Ireland’s most famous wedding photo for auction

By Pauline Murphy

A WEDDING photo, generally regarded as the country’s ‘most famous’, is to be auctioned later this month.

The item – which will be of interest to many in West Cork – is the 1921 wedding photograph of IRA leader General Tom Barry.

The photo is part of a sale of the libraries of former minister, the late Conor Cruise O’Brien, his wife Maire Mhac an tSaoi, and her father Sean MacEntee, the former Tánaiste.

The auction will take place on April 27th at Purcell Auctioneers in Offaly and boasts many items of historical interest, from documents to letters and memorial cards.

The group wedding photo has an estimated price of between €300 and €600 but, as with all items from the revolutionary era, it will draw high interest and the hammer price could well exceed the estimate.

The original photo is dated August 22nd 1921 and comes with a handwritten letter from Martin Browne who lists everyone in the picture.

The historic photo includes the bride Leslie Price and the groom Tom Barry, with Eamon De Valera wedged between the couple. Countess Markievicz, Eoin O’Duffy, Emmet Dalton, Harry Boland and Rory O’Connor are also in the photo, among many others.

What will be of most interest to West Cork eyes will be the inclusion of General Michael Collins in the photo, but he famously chose to stand at the back of the group with his head lowered.

Even though the photographer was hired and paid by Dáil Eireann, Collins still chose to shield his identity as he had done throughout the War of Independence in his quest to evade the authorities.

Exactly 12 months after the photo was taken Michael Collins was shot dead at Beal na Bláth.

The wedding group photo is one of the last pictures taken of comrades together before the civil war divided them and many in the photo, such as Collins, Harry Boland and Rory O’Connor died during that bitter conflict.

The photo is seen as a ‘who’s who’ of the revolutionary era, but not included are Sean Moylan and Liam Lynch. Their car broke down on the way to the wedding and they arrived late, missing possibly the most famous wedding photo in Irish history.

Tom Barry and Leslie Price wed at St Joseph’s Church on Dublin’s Berkeley Road before going to Vaughan’s Hotel on Parnell Square for the reception.

It became one of the social events of that summer and the Dáil even adjourned for the day so members could attend it.

The marriage of Barry and Price came out of tragedy during the War of Independence.

Price, originally from Dublin, arrived in West Cork in 1918 as a Cumann na mBan organizer. She got engaged to local IRA leader Charlie Hurley, but he was killed on the morning of the Battle of Crossbarry in March 1921. Before his death, Hurley asked Barry ‘to look after his girl’ if anything happened to him.

Five months later Barry and Price were married and remained a devoted couple for the rest of their lives.

General Tom Barry died in 1980, Leslie Price died four years later. The couple lie next to the Cork City Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery.