Statue of satirist Pádraic Ó Conaire to be cast in bronze
Replica of stone statue of ‘Galway’s Chekhov’ may be unveiled in Eyre Square
Were he alive to puff his pipe, Galway writer and satirist Pádraic Ó Conaire would have had a chuckle or two about his latest adventure – or that of his likeness, cast in stone.
The 80-year-old statue of the author of M’Asal Beag Dubh and Deoraíocht has been loaded on to a big steel truck – rather than a little black donkey – and taken to Dublin, where a bronze replica will be made.
Ó Conaire, who has been compared to Chekhov and Maupassant, was just 46 when he died in Dublin in 1928. He is regarded as Ireland’s first professional prose writer in Irish, although he never earned more than £700 (€960) from his work.
The life-size limestone image of him made by sculptor Albert Power was unveiled by Eamon de Valera on Easter Sunday 1935, and it became as familiar to Galway’s Eyre Square as Clerys clock to Dublin city centre.
However, the statue began to rival the writer himself in notoriety after it was decapitated in April 1999. Four youths with addresses in Armagh were subsequently charged with criminal damage after the head was found in a bag.
Damage was estimated at £50,000 at the subsequent court hearing.
Galway sculptor Mick Wilkins carried out the necessary surgery, restoring the head using steel rods to merge the plaster.
As Eyre Square was undergoing its controversial and very expensive refurbishment, the statue was moved to Galway City Council headquarters, and then to the Galway City Museum, for safekeeping.
However, councillors believed Eyre Square – as in Kennedy Park – was not quite the same without the little man.
Four years ago, they voted to have a replica made and a budget of €50,000 was finally allocated this year.
Gary McMahon, Galway City Council’s arts, culture and communications senior executive officer, said this work was expected to take up to 10 weeks.
The original statue was required at the foundry to create an accurate mould and it would be returned in due course, he said.
The bronze sculpture – far more resilient than stone – may be unveiled in another location in Eyre Square.
As part of the project, and in preparation for next year’s centenary of the 1916 Rising, the city council has commissioned actor and writer Diarmuid de Faoite to translate and present Ó Conaire’s work, Seacht mBua an Éirí amach.
This series of stories in Irish was written after the events of the Rising and first sold to republicans returning from Frongoch internment camp in Wales.
Each story related directly to the events of 1916, looked at from various socio-economic and political viewpoints, Mr McMahon said.
His best known work, M’Asal Beag Dubh, comprised essays on the delights of open air life. He spent his final years teaching Irish in Galway and left only a pipe, tobacco and an apple behind after his death.