Tommy Scullion collected thousands of autographs, from Mother Teresa to Charles Manson
By Greg McKevitt
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.
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.