Behind the Small Ads“He gave it to me as the eldest son to mind for the family – which I haven’t done a good job of.” 

As heard on Today with Claire Byrne

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By his own admission, Today with Claire Byrne reporter Brian O’Connell’s long-standing interest in classifieds – the small ads – is bordering on obsession. This is good news for us though, as Brian brought us more stories behind the small ads on Tuesday’s programme. One of his best sources through the years has been The Echo newspaper in Cork and it’s in the Lost and Found section of that paper where the first of his latest batch comes from: 

“Lost some years ago – a silver ring, made from an old silver shilling. Slight engraving on front. Small notch at the back. Reward €350.” 

Having made contact with the advertiser, Brian found himself in a man’s home in Cobh, where he heard that the ring was made by the man’s father, Joe Stockdale, an Old IRA veteran who was imprisoned in Arbour Hill Prison in the 1930s. The Irish shilling at the time was made of 75% silver and this made it relatively easy to shape into a ring.  

“If you were in prison, you had plenty of time to tap it off a wall. The prisoners used to engrave a very slight engraving. Most republican families of the time would have had those rings... He gave it to me as the eldest son to mind for the family – which I haven’t done a good job of.” 

It’s been a while since the ring was lost. What are the chances that it shows up any time soon? 

Brian confessed to told Claire that one of his favourite sections in small ads is the Bridal section. And, although there aren’t as many ads as usual at the moment – presumably because there aren’t as many weddings as usual – Brian was still able to find ads of interest in the Never Worn area. He spoke to a woman who had two dresses up on DoneDeal. They were, as Brian told Claire, “what might be described as mother of the bride dresses.” The woman and her friend were going to wear these dresses to her niece’s wedding, but it’s been postponed until 2022. One of the calls she got expressing interest in the dresses turned out to be a scam: 

I got a big long email that said due to work commitments, she couldn’t come and look at the dress and all the rest of it. And then she said, I’m actually in Croatia and what I’ll do is I’ll send a courier and then I’ll pay you by PayPal’.  

Seller beware, it seems. The final small ad Brian surfaced for us related to Jack Doyle, the actor, boxer and singer who was also known as the Gorgeous Gael. The ad was for a signed photograph of Doyle with his film star wife, Movita – who later married Marlon Brando – and Brian spoke to the man selling it: 

“My father was a neighbour of his. They came from the same area called the Holy Ground in Cobh in Cork... We grew up with the name Jack Doyle. It was revered in our home… I bought a signed photograph of both Jack and his then-wife, Movita.” 

There’s been very little interest in the Jack Doyle memorabilia, but the man Brian spoke to is confident that a collector is out there who’ll be willing to snap them up at a bargain €70. “You’d probably take €50, Brian suggested. “I’d probably take €90 as well,” the man replied, quick as a flash, “so we’ll see.” 

You can hear Brian’s full report for Today with Claire Byrne here. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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