Sculpted by Se?n O'Dwyer
Seeing the meaning
When viewing a piece of sculpture one can see many different layers of meaning. The clues given here are only the first layer of meaning and are meant only as a gateway through which you can go on your way to see meanings of your own.
All local stories, myths and legends are preserved to carry a message. Howth has a wonderful past and from it certain themes emerge.... exploration, conflict, healing and preservation. I have depicted figures in the Ready Boat Pillar as calling out, inviting you to listen, to listen to this Silent Language of Art so that you can hear the message of this work.
The Howth "Ready Boat Pillar" began as part of the Art Council's "Art and Industry Programme" at the artists initiative. I set to work with Ace Mouldings (DIY. & Industrial Moulds) of Dublin, Techrete Ltd (the local pre-cast can concrete industry) and the Community of Howth. It is mainly thanks to them working in conjunction with Howth Tidy Towns Committee that the sponsorship in kind for this project was raised. The level of co-operation and goodwill I received cannot be Measured.
The sculpture is made from Pigmented Reconstituted Granite. The Work is composed of 14 Elements: The Pillar itself, one full round sculpture on its top, 4 Portrait Panels, 4 Story Panels and 4 Repeat Panels. Each of the upper portrait panels refers to a personage from mythology of Howth and they are related to the stories that are depicted in the panels beneath them. The 4 sides of the Pillar represent the Ancient, Early Christian, Medieval and Modern History of Howth.
Portrait Panel 1, Ancient Times
One of the earliest references to a people who colonised Ireland, at the first stages of its development, tells of Cesair, daughter of one of the sons of Noah who came here to escape the great flood.
Story Panel 1
This is inspired by the "Siege of Etar", an event that took place in what was then known as Dunboe, the Cow Fort. Aitherna, a poet and ambassador for the great Conchobar Mac Neasa, the High King of Ireland, while on his way back from a raid, was crossing the Liffey, when he was attacked by the Leinstermen wishing to regain "the spoils of war" stolen from them: 150 women and 700 cows. Aithema was besieged at Ben-Na-Dair (an ancient name for Howth). There he awaited the eventual rescue mission provided by the Red Branch Knights.
Son of Nessan
Portrait Panel 2, Early Christian Times.
This shows one of the Three sons of Nessan who were known to be holy men of "exceptional piety, love and peace", who came to found a church on Ireland's Eye.
The Temptation of the Son of Nessan.
Story Panel 2
One of the Sons of Nessan was tempted by Satan on Ireland's Eye. The Saint, who was studying the Scriptures in the illuminated manuscript known as "The Garland of Howth", picked up the book and threw it at his annoying tempter. The blow of his book was so great that the devil was blown away, over the Puck Rock which split under the shock of the impact. There, as evidence to this day, lies the image of the devil imbedded in the rock.
The Wounded King
Portrait Panel 3, Medieval Times.
King Almeric was the first Lord of Howth, from whom the St. Lawrence family are descended. By Tradition he himself was a descendant of Sir Tristam one of The Knights of the Round Table.
That which Heals.
Story Panel 3
The legend goes that King Almeric after a battle was found leaning on his shield and left for dead beside a rose bush, from which he plucked some petals to place on his wounds.
King Almeric survived to fight many other battles. The St. Lawrence family coat of Arms bears the motto "That which heals."
The Daughter of To-day
Portrait Panel 4, Modern Times.
The Daughter of to-day will be tomorrow. She is a figure that represents the results of these recent centuries and our hopes and aspirations for the future.
The Hill of Oaks
Story Panel 4
Inspired by the origins of one of the names of Howth, "Ben-na-Dair". At one time Howth was covered in these oak trees. The panel also refers to "The Bloody Stream" because of the many battles fought in its vicinity.
As a result of the abduction of the heir to the Lord of Howth by Grace O Malley because she was refused hospitality at the castle, an agreement was reached that in return for the heir, a place would always be set at the dinner table and the gates always left open should any weary traveler drop by. This tradition remains to this day.
The Ready Boat
Stories of the sea aboun in legends and feature as an important backdrop to the events in Howth right from its beginning. Men and women risked and lost their lives often when trey braved the treacherous currents and winds of the Irish sea. There is a story that after losing an important battle the Tuatha De Dannan promised that a boat would always be kept at the ready in Howth for any emergency. I have represented this boat on top of the pillar attended to by figures who wai still for that moment when someone may be in need.