Master of Victorian Sculpture & Eyre Square

Saturday, 26 May, 2018
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The O’Connell Monument in Dublin is widely considered to be the finest work of Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, who was born 200 years ago this week. But how many Galwegians know that Eyre Square was once adorned with a statue by this master of Victorian sculpture?

Eyre Square

While still working on the O’Connell Monument, Foley was commissioned to create a monument to Ulick Canning de Burgh (1827-1867), Lord Dunkellin. He was the eldest son of the Marquis of Clanricarde, a wealthy land magnate who lorded over one of the largest estate in Co. Galway. Dunkellin had served as MP for both Galway and Co. Galway, before succumbing to Bright’s disease in 1867.

Unveiled in 1873, Foley’s memorial consisted of a 2.5m bronze statue of Dunkellin on top of a Peterhead red granite pedestal, which stood on two steps of Aberdeen granite. The memorial committee was impressed with the outcome, stating that “in none of the great works, which have given him world-wide celebrity, has he shown more generous and skill than in the present instance, where, with only the slender assistance of a photograph, he has been enabled to produce the faithful likeness”. Dunkellin overlooked the square for almost a half century, before being torn down in 1922 by the Town Tenant’s League as ‘a symbol of landlord tyranny’. The statue was dumped in the Corrib (and disappeared overnight) and the plinth was re-used as a base for a monument to the Castlegar Volunteers on the Tuam Road. In the mid-1930s, a statue to Pádraic Ó Conaire was unveiled on the same site.

On Saturday 26 May at 3.30pm, Galway City Museum will screen a film entitled John Henry Foley – Sculptor of the Empire, directed by Sé Merry Doyle, to mark the 200th anniversary of Foley’s birth.

Admission is free but advance booking is advised.

To book a place please contact the Museum on (091) 532460.