26 November 2019
Saintly sculpture by
a riverside walk in
On the way back from Sligo at the beginning of last week, two of us stopped in Carrick-on-Shannon, which straddles the River Shannon on the borders of Co Leitrim and Co Roscommon, to enjoy a riverside walk in the Linear Park.
There too I was pleased to see the beautiful sculpture of Saint Eidin, a local seventh century saint, by the West Limerick sculptor Will Fogarty of Fear na Coillte Chainsaw Sculptures.
Will Fogarty carved this new statue on the site and it was unveiled in August 2018.
Saint Eidin’s feast day is 5 July. She founded her convent on the shore of Lough Eidin, now known as Drumharlow Lake, just two miles from Carrick-on-Shannon. She died sometime before 700 AD.
She is the patron saint of Tumna parish and is buried in the ruins of a small church just north of Carrick-on-Shannon. Tuaim mná is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, and the names means ‘the tomb of the woman.’
In 1834, 11 purse gold balls believed to date back to 800 BC, were dug up near her convent ruins. Nine of the gold balls are on display in the National Museum of Ireland. The 11 bright stones at the foot of the statue are reminders of this find and of the prayer stones found at her tomb at Tumna.
Will Fogarty’s other sculptures include three sculptures in the Forge Park beside the river walk in Tarbert, Co Kerry. He was commissioned by the Tarbert Development Association in 2014 to work on the tall stumps of three trees that had to be shortened after the storms of the New Year in 2014. He cut two faces from fables into two of the stumps and the Salmon of Knowledge from the Fianna myth into the third stump.
The two faces are of wood spirits; one is ‘The Spirit of Night,’ asleep with a wise owl by his beard; the second face, ‘The Spirit of Dawn,’ is awake to represent the dawning of the day, and has fish jumping out of his beard.
A third image, ‘The Salmon of Knowledge,’ marks Tarbert’s connection with salmon fishing in the River Shannon and also celebrates the local centre of knowledge at Tarbert Comprehensive School.
Will Fogarty also fashioned a number of seats from the tops of the trees he felled, and these make for a perfect spot to stop at in the Forge Park these days and to enjoy the summer sunshine.
Will Fogarty also calls himself Fear na Coillte, in reference both to the wood spirits in his work and to myself. He lives in the foothills of the Ballyhouras in Co Limerick, surrounded by mountains and forests, and spends time walking in them with Wag, his Labrador.
He began carving some years ago with walking sticks and staffs, made from hazel he collected in those forests. He still makes them on commission, but evolved into chainsaw carving and found his passion.
Most of his work is on a commission basis following briefs from clients. A large part of his work is done on stumps that are left behind when a tree is felled. All his work is in wood that has been felled by nature or has been cut down in a way that is sustainable.