A rare painting of the Royal Yacht Squadron escorting Queen Victoria to Cork Harbour in August 1849 will highlight the sale at Woodwards on March 12. Visual records of this event – for which the harbour town of Cove was renamed Queenstown which remained its name until the late 1920’s when it reverted to the Irish name Cobh (pronounced cove) – are very rare. It was as Queenstown that it achieved worldwide fame as the last port of call of the Titanic and the place to where bodies recovered from the Lusitania were taken and eventually buried. Queenstown provided hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants with a last heartbreaking glimpse of their home country.
The Cobh based painter George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson provided one of the rare visual records of this event. He made several paintings of the Royal Squadron in the harbour and the landing of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Woodwards say that apart from a lithograph based on a drawing by one of the ship’s officers published in aid of the female orphan asylum in Cork and some wood engravings in the Illustrated London News that Atkinson’s paintings appear to be the only visual records to have survived. A one time ship’s carpenter, inspector of shipping and self taught marine painter, George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson was one of a family of Cobh painters. Now estimated at 25,000-25,000 it was last sold for 40,000 a couple of decades ago.