Maps trader dies after 45 years at Angel shop
Tributes are paid to ‘wonderful storyteller’ who ran area’s longest-standing antiques business
22 November, 2019 — By Helen Chapman
Finbar MacDonnell inside his antiques shop at Pierrepont Row, Angel
ANGEL’S longest-standing antiques trader has died at the age of 86.
Finbar MacDonnell lived in Charlton Place, just a stone’s throw from his workplace of more than 45 years.
His shop in Pierrepont Row specialised in maps, caricatures of royalty and public figures, satirical cartoons and prints which dated back to the 17th century.
His daughter, Michèle MacDonnell Copeland, said: “He was very much a part of the community.
“He used to dress up as Father Christmas at the trade festivals in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Pierrepont Row traders remember Mr MacDonnell. From left: Kevin Page, Lynette Gray, Johnny Barnett, David Wiltshire, Honey Tilley, Pauline Coakley-Webb and Jacqueline Bulmer
A popular character, Mr MacDonnell was even hired by advertising agencies to feature on posters promoting brands of whiskey.
His specialist stock was sadly destroyed in the floods of December 2016 when a water main burst in Upper Street.
Some £100,000 worth of items was lost. It set his business back a year, reopening last January.
Ms MacDonnell Copeland was just seven years old when her father took over the antiques shop. She recalled learning about Queen Victoria and the potato famine through his prints.
She said: “I remember growing up and the world used to turn up at the door. It is a niche business. People would come from all over the place.”
Mr MacDonnell, a self-taught tradesman, would dress up as Dickensian characters when he was invited to give lectures at universities about his caricatures.
Mr MacDonnell with his business partner Ronald
He studied architecture at Trinity College Dublin, but his interest in prints and maps was piqued when his father, a solicitor from London, died in 1964. Mr MacDonnell discovered a batch of prints as he was clearing out his home.
“Finbar was the most wonderful storyteller,” said Adele Salem, owner of Four and Twenty Blackbirds clothes shop, next door to Mr McDonnell’s.
“Younger people were always entranced by his stories. He really helped and made a connection with them. He was very knowledgeable.
“He really liked stories, so when he was in hospital, I read him Gulliver’s Travels. He was enthralled by it.
“He was a gentleman. If he saw me out here in the cold, packing up at the end of the day, he would always offer to help. He will be very much missed.”
Mr MacDonnell passed away peacefully on October 22. He leaves behind children Michèle, Mark and James, and grandchildren Dominique, Lucy and Phoebe.
A memorial service will be held today (Friday) at St John’s Church, Duncan Terrace, N1, at 6.30pm.