Dedicated to countless generations of seafarers that navigated Europe’s Atlantic seaboard since Mesolithic times.
Am gaeth i m-muir,Am tond trethan,Am fuaim mara,Am dam secht ndirend,Am séig i n-aill,Am dér gréne,Am cain lubai,Am torc ar gail,Am he i l-lind,Am loch i m-maig,Am brí a ndai,Am bri dánae,Am gái i fodb feras feochtu, Am dé delbas do chind codnu,
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe? Cia on co tagair aesa éscai?Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne?Cia beir buar o thig Tethrach?Cia buar Tethrach tibi?
Cia dám, cia dé delbas faebru a ndind ailsiu?Cáinte im gai, cainte gaithe.
Story and History. According to legend, the Milesians, set out from Galicia in Northern Spain with thirty boats after Íth spotted Ireland on the horizon from a tower. The daring voyage leads them to Inber Sceine, Ballinskelligs Bay, where the poet Amergin claimed Ireland with the first poem in the Gaelic language. They settled on the island of Ireland after defeating the supernatural Tuatha Dé Danann, the tribe of the Goddess Danu, in battle, banishing them to the underworld. While set in the late Bronze Age, the events are considered an early Christian pseudohistory to anchor Irish genealogy within a biblical context. However, local toponymy adopted many of the legendary protagonists and associated them with prehistoric sites and landmarks, including Inber Scéne, the Eightercua Alignment, Tech Duinn or Bull Rock, Lough Currane (Irish Loch Luigdech) and Carraig Éanna.
Metaphor and Metamorphosis. The sculpture Árthach Dána (Irish for daring or artful vessel) celebrates the cultural and maritime heritage of Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula and marks Waterville’s central place in Irish mythology. Like the 11th century poem The Song of Amergin in the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann (Book of Invasions) that inspired it, the sculpture is bold, yet artfully embodies the coastal environment of Ireland’s Celtic seaboard. Its complex form responds to the ancient text (interpretation by Paddy Bushe below), the myth of the Milesian invasion and sun-barge symbolism in European prehistory. Yet, the semi-abstract sundial sculpture is also a monument to all prehistoric seafarers and traders that explored Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard long before the advent of nautical instruments and charting. Wave patterns, the passage of the sun, sea birds and the star constellation of Pleiades or Seven Sisters are all remnants of these age-old skills of seamanship, pilotage and celestial navigation.
As the prow of a ship emerges from the ground like a beached vessel from the depth of history, its planking transforms into the breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the legendary Great Waves of Erin. Its elongated stem resembles the skull and beak of a Northern Gannet that becomes the gnomon of a large sundial - a reference to Little Skellig which is one of the largest gannet colonies in the world! Foremost, however, it is an allegory for the arrival of the Gaelic language on our coast: whether being driven to Europe’s western fringes from an elusive ‘Celtic heartland’ - as it was understood in the 19th/20th centuries - or, more likely, emerging from a pan-European lingua franca. Its stark, aggressive presence is also a metaphor for climate change and the relentless cycles in nature.
Process and Procurement. The sculpture was promoted by Kerry County Council Services Capital Office and installed on St. Brigid’s Day 2019. It was commissioned by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government under the Per Cent for Art Scheme, an Irish government initiative introduced in 1978. Árthach Dána marks the completion of the Waterville Water and Wastewater Scheme which was part-funded by the National Development Plan under the Water Services Investment Programme. It was fabricated by Portmagee-based sculptor Holger C. Lönze, using the prehistoric repoussé process of repeatedly annealing and hammering metal plate. This skin was then welded to a stainless steel frame, combining modern fabrication techniques with archaic Iron Age metal working. The sculpture is designed for a lifespan of several hundred years, using fully recyclable materials in combination withlow-carbon and energy efficient processes and lighting.
Project Manager: John O’ConnorArea Engineer: Michael KelleherStructural Engineers: Horganlynch, Cork; Donal Lynch, Tadgh CrowleyAssistance: Karen HendyHistoric Advisors: Paddy Bushe; Prof. John Carey, UCC; Breandán Ó CiobháinSite Foreman: PJ FitzgeraldSite Team: Michael O’Sullivan, Connie O’Sullivan; Nicholas BrowneElectrician: John CollinsInstallation: Adrian BrennanWaterjet Cutting: Aquadesign Ltd., KillorglinTarmac Contractors: MacKneill Tarmacadam Contractors Ltd., GlenbeighSurfacing Contractors: Premier Paving, Thurles Buíochas le / Thanks to: Kerry County Council; Waterville IRD; Waterville Tidy Towns; Fíona de Buis; Tim O’Neill; Albert Walsh, Barry Linnane, Hawley O’She, John Sheehan
In Memoriam Donal Lynch (1937-2018)
N.B.: The sundial displays Standard Irish Winter Time, for summer time please add one hour!
Am wind on seaAm wave swellingAm ocean’s voiceAm stag of seven clashesAm falcon on cliffAm sunlit dewdropAm rarest of herbsAm boar enragedAm salmon in poolAm lake in plainAm learning’s essenceAm sharpened spear dealing deathAm god who kindles fire in the head.
Who makes smooth the stony mountain?Who elucidates the lives of the moon?Who proclaims where the sun will rest?Who leads the stars like cattle from the ocean?On whom do those stats smile?What troop, what god edges blades in a plague-struck fortress?
Keening of weapons. Keening of wind.