Could Star Of The County Down be set in stone as part of public realm works?

A campaign to erect a statue to the girl who features in one of the most famous songs to come out of Ulster has been resurrected.

Rosie McCann is immortalised in the song The Star Of The County Down
Rosie McCann is immortalised in the song The Star Of The County Down

Rosie McCann is the subject of the ballad Star Of The County Down and in 2015 Finbar Lennon suggested Banbridge should put up a statue of her.

Finbar, 53, who lives outside Scarva, said: “I floated the idea a few years back with the council to see if it was a runner. The issue came up of costs and how it would be funded and so on.

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“Newry have a number of statues honouring its maritime history both in Sugar Island and along the Albert Basin, whilst other towns such as Dublin, Ballyshannon, etc immortalise their musical heritage in the likes of Molly Malone, Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott and Luke Kelly.

“Whilst Banbridge has the Crozier Monument and the War Memorial, there is nothing to commemorate its finest exponent, and one that is known throughout the world.”

The Irish ballad was written by Cathal MacGarvey from Donegall in the late 1800s. It is sung from the point of a view of a man infatuated with Rosie McCann – a nut-brown haired girl from the banks of the Bann. It has been covered on albums by both Van Morrison and The Pogues.

Finbar said: “I was working in London some years back. I was staying an Airbnb in Battersea with an Australian couple. They asked whereabouts in Northern Ireland I was from. I said, ‘you’ve probably never heard of it – Banbridge’.

“They said, ‘oh yes, Rosie McCann’. I couldn’t believe it. The song instantly resonated with them and they had hailed from the opposite side of the world.

“Travelling about you see statues of this one, statues of that one. The most famous person that Banbridge is known for throughout the world and they haven’t even a plaque on the wall.”

He said: “Banbridge Rugby Club when they win a match that’s the song they sing in the changing rooms.

“It’s a song for everyone from Co Down and beyond. It’s not orange, it’s not green. It’s Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann. Apparently she did exist and she was from out round the Ballydown area.”

Having initially come up with the idea for a statue of Rosie in 2015, Finbar said he has discussed it with the artist responsible for the Albert Basin statue in Newry, and he has also suggested to a number of local schools the idea of running an art competition to design the statue.

He said: “I didn’t push it any further other than garner local reaction at the time through a Facebook page, however with the Public Realm coming to fruition, this is perhaps the perfect opportunity?

“There is a public forum where you can put suggestions to the council.”

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Alistair Bushe