Items belonging to Kitty Kiernan, fiancée of Michael Collins, to go under the hammer

By Sarah Slater

A vanity case belonging to the fiancée of slain Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician Michael Collins is to go under the auction hammer next month.

Collins proposed to Catherine ‘Kitty’ Brigid Kiernan, on October 8, 1921 in the Grand Hotel in Greystones Co Wicklow.

She had also been the love interest of Harry Boland. Kitty first met Collins in 1918 when he stayed at the hotel in Granard, Co Longford where she hailed from with his friend Irish republican politician Harry Boland.

As the Civil War progressed in Ireland, in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Britain, Kitty was anxious to fix a date for her wedding. She hoped to have a double wedding with her sister Maud, who was due to marry barrister Gearóid O’Sullivan.

In the Spring of 1922, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was passed and as the country split into those who supported the Treaty and those who did not, Collins became Commander-in-Chief of the Free State Army.

But before a day could be chosen, on August 22nd, 1922, Collins was assassinated by Anti-Treaty, Irregular forces at Béal na mBláth, Co Cork.

Now her black leather vanity case, with fitted interior lined dark green watered silk is on sale at Whyte’s auction house in their Eclectic Collector sale in May. Estimated to be worth up to €6,000, Lot 117 contains silver mounted glass jars and accessories hallmarked in 1897.

Kitty Kiernan Cronin's vanity case and photo of her at Béal na mBláth.

A headscarf, a pair of gloves and eight various photographs of Kitty including a photograph of her at Béal na mBláth in 1923. Stuart Purcell, head of collectables at Whyte’s said: “We expect there to be good interest in Kitty Kiernan Cronin’s vanity case given her connection to such a giant of Irish history, Michael Collins.

“The lot certainly is a unique piece and as such is valued to reflect this. Hopefully it will go to someone or organisation who will truly treasure it.”

According to the Glasnevin Trust, after Collins’ death, Kitty spent more than a year wandering from relative to relative carrying the precious souvenirs of her dead lover.

In 1925 she married Felix Cronin, who was Quartermaster General in the Irish Army. They had two sons, the second of whom they called Michael Collins Cronin.

She died of Bright’s Disease (Kidney disease) on July 24th, 1945. She requested that she be buried as close as possible to her great love, Michael Collins. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, not far from where Collins lies, and was joined there 16 years later by her husband Felix.

Also up for grabs at the auction is a cigar owned by former English Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, given to his publisher, Sir Newman Flower valued at between €1,000-€1,500.

Winston Churchill's cigar.

A limited edition lithograph of Mick Jagger, front man of rock band, The Rolling Stones, by Ronnie Woods is also going under the hammer for €1,500.

Other items of the 524 lots include historical documents and artifacts, sporting memorabilia, film posters, rock and pop collectibles, medals and militaria, edged weapons and firearms.

There are also coins with a valuable collection of Jame II "Gunmoney", banknotes, rare books, early printed maps of Ireland, antique silverware and antique tribal masks from the Congo.

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