The new novel imagines Collins’ reaction as a driver

By Emma Connolly and Pauline Murphy

FORMER Irish Times a reporter imagined what the driver of the car transporting Michael Collins might have seen on the day of his death.

In his new novel, Sean Hillen, former foreign correspondent for The Irish Timesuses the device of a mysterious diary found in the attic of an old stone cottage in Donegal to uncover long-kept secrets about the assassination of Collins 100 years ago.

In his historical fiction, Hillen gives his own dramatic interpretation of a tragic event that shaped the future of Ireland for generations.

“The murder of Collins, the most popular man in Ireland at the time, remains the country’s most notorious unsolved murder,” said Hillen, whose book is available on Amazon.

‘He could easily have been the leader of the nation and, unlike Eamon De Valera, who associated himself closely with the Catholic Church, Collins had little respect for the Church and more for the socialist traditions of those who died at Easter 1916.

‘As such, Ireland might be a very different country today if Collins had lived. Certain people in high places were fully aware of this and with Collins’ victory in the Civil War, it was important to them that he be eliminated, and quickly.’

Hillen imagines a fictional diary, found in a cottage in Donegal, around which much of the novel’s tension revolves, written by the driver of the armored car Collins was in when he was shot in the head, dying on the side of the road. That driver saw everything that happened that fateful day, but was afraid to speak out because of the all-pervasive power and influence of those people who planned the ambush, Hillen writes.

Meanwhile, a shillelagh stick that once belonged to the Big Fella sold for €4,000 at a recent auction. The staff is pierced for hanging and was handed down by the Collins family. It went to auction at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers in Co Kilkenny.

Invoices for the negotiating team of the Treaty of London in 1921 sold for €3,200. The two-page typescript included handwritten accompanying notes by the meticulous Collins.

A short handwritten letter by Collins from 1919 sold for €2,100, while a letter from Collins from 1920 asking for information about an unnamed person of interest sold for €3,900. An interesting item called ‘The Big Fella’s Seal of Approval’ – a silver seal, two inches high and engraved with ‘MC’ sold for €4,800. Collins used it to seal government documents during his short time at the helm of the Irish Free State.

The highest price paid for a Collins item at auction was a cryptic letter he wrote in 1920. The letter, written on Irish Volunteer headquarters paper, was sold for €5,800.

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