaining, heart-warming and tragic.

Authors and producers of the National Treasures project, Ciarán Deeney and David Clarke said it has been a real treat to spend the past year meeting the people of Ireland and discovering so many amazing objects and the stories behind them.

‘We’re forever grateful to all the people that participated and we feel that this book illustrates perfectly how the National Treasures project was a powerful insight into the fabric of a nation.’

Southern Star assistant editor and music fan Niall O’Driscoll also features in the book with a guitar pick used by Rory Gallagher at the guitarist’s last ever Irish gig.

Skibbereen’s Sally Daly also features, with an old burial habit given to her daughter Sharon by Tony McCarthy from Innishannon.

The National Treasures Book is available in all good book shops and online at

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