Monday, August 25, 2014

St Brigid's Well mystery in the Valley

A mystery in the Valley Park has caused head-scratching in several quarters, writes Brian Byrne.

Some person or persons unknown have covered the sculpture at St Brigid's Well with an aluminium-coloured paint, and cleared brushwood which had been stored in the area pending work to be done there, and placed bowls of flowers in the section.

The Diary was first made aware of the matter during yesterday's River Festival, when Jim Collins informed us, wondering if we had any knowledge of the perpetrators. We didn't.

"There are people who think that I did it," he said today, after making his own enquiries. "I thought it might be Kilcullen Tidy Towns, or the FAS workers, as a maintenance project, but they didn't do it either."

There's concern that the incident is a further defacement of a sculpture, commissioned from the late Fr Henry Flanagan of Newbridge College in 1977. In the past it had been partly sprayed in metallic paint by vandals, and since 2007 has been covered by a protective perspex sheet by Jim Collins.


The sheet was removed recently pending examination for having the sculpture professionally cleaned and restored. The brushwood blocking the way to it came from recent pruning of trees in the Valley, and was placed there to prevent access prior to the carrying out of essential remedial work planned for the well area.

Earlier vandalism in 2005 had the sculpture and the sign marking the development of the well area covered in green paint, which proved somewhat easier to remove than the subsequent daubing with a metallic colour.

The recent matter shows signs of being very carefully planned, and was executed in secrecy. Even to the removal of the brushwood from the area altogether, which would have required at least a trailer to achieve.

The latest, albeit very careful, spraying of the sculpture might well make it impossible to restore and preserve it in the form in which it was originally produced by Fr Flanagan, a very renowned artist in his time.

Jim Collins was the prime mover in the development of the Valley Park through the 1970s, after the largely scrubland riverside property was bought from the Molloy family for the community for £2,000. Jim was nicknamed 'Mr Valley' for his efforts in spearheading a number of innovative fundraising projects to raise tens of thousands of pounds to develop the community park. He has ever since continued to take a very hands-on interest in the facility.

As far as is known, nobody with any involvement in the upkeep of the Valley Park was approached by whoever is responsible for the recent incident. Also, while there is some local belief that it is a 'holy' well, people are very strongly advised not to use the water from it for any purpose, and especially not to drink it.