Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Fr Flanagan sculpture reminder

A recent concert in Newbridge in memory of Fr Henry Flanagan OP, teacher and sculptor at Dominican College Newbridge, prompts a reminder that Kilcullen is the location of one of his artistic creations, writes Brian Byrne.

The piece is built into the stonework above St Brigid's Well and was commissions in 1977 when the well area was being built to what it is today as part of the development of the Valley Community Park.

Unfortunately it was the target of vandals down the years, being defaced with graffiti and spray paint at different times.

A plastic sheet covered it for a number of years, but was removed in 2014 pending investigation on having it professionaly restored. At that time, somebody completely covered it in aluminium paint.

The tradition of St Brigid's Well in Kilcullen is long-standing, and in 1937, Eileen Dowling, aged 13, wrote about it it the schools folklore project carried out at the time. As local historian Mary Orford notes, Eileen lived in Thomastown, Kilcullen and collected the information from her father during the project.

"In Kilcullen valley beside the river Liffey is St Brigid's Well," Eileen wrote. "On the feast of St Brigid however the nuns of the convent and also the children of the national school used to go down and get bottles of holy water from it." Further material from Ballyshannon National School, where Margaret Dowling was principal, is available on the National Folklore Collection website

We're fortunate to have an example of Fr Flanagan's work in Kilcullen, even though it doesn't appear in the commemorative catalogue Preacher in Stone produced in 2002 for his retrospective exhibition in the Riverbank Theatre, Newbridge.

The recent concert was part of June Fest, and included performances by organist Paul McKeever, the Aquinas Singers, the Baldonnell Singers, In Caelo, Kildare Cathedral Choir and Newbridge Chamber Choir.

NOTE: Though there remains strong local belief that St Brigid's Well is 'holy, people are very strongly advised not to use the water from it for any purpose, and especially not to drink it. The Diary was reminded of the sculpture by Peter Moloney's conversation about the memorial concert. Peter attributes his love of playing the organ to the late Fr Flanagan, who taught him in Newbridge College.