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Rare Easter Rising 1916 memorabilia fails to sell at New York auction

Seán T. O'Kelly's medals failed to impress New York bidders. Picture via Spink Auctioneers
Seán T. O’Kelly’s medals failed to impress New York bidders. Picture via Spink Auctioneers

AUCTIONEERS in New York City were unable to find buyers for Easter Rising memorabilia including medals given to former Irish President and 1916 rebel Seán T. O’Kelly.

A collection of items connected to the Rising were up for an auction run by Spink Auctioneers in New York yesterday but despite the historical significance of the items, two were withdrawn from bidding.

The lot that fetched the most money was a set of medals that belonged to an Irish-British military officer who was one of the IRA’s top targets during the War of Independence.

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Captain Campbell Kelly was stationed at Victoria Barracks in Cork and one of his main tasks was interrogating captured Irish rebels.

Among his medals were the Military Cross, George Cross and a rarely-issued “Ireland ‘Special Intelligence Operations’ Order of the British Empire”.

After the War of Independence came to an end – and after several IRA attempts on his life – Captain Campbell Kelly returned to live in England, where he died in 1942.

The unnamed buyer of the rare medals shelled out $9,500 for the auction’s top lot.

The medals belonging to Seán T. O’Kelly were expected to fetch in the region of $12,000 (approximately £8,400).

Bids reached $11,000, but the lot was withdrawn as it didn’t meet its reserve.

The lot that was expected to fetch the most at the auction was a medal posthumously awarded to Thomas O’Reilly, an independence fighter who lost his life at the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street during the Rising.

The “1916 casualty” medal was expected to go for $20,000 but bids halted at $14,000, so it was also withdrawn.

Other items up for auction included medals awarded to Major General William Lowe, the officer who assumed command of the British army in Dublin after the Rising, 1916 veteran Christopher O’Reilly and Edward Keegan, a clerk at The Irish Times.

Though the medals were not a hit with New York bidders, auctioneer Ian Whyte said that they may be sold in Ireland at a future date.

PICTURES: See the medals here

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James Mulhall
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James Mulhall is a reporter with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @JamzMulhall

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