Che Guevara’s lucky Irish cigar lighter among historical items up for auction

Che Guevara’s lucky Irish cigar lighter, bought in Shannon airport during a chance visit, is set to go under the hammer in an online auction of iconic memorabilia this month.

The lighter will be auctioned alongside a remarkable array of items which includes the bible Michael Collins had with him when he was assassinated, a newly-discovered copy of Wolfe Tone’s speech from the dock and Phil Lynott’s bass guitar.

Guevara, who had distant Irish heritage, found himself in Ireland by chance when his Prague to Havana flight was diverted to Shannon with engine trouble in 1965.

He bought the lighter which has a high guide of £2,000/€2,300, at the duty-free store, and called it his lucky Irish lighter.

He used it until after his unsuccessful rebellion campaign in the Congo in 1966, at which point he gifted it to Fidel Castro’s mistress Natty Revuelta Clews, telling her it was not so lucky.

The Gormleys Signature Sale brings together key figures from Irish and international history, as well as items from pop culture, and runs online until November 14 at

“Every item in this auction tells a tale from history. There has rarely been such a collection brought to market that will resonate with so many people,” said antiques expert Niall Mullen, a consultant to the auction.

The King James bible was issued to Irish revolutionary, solider and politician Michael Collins when he took up a role as a post office worker in London in 1906.

Following his assassination at Béal na Bláth in Cork in 1922, the bible was passed to Collins’ niece, who in turn gifted it to a Dr James A. Lynch, after which it was recently acquired by the present owner.

“Interestingly, in spite of the bible being a King James Protestant edition, Collins continued to carry it with him until his passing, possibly due to the fact that the small size meant that it was easily transported in the pocket of an overcoat,” said Mullen.

The bible which is estimated between £18,000-£22,000 (€21,000-25,000) also contains the In Memoriam card of Mrs Catherine “Katty” Collins, the wife of Michael’s older brother Johnny.

With almost 70 high-end lots, the auction also features an original of the speech of Theobald Wolfe Tone, delivered in the dock during his trial for treason in 1798 and has an estimate of £20,000-£25,000 (€23,000-29,000).

“Hand-written by Tone, it was only recently discovered with the only other copy of the speech being housed in the British National Archives,” said Mullen.

“Originally held in the archive of the Adjutant-General Sir George Hewett (at the time the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland), it is an exceptionally rare example of writing from the ‘Father of Irish Republicanism’.

“As a barrister, Tone was known to make hand-written copies of his work and this copy was likely surrendered by him in the wake of his trial, where he was sentenced to death.”

A rare first edition of Ulysses is also featured in the auction, with a guide of £22,000-£25,000 (€25,000-€29,000).

Among the modern iconic auction items is Phil Lynott’s bass guitar from the ‘Chinatown’ album era.

Guided between £15,000-£20,000, (€17,000-23,000) it is signed by Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Aston Barrett from Bob Marley’s band, and Michael Rose from Black Uhuru.

Also listed is a negative of Norma Jean Baker, later Marilyn Monroe, taken at Zuma Beach, Malibu in 1946, which formed part of her first modelling portfolio that was presented to 20th Century Fox.

Motor racing fans can own the official Ferrari drivers’ simulator used by Ferrari to prepare its drivers for the various circuits on the Formula One calendar in 2006 – Michael Schumacher’s last season driving for the team.

The auction also features Ferrari jackets belonging to Schumacher and Eddie Irvine and signed by both drivers.

Viewings for these items will take place at Gormleys Dublin from November 2-5, and at Gormleys Belfast from November 9-11, with the timed online auction closing on November 14.

See for details.

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