Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 07:30 UK

Autograph hunter's amazing collection

Montage of famous people who gave Tommy Scullion their autograph
Tommy Scullion collected thousands of autographs, from Mother Teresa to Charles Manson

By Greg McKevitt
BBC News

Tommy Scullion spent more than 50 years collecting autographs of famous people, from Carlos the Jackal to Carol Smillie.

The County Antrim man died suddenly in 1996, having gathered more than 40,000 signatures of what amounts to a who's who of the 20th century.

His collection is being auctioned later this month by autograph specialist Richard Davie, who says the various lots could fetch a total of as much as 50,000.

"It's an extraordinary variety of people, from people like Pablo Picasso, Grace Kelly, General Franco right up to modern-day celebrities," he says.

"There aren't any that are astonishingly rare but there's a nice signed photo of Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin - that's got an estimate of 300 to 400."

Tommy's brother Wilson is auctioning the collection to raise money to build a museum in his home village of Broughshane.

"Tommy wrote in his will that he wanted the autographs to go to the local museum, but at that stage there was no such thing so we've been working to create it," he says.

He began collecting signatures during World War II, when he was in his mid-teens.

"Tommy had taught himself calligraphy, and he would write a beautiful letter, charming them a bit - he would get lovely letters back, congratulating him on his writing," says Wilson Scullion.

"He used to buy American magazines like Look, Time and the Saturday Evening Post, where he would get names, and sometimes addresses.

"Remember, there was no internet then, so if he didn't know where somebody was, he would write to an embassy or a war office - he did that all his life."

Tommy was a bachelor who worked as a grocery delivery driver, and Wilson Scullion says autograph hunting was just one of his many interests.

"He was well-known to the postman, because Tommy got as much mail as the rest of the village combined. Big envelopes containing photos were arriving all the time from America.

"They would end up in a box, before being put in a wardrobe or up in the loft. He would sometimes try and catalogue them, but basically it was a really interesting hobby for him."

Richard Davie says the collection goes from one extreme to another, with Charles Manson and the Kray twins mingling with the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.

Remember, there was no internet then, so if he didn't know where somebody was, he would write to an embassy or a war office - he did that all his life
Wilson Scullion
Tommy's brother

Despite the big names, Mr Davie says the signatures were not kept in any fancy albums or presentation cases.

"He wrote to these people, got their autographs back in the post, opened the envelope, looked at it then put them in storage - I'm not sure if he ever looked at them again," he says.

In the world of autograph hunting, Mr Davie says big names from television are not as sought after as those who have achieved lasting fame.

"Items signed by people who have achieved something significant in history like Alexander Fleming, who will continue to be a household name, will always continue to rise in value," he says.

"Unfortunately for someone like Carol Smillie, as delightful as she is, once she's off television people will forget about her and the autograph won't be worth as much.

"Her autograph is in a big lot of television presenters, about 300 of them, which will probably fetch about 100 or so. It's a reflection of the market really."

The auction takes place on 12 July at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel at Heathrow airport.

How do you spot a fake autograph?
03 Apr 08 |  Magazine
Depp named 'best autograph giver'
17 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Babes' autographs fetch 12,000
04 Oct 06 |  Manchester

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific