Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘I want this to be as big as the Statue of bloody well Liberty!’
The old man is ordering a statue of Fr Fehily – with Panzer tanks and hippos, of course
“It needs to be big!” the old man goes. “Because everything about Fr Denis Fehily was big! His voice! His personality! His capacity for alcohol!”
Yeah, no, we’re in some workshop in deepest, dorkest – believe it or not – Wicklow, to meet some random sculptor dude. The old man is paying him to produce a statue of our old schools rugby coach to mork what would have been his 100th birthday this year.
“When you say big,” the sculptor dude goes, looking up from his sketchbook, “how big do you mean?”
I’m like, “Humungous.”
Yeah, no, he’s brought me and the goys along to advise him?
The dude’s there, “Humungous isn’t really a unit of measure. Can we be more specific? I mean, do you want it to be life-size?”
“No!” the old man goes. “Bigger than that! Much bigger!”
“Obviously, you don’t want it to dwarf the school building.”
“Of course I do! I want it to be as big as the Statue of bloody well Liberty!”
Fionn chimes in then – the voice of reason. “Er, Chorles,” he goes, “the Statue of Liberty is, like, 300 feet high. You, er, might need planning permission for something that tall.”
“As I once said to a former assistant city and county manager who shall remain nameless, ‘Planning permission will not be an issue for a man with pockets as deep as these!’ Lord rest his soul!”
“Also,” Fionn goes, “isn’t there a flight path above Castlerock College?”
“Oh, quite right, Fionn! It might be necessary to, em, scale back my vision somewhat! What about 30 feet high? Would that be taller than the school?”
“Then I think 30 feet high sounds about right!”
The sculptor dude goes, “Thirty feet high? Made of marble?”
“Morble – that’s right!”
“Do you have any idea how much that’s going to cost?”
The old man’s there, “I told you at the outset that money is not a concern! This was a man who taught three generations of O’Carroll-Kellys how to play the game of rugby! I will not stint in honouring his memory! And put a rugby ball in his hand – make sure it’s a Gilbert! That’s absolutely mandatory!”
The dude goes back to sketching. “You’re the boss,” he goes.
Fehily was a huge fan of the whole, like, Blitzkrieg thing? He actually tried to apply the principles of it to rugby
The old man sucks hord on his Cohiba, then blows smoke in our faces. He’s like, “So what else are we going to have on this statue? What else did Fr Fehily love, other than rugby?”
“Second World War military strategy,” JP goes.
The old man goes, “Yes! But how do we represent that in a statue?”
“I’ve got an idea,” it’s Oisinn who goes. “Fehily was a huge fan of the whole, like, Blitzkrieg thing? As in, he had hundreds and hundreds of books about it. Believe it or not, he actually tried to apply the principles of it to rugby. I remember before we played Pres Bray one year, he spent a whole day talking to us about the Ordennes Counteroffensive.”
Jesus, I remember that. It was long.
“What about some tanks then?” the old man goes.
The sculptor is like, “Tanks?”
“That’s right! Panzers! Draw them in!”
“How many do you want? Two?”
“What do you think, chaps? Two doesn’t sound very much like a Blitzkrieg, does it? What about eight? Is eight enough?”
Then we must have hippos! How many do we think, chaps? Ten? Ten hippopotamuses! Ten hippopotami!
The sculptor goes, “Ten? Are you serious?”
“Deadly serious! Put them in! Ten hippopotamuses! Ten hippopotami!
“Eight?” the sculptor goes.
“No, 10! And make them big ones as well!”
“He also loved hippos,” JP goes. “He spent a lot of years as a missionary in Botswana and he talked about hippos all the time.”
Christian’s there, “He actually ran a rugby club out there for the local kids and they were called The Molepolole Hippos.”
“Then we must have hippos!” the old man goes. “How many do we think, chaps? Ten?”
The sculptor goes, “Ten? Are you serious?”
“Deadly serious! Put them in! Ten hippopotamuses! Ten hippopotami!”
I’m there, “What about us?”
I was thinking, I should be standing at Fr Fehily’s right hand, holding the famous tinware aloft
The old man goes, “Us?”
“Yeah, no – as in me and the goys? Er, we’re still the only team from Castlerock College to win the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. We were, like, his pride and joy.”
“Oh, you absolutely have to figure, Ross! Good Lord! Il va sans dire, if you’ll pordon the French!”
“I was thinking – and this isn’t me being a dick – but I should be standing at Fr Fehily’s right hand, holding the famous tinware aloft and shouting, ‘For Mom! For Dad! For Rock! For God!’”
“Excellent idea, Kicker!”
“And the rest of the goys could be all gathered around me, staring at me and obviously thinking, ‘This dude is destined to go on and do amazing things in the game,’ even though I obviously didn’t.”
“One to 15, then?”
“No, you’d have to put the subs in as well.”
The sculptor dude keeps scribbling away until the old man eventually goes, “Okay, let’s see it then. How does it look?”
It’s absolutely focking humungous, which is what my old man loves most about it
It looks – being honest – un-focking-believable. A massive Fr Fehily in the middle with a rugby ball in one hand and a bottle of Jameson dangling from his fingers. He’s surrounded by the stors of the Castlerock College Senior Cup team of 1999, some of whom are sitting on the backs of hippos, some of whom are sitting in – like the old man said – Panzer tanks.
It’s absolutely focking humungous, which is what my old man loves most about it. He actually gets quite emotional after staring at the drawing for a good 30 seconds. “It’s a thing of exquisite beauty,” he goes, wiping away a tear with the back of his hand. “I only wish Denis were alive to see it.”
The sculptor goes, “I know you said you didn’t want to talk about money. But I do feel it’s only fair to tell you that a piece of work like this is going to cost something north of 10 million euros.”
The old man’s expression suddenly changes.
“North of 10?” he goes. “I’m wondering now do we really need so many hippos?”