A VICTORY for the working class man was heralded in Limerick Auction Rooms, after a Limerick Soviet five shilling note was returned back to its “rightful owners”.
The Limerick Trades Council had begun a campaign in the days leading up to the auction to keep the note from 1919 in Limerick.
This Wednesday afternoon the council beat off competition from three other bidders to take home the note to the Mechanics Institute on Hartstonge Street.
Mike McNamara, president of the Limerick Trades Council, revealed after the auction that they were prepared to bid as high as €3,500, but after a few minutes of bidding, it was theirs for €1,400.
“It’s a fantastic day for the workers and the trade union movement. It means so much to us. It’s our history and you can’t put a price on history. I think we did the workers of 1919 a great service here today,” he said.
“Most of the Labour politicians in Limerick were borne out of the trade union movement, so it’s a big day for us. We would ask people not to put a price on our heritage, and to come to us with any materials they may have.”
The promissory note was issued by the Workers of Limerick during the famous two week strike in 1919. Up to now it had been held by an elderly lady, whose identity has not been disclosed.
Mr McNamara earlier made an offer of €500 for the note but this was declined by the seller.
“This is extremely rare, and is one of the most important Limerick items we’ve had in here,” said Darren Parish, who conducted the auction, which ran to 462 lots over nearly five hours.
Two telephone bidders bowed out, after the bidding started at €900. A solitary man made a late bid in the final moments, attracting the glare of some supporters of the Trades Council.
During the auction, the trades council maintained a “dignified and peaceful protest” outside the auction rooms, appealing to people not to bid “on our trade union heritage”.
Surrounded by supporters after the auction, Mr McNamara said they were delighted to secure the note, and thanked all their supporters who offered donations in recent days.
“We had pledges for donations in excess of €3,500 and that included one from a very prominent antiques dealer in Limerick. We came here today to buy it, and were determined to do so. We only realised at very short notice - last Friday night - that this note was coming up for auction, and our campaign kicked in straight away,” he explained.
The note will be placed in a secure display unit in the history room Mechanics Institute in the coming days.
The Limerick Soviet was a self-declared soviet that existed from 15 to 27 April 1919.
At the beginning of the War of Independence, a general strike was organised by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council, as a protest against the British army’s declaration of a “special military area” under the Defence of the Realm Act, which covered most of Limerick city and a part of the county.
The soviet ran the city for the period, printed its own money and organised the supply of food.
Other items sold on the day included a Bulova ladies watch bracelet with 16 diamonds, and 16 rubies on 12 to 14ct rose gold. The eye-catching piece of jewellery fetched €875.
Original drawings of the spire and tower of St John’s Cathedral, by M&S Hennessy Architects dated August 23 1878, sold for €320. A silver minature Ardagh chalice went under the hammer for €125. An oil painting by artist Tom Greaney of a scene near Kilkee fetched €220.