‘Icons of Limavady’ sculpture set commissioned

LEADING artists have been commissioned by Limavady Borough Council to create a series of five life-size sculptures, highlighting the myths and legends of the Roe Valley’s rich cultural heritage.

In a project, described by SDLP Councillor Gerry Mullan as one of the greatest he has ever had the privilege to be a part of in more than a decade of service on the council, prominent artists have been commissioned to create five sculptures dotted around tourist hotspots in the Roe Valley.

The five pieces to be commissioned include one of Manannán mac Lir, the Celtic God of the sea whom the Isle of Man is named after, overlooking the Foyle and the Atlantic from the breathtaking panorama at Gortmore, just off the Bishop’s Road.

Another sculpture will be created of Cushy Glen, the notorious highwayman who stalked the lonely mountain road to Coleraine for vulnerable travellers and who gave that route the macabre moniker of the ‘Murderhole Road’.

A sculpture of the last serpent in Ireland will be created at Feeny picnic area; the hideous Lig Na Paiste, which was said by the ancient Irish inhabitants of the Roe Valley to reside in a pool at Banagher Glen before it was driven down to the depths of the Foyle by a local Saint from the emerging Irish tradition of Christianity.

A dramatic sculpture of an Irish wolfhound has also been commissioned, which will be created in the Roe Valley Country Park where it will be depicted leaping from the O’Kane’s rock in a recreation of the story which gave Limavady its name, ‘Liam an Mhadaigh’ or the Leap of the Dog.

The final piece of artwork in the Limavady Borough’s sculpture trail will depict Rory Dall O’Cahan and the lament of the O’Cahans.

In one interpretation of the origins of the music discovered by Jane Ross and later used in the now world famous song ‘Danny Boy’, legend has it that the harpist sometimes known as ‘Blind Rory’, wrote the original tune in memory of the passing of his chief, Sir Donnell O’Cahan, and the end of the line for the O’Cahan Chiefs of Ulster.

The song composed by Blind Rory Dall O’Cahan was intended to convey the depth of pain felt by his fellow O’Cahan’s at this tragic occurrence. This story will be depicted in sculpture at Dungiven Castle Park.

Three of the pieces will be created by Maurice Harron, whose iconic work includes the ‘hands across the divide’ at the end of the Craigavon Bridge in Londonderry and the ‘Let the Dance Begin’ piece in Strabane affectionately referred to as the ‘Tinnies’.

His ‘Hands Across the Divide’ sculpture has become something of a defining image of Londonderry since its completion around two decades ago. Mr Harron has similar hopes for the sculpture trail he will be working on in Limavady.

He told the Sentinel about his thoughts on the project. He said: “I will be doing work at three different sites – Largantea, the Roe Valley Country Park and Feeny. The three I’ve designed are the Leap of the Dog, ‘Liam and Mhadaigh’. It is going to be in steel and hopefully very eye catching. It will be on the actual rock – it should be very eye catching, at least I hope it will.

“In Feeny it will be of this serpent, coming out of the river.

“The third is the highwayman, Cushy Glen. It is going to be in the actual location where this guy operated. It will be from a stone block, abstract.

“There are such great stories, mythology and history. It started off as a ‘tourist trail’, which could be photographed and used as symbols of the area. You could easily build on their story-telling heritage.

“It should be a bit of fun for people to see things like this. People will become more aware of their locality.”

Northern Ireland Tourist Board announced back in that they will provide £30,000 of funding, to be matched by Limavady Borough Council, to support the ‘Explore, See, Do Arts and Sculpture Trail’ project.