Fishing for the arts in Limerick

Fine art: Auctions and exhibitions taking place in the city include an Armada chest, a retrospective on artist Stephen Lawlor and and the collection of the late Richard Coughlan of the Treaty Café

Many musicians who visited Limerick during the showband years will remember the Treaty Cafe. Owned and operated by the late Richard Coughlan, the well-known late night eaterie opened until the early hours to ensure band members were not left starving after a night entertaining denizens of the Treaty city.

Described as a Limerick institution himself, Coughlan was a collector of memorabilia on Limerick and its people, and his library will be auctioned by Purcell Auctioneers in a live online sale this Wednesday, July 6th. With 754 lots consisting of books, stamps, maps, prints and sculpture, highlights include Memorials of Adare Manor by Caroline, Countess of Dunraven, with historical notices on Adare (€500-€800); an inventory and valuation of Curragh Chase, the ancestral home of the de Vere family from 1936 (€80-€160); and a signature picture of Daniel O’Connell (€80-€160).

Online sale

In Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, this Monday and Tuesday, auctioneer Aidan Foley will host a live online sale of more than 1,600 lots. Of interest is the contents of a Parteen house, which includes some items belonging to the late Major Hugh Place. In 1957 he caught a brown trout on the River Shannon in Corbally, Co Limerick, weighing a whopping 20lbs, which remains the record for a river-caught brown trout today.

A number of fishing-related items from Enright’s of Castleconnell, formerly owned by Major Place, also feature in the sale. John Enright became the world fly-casting champion in 1906 (there is even a memorial on the banks of the river in the pretty Co Limerick village to mark this achievement) and his name became synonymous with fly-fishing the world over.


Previously, in 1896, Enright became the fly-casting champion of the world at Wimbledon Park Lake in England for distance casting, while also taking first prize for all five events on the day. His world record distance of 186 feet with a 20 foot Castleconnell rod still stands today, and the Co Limerick village became an international fishing centre as a result of Enright’s achievements. Three rods are listed at €60-€100 apiece.

Of further aquatic interest is a painting of the SS Maigue, a vessel once owned by the Limerick Steamship Company. Founded in 1893, it was one of the leading ship owners and agents in Ireland at the time. The company named all its ships after places in Limerick, and the SS Maigue, taking her moniker from a Limerick river, struck a rock and was beached at South Harbour on Cape Clear Island, while travelling from Limerick via Fenit to Liverpool with a cargo laden with Limerick bacon. She was refloated later that year but was so badly damaged that the ship was sold for scrappage.

Also from the Major Place collection is a late 18th century sword stamped Johnston of Dublin (€200-€300), as well as one of the highlights of the sale, an Armada chest – essentially an old ship’s chest for carrying gold. “It nearly beat me to take it out of the back of the jeep,” says auctioneer Aidan Foley on the weight of the late 18th century box, which has an estimate of €1,200-€1,500. Works of art include a mixed media of Rembrandt by Irish based impressionist painter Arthur Maderson (€3,000-€5,000), and a pencil sketch by Jack B Yeats of the Shelbourne Hotel bar (€2,000-€3,000).

Hunt Museum exhibition

At the Hunt Museum, around the corner from the 13th century keep, Kings John’s Castle, where preparations were under way to host Van Morrison this week, Stephen Lawlor’s In a Liminal State is currently on exhibition.

The retrospective of the painter and master printer ends on Sunday afternoon, July 17th, and admission is free. Described as “like Dutch masters on acid”, the exhibition explores many of the works in the recently published “Profile 29: Stephen Lawlor”. As author John Banville noted in the introduction of the painter’s work: “It is a magical, slightly eerie sensation; you seem astray in a forest, a garden, a numinously shadowed cityscape, under a turbulent gold-and-umber sky that seems more solid, more grounded, than the ground you tread on.”

Made in Limerick showcase

More works of art and collectables can be found at 113 Henry Street in Limerick, where the creative collective Made in Limerick showcase and promote handmade crafts, including fine art, ceramics, textiles, glass and wood.

The only arts co-operative in the city, members include Henri Bocxe of Thin Line, a graphic artist who now makes quirky gifts such as Irish coastal maps, homeware and rubber stamps through the art of laser cutting and engraving. Limerick born John Quinn of Bizarro Ceramics uses a variety of decorating techniques on his stoneware and porcelain. His latest body of work, entitled Funny Bird, is all unique pieces that come in various sizes and colours.,,,,,

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables