Friday 10 June 2016

New monument celebrates Ireland and its Diaspora

The central structure within the 'Ring-Fort' represents
the Diaspora. The entire monument was built
in the dry stone walling tradition with no mortar.
The day job took me to the Lough Boora Wetlands Park in Co. Offaly a couple of weeks ago to see the newly completed Gathering of the Stones monument. While the structure isn't connected to genealogy, there is a strong Diaspora theme to this interesting three-year project, undertaken entirely by volunteers.

The Gathering of the Stones monument is modelled on a ring-fort – the most common archaeological site to be seen in the Irish landscape – and its curved outer walls have been constructed in four parts to represent the four provinces. Each wall has been built using natural stone from that province and in one of Ireland's strikingly distinct vernacular dry stone
walling styles.

The flags of the four provinces have been expertly carved
into stone on the 'interior' wall of the central tower. Here,
the Leinster flag has been cut from Irish Blue limestone.
At its centre is a low circular tower which represents the 5th province of Ireland, described by the designers as 'the individual, creativity, imagination and the Diaspora'.

The 'floor' of the open-topped tower has been laid in stone slabs, set out in cruciform shape, from the oldest immigration docks in the world. Named the 'Emigrant Stones', these have travelled to Ireland from Battery Park in New York, where they had lined the quayside used by hundreds of thousands of newly-arrived Irish emigrants since 1700. Other stones came from Holyhead Breakwater Quarry and the Ffestiniog Railway, both in North Wales.

Four impressive stone carvings, each representing the flag of one of the provinces, are set into the 'interior' side of the tower.

If you're in the area, take a detour and a short walk to visit the monument. It's worth it, not just for the excellent traditional skills on view, but also because it is proof of what can be achieved by determined volunteers with a little help
and generosity from others.
The centrepiece of the tower's paved floor is a carved
map of Ireland with the location of the monument
indicated at the very centre of the island.

In this particular case, the generosity came from quarry owners and stone suppliers, who donated more than 380 tons of natural stone from all corners of Ireland, as well as ship freight companies, and many others, all moved to contribute to the building of a permanent monument to Ireland and all its people and to celebrate Ireland's rich dry stone wall heritage.

It's quite easy to find, being just 200 yards from the hide (and car park) beside Lake Boora at the centre of the park.

It was the first time I'd visited Boora and I recommend it to anyone who loves big skies, water, birds and wide open spaces. Beautiful.

Lough Boora Park -– wide open spaces at the centre of Ireland