Lucknow Kavanagh's VC to be auctioned in London

Lucknow Kavanagh's VC to be auctioned in London

THE famous Indian Mutiny ‘Siege of Lucknow’ Victoria Cross awarded to Irishman Thomas Henry Kavanagh will be sold by Mayfair-based Auctioneers Noonans on September 14, in a sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria.

This was the first civilian V.C. of five to be awarded and is one of only two not currently in a museum.

It has an estimated auction price of between £300,000-£400,000. Kavanagh, born in 1821 in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, was employed as a clerk in the Lucknow Office in the Bengal Civil Service prior to the siege.

In November 1857, he volunteered to leave the safety of the Residency disguised as a Sepoy – an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders – accompanied by a Brahmin scout.

The pair jostled past armed rebels through the narrow Lucknow streets and talked their way past sentries in the moonlight, crossed deep rivers, tramped through swamps and narrowly avoided capture after startling a farmer who raised the alarm. On finally reaching a British cavalry outpost, Kavanagh delivered Outram’s vital despatch to Sir Colin Campbell and guided the army column to the Residency garrison where they rescued the British contingent.

Oliver Pepys, auctioneer, medal specialist and associate director at Noonans told The Irish Post: “Kavanagh was decorated with the highest honour for undertaking an epic quest to escape the surrounded Residency at night, crossing enemy lines, making contact with the camp of the commander-in-chief, and then using his local knowledge to guide the relieving force through the city to the beleaguered garrison by the safest route.”

Kavanagh was presented with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in a special ceremony at Windsor Castle.

A tour of England and Ireland further enhanced his celebrity while the publication of his account of the Siege, How I won the Victoria Cross.

Paintings of Kavanagh donning Indian disguise became an enduring image of the Defence of Lucknow, ensuring that he became a Victorian legend.

“Few histories of the conflict are without an image of ‘Lucknow Kavanagh’,” according to Oliver Pepys.

Thomas Kavanagh died in Gibraltar on November 13, 1882, and is buried at North Front Cemetery, Gibraltar.

Noonan’s are an internationally renowned auctioneers company who have specialised in medals and coins for many years, and since 2015 banknotes and jewellery as well, will continue to be based at their Mayfair salesroom in Bolton Street, London W1.

First generation Irishman Pierce Noonan, CEO of Noonans told The Irish Post:

“My father was born in Cashel, Tipperary in 1933 and I have been able to trace my Irish Ancestry back as far as 1815 to one of my great grandfathers. He was also called Pierce Noonan and also lived in Cashel.

“I still retain strong links with Ireland and Cashel in particular. So I am always very interested when lots such as this come up.”