Ireland’s Capuchins have backed down from intimations that a 1916 surrender letter by Patrick Pearse, put forward for sale by auction this week, was improperly removed from the order’s archives.
The letter, described by Adams Auctioneers as “the most significant
Irish document to be offered for sale”, directed Cmdt Edward Daly,
leading the Volunteers’ First Battalion at Dublin’s Four Courts, to have
his men lay down their arms. It was expected to fetch over €1million.
Originally carried to Cmdt Daly by Fr Columbus Murphy OFM Cap., who
died in 1952, the letter passed into the ownership of the Irish Capuchin
province, where it was “held in care as part of the Order’s heritage in
connection with the 1916 Rising” according to a statement from the
Capuchin Provincial, Fr Adrian Curran.
Emphasising the Irish Capuchins’ belief that the letter is “a
precious monument of the history of the Irish People and worthy to be
preserved as such for future generations”, Fr Curran said the letter had
been “alienated by persons unknown from the archives of the Order
without the authorisation of its superiors and put up for sale”.
Adams Auctioneers, however, rejected this claim, saying the
provenance of the letter had been established in 2005, when it first
went to auction and was sold for €700,000.
The 2005 auction catalogue said the letter had been given to Fr
Conrad O’Donovan, Capuchin Provincial between 1961 and 1967, and was
subsequently inherited by the anonymous vendor.
The Auctioneers has since clarified that Fr O’Donovan had gifted the letter to the father of the 2005 vendor in the 1960s.
Although the Irish Capuchin Province, which in 2005 did not employ a
full-time professional archivist, raised no objection to the letter’s
sale at the time, UCD historian Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter has questioned
whether Fr O’Donovan would have had authority to give away the order’s
Following a meeting with Adams Auctioneers, Fr Curran issued a fresh
statement reiterating the order’s view that the letter should be
preserved in Ireland for the Irish people, he was now “in full
possession of the facts surrounding the provenance of [the] letter and
considers the matter closed”.