From Tom Shiel
A metallic Monsignor James Horan standing 9 foot tall was unveiled yesterday (Sunday) on the main approach road to Knock Airport, Co. Mayo. The unveiling of the bronze sculpture was performed by the Monsignor’s nephews and nieces on what would have been his 102nd birthday.
A large crowd attended the unveiling ceremony including An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who listened intently to all the speeches but did not speak. The sculpture was executed by Newbridge, Co Kildare based Barry Linnane whose previous works include Temple Bar Man, Ark of Thought and Memory (Cork County Council) and Justice Figure (Nenagh Courthouse).
The bronze figure stands against a backdrop of bogland and farmland and has an inscription at the base — “From Famine fields to jet streams”. Relatives of the Monsignor gathered for the occasion included Eileen Grimes, Jimmy Horan, Bart Horan, Deirdre Cullen, Padraig Fannon and Padraig Horan.
Mayo County Council, which was represented by the County Manager, Peter Hynes and the Cathaoirleach of the authority, Councillor Cyril Burke, had, on behalf of Swinford Community Recreation Centre Ltd., invited submissions from experienced artists for the public art project.
The present parish priest of Knock, Fr. Richard Gibbons said the Monsignor had been “the right man at the right time to give that sense of hope in dark days, days that we are kind of experiencing once again.”
Fr. Gibbons told the large gathering: “It’s an occasion of hope, a great occasion. It’s an occasion of the man himself and we give thanks to God for it all.”
The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Michael Neary, a member of the Trust which runs the airport, referred to Monsignor Horan as the architect and the builder of so much that is now the infrastructure for the west of Ireland and then brought the Pope to Ireland. “His boundless vision and his resourcefulness are legendary”, Dr. Neary stated.
Members of the Castlerea Brass and Reed Band entertained the attendance and Knock based singer Brendan McGuinness rounded off the proceedings with a stirring and fitting rendition of “Monsignor James Horan – Man of the People”.