An Irish antiques collector has discovered key historical artefacts linked to Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan in an old cigar box he purchased online.
Cliffy Kelly runs an antique shop in Churchill, Co Donegal. He purchased the cigar box on an online auction and was unware of its contents.
When Mr Kelly opened up the cigar box he was shocked to find numerous letters and cards relating to some of the most significant characters in Irish history.
The box contained a note which was written by Kitty Kiernan and dated St Patrick’s 1927. It read: “In Rememberee (sic) of our beloved friend General Michael Collins, born 1890, murdered 1922. Always loved and Remembered by your loving friend Kitty Cronin Kiernan.”
Kiernan had been engaged to Collins during the Irish Civil War. After his death she went on to marry Irish Army Quartermaster General Felix Cronin, but the note shows that Collins was never far from her thoughts.
The box also contained a black envelope addressed to Kiernan. The message written on the envelope reads: “To Kitty, best wishes and fond memories of the old days. Sean Mac. Bless his memory forever. Big Fella RIP.”
The Big Fella was a nickname given to Michael Collins when he was a child.
As well as the notes, there were also rosary beads and a booklet from a mass commemorating the tenth anniversary of Collins’ death.
Mr Kelly was stunned to find items of such historical importance in the box. He said: “When you see a box like that you know yourself what the box is worth and you gamble on the contents. It’s more for the fun of going through the boxes and finding out what is in it.”
Mr Kelly’s brother is a historian and has contacted the National Library and National Museum to inform them of the discoveries.
Mr Kelly added: “I want to do a lot of work (to find out more about the items). I am more interested in the historical value than the monetary value. It depends what the result of that work is, if they are needed somewhere else.”
The box also contained various artefacts from other significant periods in Irish history.
It also contained 20 holy medals attached to cards which stated they had been sewn into blankets owned by the hunger strikers from Maze Prison in 1981.
Mr Kelly said: “I read it and I was taken aback. I did get very emotional touching it and the thought of what they were. Then I started digging deeper and reading the contents.”
One of the cards states: “Permission granted by the families of our fallen comrades to our friends in the great Republican movement.”
Other items of significance found in the box include a cigar from the 1965 Fianna Fáil convention and an Easter Lily dating back to 1919.