The Zulu War Medal awarded to Cork born Michael Minihan – one of the defenders of Rorke’s Drift in the Zulu War – sold for a remarkable £70,000 hammer price (£84,000 when auctioneers commission is added) at Dix Noonan Webb in London today. The pre-sale estimate was £26,000 to £30,000. Bidding quickly soared past the estimate and eventually it was a contest between a telephone bidder and a bidder in the room.
“The defence of Rorke’s Drift, immortalized in the film Zulu, remains one of the most epic actions in military history,” said Will Bennett, spokesman for Dix Noonan Webb. “Medals to the 150 strong garrison do not come onto the market all that often and so bidders competed strongly to own this important reminder of the bravery shown by Minihan and his comrades.”
The medal was bought by a British private collector bidding in the room. It was a record price for a medal to a Rorke’s Drift defender who was not awarded the VC. Michael Minihan was one of 16 Irishmen known to be among the 150 strong British garrison which fought off an attack by up to 4,000 Zulu warriors. No less than eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded for the defence of the mission station – the former trading post of Irish merchant James Rorke. The 1964 film Zulu starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine was based on this battle.
(See post on antiquesandartireland.com for November 30, 2016)