Locals restore second World War ‘Éire’ sign on Bray Head

Recently uncovered display was used as navigational aid by US planes

A group of volunteers have begun the process of restoring a second World War era "Éire" sign that was uncovered by a gorse fire on Bray Head. Video: Neat Media

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A recently uncovered Éire sign on Bray Head, Co Wicklow, which dates back to the second World War, has been cleaned and protected by a group of local volunteers.

The word Éire, spelled out in large granite boulders and placed in a prominent east facing position on Bray Head, was financed by then US minister to Ireland, David Gray.

Mr Gray ensured that charts showing numbered waypoints around the Irish coast were provided to the US air force as a navigational aid. The sign at Bray head was accompanied by the number eight, which identified the waypoint and a nearby lookout post.

In the event the sign may have also alerted aircraft bombers to the fact that they were over a neutral country and contributed to the fact that the area was not bombed by mistake.

Photograph: Neat Media
Photograph: Neat Media

North Dublin was not as successful and on the night of May 31st, 1941, four high-explosive bombs were dropped by German aircraft on the North Strand area of Dublin City. Some 28 people died and 90 more were injured, with 300 houses damaged or destroyed.

After the war the Bray Head sign was forgotten for decades and came to light only after severe gorse fires on the headland during the drought this summer.

In recent days, the huge granite stone letters forming the word “Éire” were cleaned down by local volunteers, the traces of the gorse fire now removed, revealing them as white against the still blackened earth.

Photograph: Neat Media
Photograph: Neat Media

Local man Aidan O’Toole said he approached another local Declan Carroll, managing director at Sika Ireland, who supplied weather-resistant paints, which were used to coat the boulders once they had been cleaned. Greystones locals Michael Larkin and Declan Hogan, also volunteered.

The four spent the best part of a week cleaning the rocks back and removing and cutting gorse roots around the bases, and on Saturday started to apply the all-weather paint.

Mr O’Toole’s business, Neat Media, released a video of the restoration while his musician friend and former League of Ireland player Robbie Doyle composed a song be used in the video. The video is available at the Neat Media Facebook page.

Mr O’Toole said he had approached the local council to ensure he was not interfering with a national monument and was hopeful that the sign would add to the attraction of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk. “It is just 50 metres off the path he said”. Ultimately he said, he would like Wicklow County Council to maintain the sign.

The team of volunteers are going to continue working on it over the next few weekends to get the rectangular surround and number eight above it, completely restored.

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