Rare 1798 silver sells for almost €50,000

ELAINE FURLONG

RARE PIECES of Irish Georgian silver made to celebrate the crushing of the 1798 rebellion at New Ross have sold at auction in Christie's of London for almost £50,000.

The international fine art auctioneers had expected the pair of silver soup tureens and covers to fetch up to £30,000 when they go under the hammer at auction last Tuesday, but they attracted more interest than had been predicted.

The auctioneers said the silver soup tureens and covers were bought by an unnamed bidder in the saleroom for £49,250 (€55,182). The pieces last sold at an auction 57 years ago for £400.

Inscriptions and marks show they were made in Dublin in 1799 by Robert Breading and presented to an Irish man in the British Army, Major General Henry Johnson, to honour his 'Gallantry and Spirit for his Native Country and the British Empire in the Battle of New Ross 5th June 1798'.

Johnson, who was born in 1748 in Kilternan, Co Dublin, joined the British army and quickly rose through the ranks. When the United Irishmen launched the rebellion against British rule in May 1798 he was dispatched to Co Wexford, and oversaw the defence of New Ross, where his troops defeated the rebels on June 5.

A grateful ' body of gentlemen' in Waterford then collected funds to buy the silver for him ' to commemorate the Glorious Era of National Deliverance'.

Johnson later moved to England, was created a baronet in 1818 and died at his home in Bath in 1835. But the silver stayed with the Johnson family and was passed down through the generations for over 150 years until sold at auction in 1954 for just £400, to a private collector.

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