Thursday, 2 January 2020

A new place in
Laytown for ‘Positivity,
Ambition and Pride’

Dearfachas, Uaillmnian and Bród … three horses by sculptor Lynn Kirkham at Colaiste na hInse in Laytown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

As I was walking from Laytown on my way to lunch in Relish in Bettystown earlier this week, I noticed how much had changed in such a short space of time – less than 18 months – since I had last visited these two coastal towns in Co Meath.

I have known this area since childhood summer holidays in the 1960s, and I got to know it better in my schooldays in Gormanston in the later 1960s.

Of course, much has changed in over half a century, but it is surprising how much changes even within a year and a half.

After admiring Linda Brunker’s Voyager looking out to the sea above the beach at Laytown, I then noticed Lynn Kirkham’s new sculpture in Laytown of three horses in bog oak.

I suppose white horses have been crashing onto the sands at Laytown beach for centuries, and of course many people have got to know the beach at Laytown and Bettystown because of the races on the beach.

But these three new horses at Colaiste na hInse are the work of the sculptor Lynn Kirkham, who has sculpted them from bog wood.

The horses, named Dearfachas, Uaillmnian and Bród, were unveiled in July 2018, and are the result of almost two years of hard labour, with 150 separate pieces of bog oak, ewe and pine put together by Lynn Kirkham.

She is originally from Lancashire and is now based in Templemore, Co Tipperary. She has completed a similar project at the Curragh racecourse, with the landmark sculptures of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his Hounds.

The school motto is ‘Positivity, Ambition and Pride,’ and these are the names she has given to the horses in the Irish language.

The work was commissioned by Louth and Meath Education and Training Board under the Percent for Art scheme to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Colaiste na hInse, a modern secondary school that was moving to a new purpose-built, permanent location. The work was also supported by an EU grant.

The sculpture depicts three horses galloping in the waves and was inspired by the Laytown races on the extensive Meath beaches where ‘White horses of the sea’ break dramatically onto the sand.

The horses are named Bród (Pride), Uaillmhain (Ambition) and Dearfachas (Positivity). Each shows a different character and pose to represent the key words in school motto at Colaiste na hInse.

The sculpture is made from bog oak, yew and pine, gathered by Tipperary farmers and took almost two years to make, including working outdoors through a hard winter and through a heatwave. The wood had to be processed and shaped, then fitted together with brackets on steel frames. The entire project was then dismantled so the frames could be galvanised and reassembled for siting.

Lynn Kirkham’s passion for horses and animals is seen through her other well-known sculptures, including Ghost Horses from the Bog and Fionn Mc Cumhaillle and his Hounds (Kildare County Council) and Free Spirit at Slane Whiskey Distillery.

The cross on the sandbanks behind the church in Laytown, Co Meath, looking out to the Irish Sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice’

‘We shall not cease from exploration’ … walking by the boatclubs on the River Liffey at Islandbridge on New Year’s Day is like walking along the Backs and the River Cam in Cambridge (Photograph: Parick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.


— TS Eliot, Little Gidding

‘And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

‘Little Gidding’ is the last poem in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Moving from last year’s words and language to the voice of this new year provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of time, the past, the present and the future.

A good place to do this on the afternoon of New Year’s Day was by the banks of the River Liffey in Islandbridge, and by the rowing clubs.

I am on my way back to Co Limerick from Dublin this morning for a new year in the parish. Time plays silly games with us as we move between one place and the next, from one year to the next.

Strolling along the riverside, between the enveloping dusk of the later afternoon and then in the Phoenix Park as sun set and winter darkness began to turn a winter evening into night, I had just a tinge of regret that I had not arrived at Islandbridge in time to walk by the river, the water, the weirs, the boat clubs and the tall trees reflected in the water.

Dublin University Boat Club began with the formation of the Pembroke Club in 1836. It amalgamated with the University Rowing Club in 1847 to become the Dublin University Rowing Club. This club was the first Irish club to field a crew at Henley Royal Regatta, and for the next 43 years it was by far the most successful Irish rowing club.

The DURC split in 1866 with and the formation of the Dublin University Boat Club. But the two clubs put aside their old differences in 1898 and were amalgamated under the name of the Boat Club.

The other clubs along this stretch of the river include the UCD, Commercial, founded in 1856, and Neptune Rowing Club, founded in 1906.

The walk along the south bank of the Liffey, from the Trinity boathouse, with the other clubs on the north bank of the river, is the nearest equivalent in Ireland to walking along the ‘Backs’ in Cambridge.

From there, two us continued on into the Phoenix Park, and caught glimpses of the setting sun in the trees beyond the grounds of the Phoenix Cricket Club.

Phoenix is the oldest cricket club in Ireland, founded in 1830, about five years before Dublin University Cricket Club, by John Parnell, the father of Charles Stewart Parnell, who was also a member for a short time.

Two early members, Lord Dunloe and Lord Clonbrock, were also on the 1833 members list at the MCC. Along with VE Alcock, they were mainly responsible for the club expanding and developing over its first 20 years, making it the ‘Premier Club of Ireland.’

Phoenix has been based in the Phoenix Park for almost its entire history, and has been at its present ground since 1847. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1970s, Phoenix was the dominant club in Leinster cricket.

The sun was setting, but the pink and orange streaks continued to light up the clouds and the sky for another hour or more. It was one of those winter evening that continued to delight, long after the sun had set.

But ‘what might have been … is always present,’ as TS Eliot reminds us in ‘Burnt Norton,’ his first poem in the Four Quartets. And I have promised myself more time this year for walks by rivers and the sea, in gardens and in the countryside.

‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future’ … sunset on New Year’s Day at the Phoenix Cricket Club in the Phoenix Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.


— TS Eliot, Burnt Norton

‘What might have been is an abstraction’ … on the River Liffey at Islandbridge, at the Dublin University boathouse on New Year’s Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)