03 October 2017

Three quay-side
sculptures mark
different aspects
of life in Limerick

The Dockers’ Monument on Spokane Walk … part of the variety in public art in the heart of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Limerick has a rich collection of modern sculptures commemorating the cultural, sporting and economic life of the city.

Three of these monuments came to my notice last week as I walked along the Quays in the rain: the bronze statue of Sir Terry Wogan at the ‘Poor Man’s Kilkee,’ the Dockers’ Monument on Spokane Walk and the Seamen’s Memorial on Bishop’s Quay.

The bronze statue of Terry Wogan was unveiled earlier this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The bronze statue of the Limerick-born broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan (1938-2016) was unveiled earlier this year [24 June 2017]. It is close to Sarsfield Bridge, beside ‘Poor Man’s Kilkee’ on the Shannon quayside.

Terry Wogan was a freeman of Limerick, and frequently spoke his affection for Limerick. The sculpture is the work of the sculptor Rory Breslin, and depicts the BBC broadcaster sitting on a chair, microphone at the ready and a book in hand.

Local critics had wits have called the Wogan sculpture the ‘father of Ronaldo’ because of its supposed resemblance to a much-derided bust of the Real Madrid and Portuguese footballer. That statue at Madeira airport is said to resemble a clay model of Ronaldo left out in the rain for a week, but it too has become a tourist attraction.

The Dockers’ Monument on Spokane Walk (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Dockers’ Monument on Spokane Walk, opposite Bishop’s Quay, is a permanent tribute to the Limerick dockers, who dockers performed one of the most difficult and challenging ways to earn a living in the city.

This life-size bronze sculpture is the work of the Limerick-born artist Michael Duhan, whose father was a docker and worked on ships. In this work, he reflects with honesty and integrity the physical work and the camaraderie that existed among the dockers.

This sculpture, erected in 2010, was commissioned by Limerick City Council and funded by The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under the Limerick Main Drainage Percent for Art Scheme. The monument was first proposed in 2005 and commissioned after of five years of campaigning by the people who had ties to the docks.

The monument cost about €100,000, but work was delayed because financial support was difficult to guarantee. The council wanted to include the names of dockers who had worked on the docks and family members were requested to bring proof of employment on behalf of those who had died.

The sculptor Mike Duhan was born in Limerick 1956 he attended the Limerick School of Art and Design (1972-1974). He is currently a member of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios Dublin and has worked at the National College of Art and Design(NCAD), Dublin, since 1982.

Because Limerick’s quays were in the centre of Limerick City, they were used constantly, maximising wealth and profit. In recent years, Harvey’s Quay has been redesigned and redeveloped.

Spokane Walk, a boardwalk stretching along Bishop’s Quay, Howley’s Quay and Harvey’s Quay, is named after Limerick’s twinned city Spokane in Washington state. The boardwalk was upgraded in 2013 at an overall cost of €5 million.

The Limerick Seamen’s Memorial on Bishop’s Quay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Limerick Seamen’s Memorial on Bishop’s Quay commemorates the men from Limerick and Co Clare who died at sea during World War II on board three Irish merchant ships, the SS Kerry Head, the SS Irish Pine and the SS Clonlara.

The original proposal was to commemorate the fishermen who lost their lives at sea and were from around the Shannon Estuary. The monument has its back is to the River Shannon and it stands beside the Shannon Bridge, across from the Glasshouse Restaurant.

The SS Kerry Head was four miles east of the Old Head of Kinsale, carrying coal and some tinplate, when she was attacked by a German bomber on 1 August 1940. Germany apologised and offered to pay compensation. But on 22 October 1940, the SS Kerry Head was sunk during an air attack by the Luftwaffe, after a warning to cease exports. This resulted in the deaths of her 12 crew members died. No bodies were ever recovered, and Germany refused to accept liability.

On 22 August 1941, the SS Clonlara was sunk by torpedo from the U-564 in the North Atlantic. Only the six uninjured crew members returned home.

On 15 November 1942, the SS Irish Pine was sunk in the Atlantic by a single torpedo from U-608, which had followed the ship for about eight hours. The ship sank within two minutes, all 33 crew members drowned, and no wreckage or bodies were ever found.

The main section of the memorial is in the shape of an anchor. A base rock outlines and draws emphasis to the anchor itself. At the base of the statue, a list of men who died at sea in World War II was added in 2004.

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