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Famous 1916 surrender letter looks likely to leave Ireland


A letter hand written by Padraig Pearse calling for the 1916 rebels to surrender will be auctioned in Dublin this week with an estimated value of up to €1.5m.

Adam’s Auctioneers, who are looking after the sale, say there is a good chance it may leave Ireland altogether when it goes under the hammer on Wednesday.


James O Halloran, who is Managing Director of Adams, said:

“We’ve had a considerable amount of interest, particularly from abroad, so we’re concerned about that. It’s a pity.

“If it doesn’t sell it’s in all likelihood going to leave Ireland.

“The concern that we have is that most of the interest that has been expressed in it, so far has been abroad.

“The current owner, the person who bought it from us back in 2005, is non-Irish and lives outside of the country and if it doesn’t sell he had indicated to us that he will be taking it out of the country.”

The letter has the highest estimate ever assigned to any work of art or historical item offered at auction in Ireland.

In it, Pearse writes:

“‘In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P.H.Pearse, Dublin, 30th April 1916. ”


Pearse wrote it in his prison cell at Arbour Hill jail, where he was detained after surrendering to the British outside the GPO the previous day, April 29th.

The rebel leader had been asked to write the letter to persuade a group of rebels holding out in the Four Courts to surrender.

The letter was hand-delivered by a priest, Fr Columbus, a friar in the Capuchin Order, to the rebels.

The commander of the Four Courts ceased hostilities and surrendered after reading it.

Fr Columbus held on to the letter and it only came to light nearly 90 years later, when it was consigned to auction by the previous unnamed owner in 2005. The estimate then was €50,000-€80,000.

The Government has indicated it is not going to make a bid for the letter saying it would not be the best use of taxpayers’ money.