Metal Man in danger of toppling into sea, say campaigners

Sligo County Council accused of neglecting the well-known landmark in Rosses Point

He has captivated everyone from painter Jack B Yeats to Westlife's Shane Filan, but campaigners say that one of Sligo's best-known landmarks, the Metal Man in Rosses Point, is at serious risk after years of neglect.

The 12ft tall figure which stands on a plinth at the mouth of the harbour, dressed as a British Royal Navy petty officer, has been in situ since 1821, having been commissioned after a number of ships were wrecked on Perch Rock near Oyster Island.

The extended arm of the Metal Man pointed the way to safe waters, but locals say that the much-loved figure now needs to be protected himself.

"Worst case scenario is we have a bad winter and he falls into the sea," said local resident Kieran Devaney, one of those behind the Save the Metal Man campaign.


The former Sky News producer has accused Sligo County Council of neglecting the well-known landmark which was cast by sculptor Thomas Kirk who also created Nelson's Pillar and the figures on top of the GPO in Dublin.

The Metal Man has a twin in Tramore, also cast by Kirk, who is apparently taller and more handsome. "He is six inches taller and in perfect condition," said Mr Devaney.

Being a favourite perch for seagulls has taken its toll on the Rosses Point version but locals are more worried about rust than droppings.

The Save the Metal Man campaign moved up a gear in advance of the May local elections when a poster campaign, financed by John Feeney who owns Austies pub in Rosses Point, was launched urging people to vote for the candidate "who will keep him alive".


The council, which took over responsibility for the seven ton navigation beacon from Irish Lights some years ago, recently told elected representatives that tender documents for the work had been finalised and “subject to availability of funding and favourable weather conditions, it is hoped that works can be concluded by end August 2019”.

Mr Devaney said he was concerned by the caveat regarding funding as “time is running out”.

He and local photographer Noel Kilgallon, who designed a series of cartoons for the local election campaign, say the Metal Man is at risk from rust and cracks, which will worsen over time.

“It needs constant attention from being undermined as there is a huge current going up and down there. It is a very narrow channel,” said Mr Kilgallon.

“In any other country there would be a preservation order on it. It would be a shame if anything happened to it coming up to its 200th birthday,” Mr Devaney said. Pointing out that the structure was synonymous with Rosses Point and with Sligo, he said: “this is the last thing people leaving this area during the famine would have seen”.

It also made an impression on the Yeats family when as children they stayed in Elsinore, a house in Rosses Point owned by their grand uncle William Middleton.

The Metal Man featured in a number of Jack B Yeats paintings including Memory Harbour which his brother, William Butler Yeats, described in his Reveries Over Childhood and Youth (1915).

More recently singer Shane Filan, who lives locally, demonstrated his affection for the Metal Man by posing for photographs for the Save The Metal Man Facebook campaign.

While Sligo County Council has indicated that work on the Metal Man will be completed by the end of August, Kieran Devaney warned: “Time is running out. We are not sure he will be able to survive another winter.”

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland