Campaign to ‘save’ unique painting set to go under the hammer

The portrait of Lady Catherine Staples of Lissan House which will go under the hammer in London this month. Trustees of the house are attempting to raise �8k to bring the painting back to Churchtown.
The portrait of Lady Catherine Staples of Lissan House which will go under the hammer in London this month. Trustees of the house are attempting to raise �8k to bring the painting back to Churchtown.

TRUSTEES of a historic building are attempting to raise almost £8K to bring a special painting back to Cookstown District.

The portrait of Lady Catherine Staples of Lissan House, painted by local artist Martin Cregan, will go under the hammer in Bonham’s in London on April 17th. The unique oil painting is expected to fetch between £6,000 to £8,000 at the auction.

Trustees have now launched a campaign to ‘save’ the unique painting and bring it back to its Churchtown home.

The painting was sold off at the end of the 19th century after Lady Staples left the house following her husbands death. The auction will mark the first time the unique piece of art has been on the market since 1898.

“It would be a great tragedy if this painting were lost to the Lissan Collection for a second time when virtually none of the current contents of Lissan pre-date the Great Sale,” Trustee Kyle Leyden told the MAIL.

“With the ongoing costs of Phase 1 of the Restoration of the House combined with the set up costs for the opening of the Estate to the public in April, the Lissan House Trust is tragically not currently in a position to purchase this very important portrait for the collection without help and the Trust fear that the painting will be lost to the collection forever if something is not done.”

“It is thus that we are appealing to our supporters for help in attempting to secure this portrait for the house as one of the major pieces in the Collection.”

Catherine, Lady Staples, known as ‘handsome Kitty Hawkins’, was the very colourful wife of the Sir Thomas Staples, 9th Baronet of County Tyrone. Together they were one of the wealthiest and most fashionable couples in Ireland, owning the largest house on Merrion Square in Dublin and extending and beautifying Lissan House by the addition of the ballroom to serve a small orchestra which the pair had hired to live permanently at Lissan to entertain them, and the restoration of the exterior.

The pair had vast wealth and were very well connected. However, upon Sir Thomas’ death without legitimate heir, whilst he was obliged in Law to bequeath his title and the Lissan Estate to his nephew, Nathaniel, he left all his wealth, his town house and the contents of Lissan to Catherine.

She began a wholesale clearance of the Lissan Estate to her house in Dublin and when the new Sir Nathaniel arrived back from his job in the Indian Civil Service, he found the Estate much impoverished.

As a result, much of the remaining contents of the house were sold in 1898, including the oil painting of Lady Catherine Staples created by artist Martin Cregan, who lived with the Stewart family in Killymoon Castle, Cookstown when he was a young boy.

He was one of the major portrait artists of his time, and his work has previously been displayed in the Royal Academy.

A Facebook campaign has already been launched by the Trustees entitled: ‘20 Days to Save Part of Lissan’s Heritage’.

It states: “If you or someone you know might be able to offer any assistance in this regard, the Lissan House Charitable Trust would be most grateful for your help regardless of how small.

“Anyone who can help will have the privilege of being given permanent recognition on the Estate as being among the first Lissan Trust Benefactors at this very exciting time in the 400 year history of the Lissan Estate and will know that their invaluable help has helped secured a unique part of this heritage for posterity.”

The 128 by 101cm portrait, which is indistinctly signed and dated ‘1825’, will go under the hammer on April 17th.

If you think you may be able to help in any way to save the portrait, please contact the Lissan House Trust via private Facebook message or contact Lissan House on (028) 867 83312. You can also send an email to