The Oliver Usher conducting an auction.

Antiques, furniture, and fine art auctioneer with a keen interest in heritage and nature


Oliver Usher


The death on Monday 16th January of Oliver Usher, the Kells-based antiques and fine art auctioneer, caused widespread sadness.

Even though he had been in poor health in recent times, his death came as a great shock to those who have had dealings with him over many years in business or in the various community and heritage activities he has been involved with in the town and county.

Usher's Auction Rooms on John Street in Kells has long been one of the county’s best known auction houses, where antique and high-class furniture auctions attracted bidders and buyers from across the country.

A native of Farrell Street in Kells, Oliver Usher traded in the antiques and fine arts business for over 40 years. He was also known for many years’ experience of conducting clearance auctions throughout the country, from country house sales to farm and yard, warehouse and factories, and had built up a huge clientele.

The auction rooms have featured many times on both RTÉ's ‘Nationwide’ and ‘The Dealers’.

For almost 45 years, Oliver appraised all manner of antiques and sold everything from high-end to horse tack, even a herd of deer on one occasion.

He had vast knowledge and passion for the business with a particular love of antiquarian books, local history, and nature and farming, which he acquired at his grandparent’s farm in Kilskyre.

Previously a sales representative for various companies, including a microwave oven manufacturer, he originally started selling furniture from his home, taking in container loads of stock from Scotland.

As this business developed, he applied for an auctioneer’s licence and became a member of the IAVI, conducting monthly clearance auctions on the first Friday of each month in the CYWS Hall, Navan. Sometime after this, the opportunity arose to purchase the former Regal Lager brewery in Kells, the current base of the business.

His father was a plumbing contractor, and the young Oliver often accompanied him to many of the old period houses around the area, which gave him his original interest in furniture and collectibles. His mother and aunt had a passion for auctions, and he would frequently travel the country with them hunting for all sorts of bargains.

He was known to never start a sale without his gavel, given to him as a gift upon receiving his auctioneering licence, by the late Edward Wrest of Lennox Street, Portobello, Dublin, whose family were restorers and dealers.

A career highlight was selling a 19th century bookcase which belonged to the family of Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the 1916 signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The bookcase achieved a price of IR£10,000 which was an exceptional price for its type in pre-euro days.

In 2014, an original Lalique glass piece in almost pristine condition sold at his auction for €4,700. This was over €1,000 more than a similar lot achieved in Bonhams in London earlier in the year.

Oliver Usher was himself a keen collector of books, in particular those on Irish interest, history, nature and travel. This interest was put to good use when he worked on ‘The Field Names of County Meath’ project. It was the first publication of its kind which chronicles names, old and new, for the fields and features of County Meath, which is now a template for other counties.

Oliver was chairman or joint chairman for a number of years of the Kells Heritage Festival, and long-time committee member. One of his abiding ambitions was to see a county museum established, and he hosted pop-up museums in his auction rooms as part of the festival. He had taken the Diploma in Local History in Maynooth College, and was always generous with his time and expertise.

As chairperson of the Girley Bog Meitheal for over five years, Oliver worked alongside the group to raise awareness of the bog's historical and biodiversity value. A member of the Boherquill Rambling Club, he enjoyed the bog walk at Girley, and walking and hiking at other locations around the country and abroad, sometimes fundraising for charities. A member of Irish Tour Guides, he gave guided tours of Girley Bog.

Chess, cards, scrabble, tennis, pitch and putt, swimming, and set-dancing were other interests, as well as beekeeping, and cycling to the farmers’ market in Clonmellon. He was president of Slane Bridge Club.

After attending primary school in Kells, Oliver attended secondary school in St Finian’s College in Mullingar. In 1978, he married Aideen McEntee, and they bought and renovated the old RIC barrack house at Scurlogstown, Kilskyre, restoring it to a family home.

In an interview in 2016, Oliver said that of all his memories from his auctioneering career, the ones that stand out most of all were the people of all descriptions which he met along the way, and their constant friendship and support from the beginning.

Oliver is survived by his wife, Aideen; family, Robert, Karen and Sarah; grandchildren, Alfie and Ellie; brothers, Cathal, Paul and Mark; sisters, Elizabeth Adams and Christine Foley; mother-in-law, Kitty McEntee; Fiona McEntee and all his cousins, extended family, aunts, neighbours, friends and his auction connections through the years.

A funeral took place on Thursday from St Colmcille's Church, Kells, to St Colmcille's Cemetery, with donations, if desired, to the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland or Irish Cancer Society.