From the isolated hill tops of Connemara to the busy streets of Galway City, scattered all across the county, monuments and statues mark the spots of the historic moments and people that make up Galway’s colourful past. Let’s take a look at the stories behind a few of the most note-worthy sculptures.
ALCOCK & BROWN MEMORIAL AND LANDING SITE
Marking a monumental moment in aviation history, the white egg-shaped monument near Clifden marks the landing spot of the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight which was achieved by British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown in June 1919. Their landing however did not go smoothly as their plane crashed into Derrygimla bog. Thankfully no one was hurt in the crash. As a tribute to their successful voyage, on the fortieth anniversary of their landing a monument in the shape of an aircraft tail was built on Errislannan Hill, less than 2km north of the official landing zone.
Derrygimla Bog, Clifden // Take the N341 south from Clifton towards Ballyconneely. After a 10 minutes drive, the Alcock and Brown landing site is signposted on the left.
CONNEMARA GIANT STATUE
In the gorgeous village of Recess, Connemara you’ll come face to face with the Connemara Giant. Built in 1999 by Joyce’s Craft Shop “for no apparent reason”, this incredible feat of craftsmanship has since become wrapped up in local legend. It is said that if you touch the giant’s hand you will be blessed with knowledge of his ancient tribe. This tradition is known as ‘Touching the Hand of Knowledge’. To this day, local students will touch the hand for luck before their exams.
Joyce’s Craft Shop, Recess, Connemara // Recess village is a traditional stopping-off point on the way from Galway on the Connemara Loop.
EQUALITY EMERGING STATUE
Unveiled in 2001 the Equality Emerging Statue was sculpted by John Behan. The creation of the statue was inspired by Eddie Higgins and Nuala Keher, the founders of Equal Ireland. Equal Ireland is a not for profit organisation that gives people access to accredited Education and Training programmes. Located opposite Galway Cathedral, the dedication on the statue reads; The statue Equality Emerging is dedicated to people everywhere who are struggling for equality and to those suffering because of its absence. The emerging figure represents the force for equality, the wall, those people and systems in opposition.
Opposite Galway Cathedral, Galway City // Cross the Salmon Weir Bridge onto University Road.
Photo by @eileenduffyart
The D’Arcy Monument was erected in 1842 by the people of Clifden, in memory of the founder of Clifden town, John D’Arcy (1785-1839). This square-plan stepped monument contains examples of graffiti dating from 1871 which can be seen etched into the side of the monument. The monument serves as a focal point for locals and visitors alike to observe Clifden town below and offers a wider view of Connemara’s stunning mountains, bogs and coastline.
Memorial Hill, Clifden // About 1km away from Clifden town on the Sky Road, you will see a footpath marked with a signpost to Memorial Hill.
TUAHA TUAMA STATUE
The bronze sculpture of Tuaha Tuama was erected in 1994. It depicts a modern Tuam as a community looking outward at the world but embracing its past. The sculpture has Jarlath’s wheel at its centre. At the base of Tuaha Tuama are three motifs from Tuam’s coat of arms- the Crown of Tuam’s 12th century High King’s, Christ’s Crown as on the High Cross of Tuam and the broken chariot wheel of St. Jarlath, founder of the town and diocese. Jarlath’s broken wheel has long been a famous icon of Tuam; the wheel broke as he was traveling through Tuam and so he chose to establish his monastery there.
In front of Tuam’s town hall, Market Square, Tuam // Take the N83 from Galway City to Tuam.
THE BROWNE DOORWAY
This impressive Renaissance doorway serves as a reminder of Galway’s gorgeous architectural features. The doorway was taken from the old Browne mansion of 1627 in Lower Abbeygate Street and re-erected in Eyre Square in 1905. Carvings on the doorway include two 17th century coats of arms, one commemorating the Browne family and the other commemorating the Lynch family. The coat of arms/marriage-stones which appear on the doorway date back to 1627 and represent the union of Martin Browne and Marie Lynch.
Eyre Square, Galway City // In front of Bank of Ireland
FINAL JOURNEY STATUE
Standing on the corner of Forster Street in Galway City on the former site of the Convent of Mercy’s Magdalene laundry, which was demolished in 1991, this limestone statue acts as a memorial to the Magdelian women. Magdalene Laundries operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. They were run in order to house ‘fallen women’. Those who lived within these institutions were subject to hard labour and abuse. At the base of the sculpture is poetry from the renowned poet and playwright Patricia Burke Brogan. The statue was unveiled on International Women’s Day 2009.
Forster Street, Galway City // Opposite HYDE Bar
Photo courtesy of Marteen Lane Tour Guide