13 August 2005

WB Yeats statue sent crashing after high-speed car chase

Irish Independent

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Photos from here

SLIGO'S most famous landmark, a life-size bronze statue of poet WB Yeats, came to a violent end yesterday when a car ploughed into it during a high-speed chase by gardai.

Gardai had been in pursuit of a man for an alleged driving offence in another part of town, when his vehicle went out of control and crashed into the 140cm statue, which was mounted on a concrete pedestal outside the Ulster Bank on Stephen Street, close to Hyde Bridge.

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The man, believed to be from Co Offaly, was arrested at the scene and questioned by gardai. He is expected to appear in court next month on a drink driving charge.

Meanwhile, students from all over the world woke up on the final day of the Yeats International Summer School to see the bronzed image of the figure the school had been celebrating, lying in pieces on the ground, the head still intact and an arm pointing skywards.

"It is really, really dreadful. I am so shocked. It has been such a landmark and it was so loved by everyone. Sadly this is the image our students will take away with them after a really successful summer school," said Maura McTighe, chairperson of the summer school committee.

Sculpted by Rowan Gillespie and erected in May 1990, the statue became the focal point over the years for countless photographs and postcards.

"There is no doubt that it became part of Yeatsian life in Sligo. As a teacher, I brought numerous classes to it and it was always where the children chose to have their pictures taken," Ms McTighe said.

The statue's location was selected because of a reference the poet made when he went to Stockholm in 1924 to receive the Nobel prize for literature. He compared a 17th century palace in Stockholm to the Ulster Bank building, although he admitted it had been a long time since he had last seen it.

Rowan Gillespie was selected from four artists by a selection committee which included former gallery director Ronan McEvilly. "It was an extraordinarily popular piece of sculpture. It will have to be replaced," Mr McEvilly said yesterday.

The president of the Council of the Yeats' Society, Michael Keohane, said the statue had been the single reference to Yeats which was visible in the town.

"It gave people a sense of place as to where they were. Otherwise you could drive through Sligo and not know it had had anything to do with Yeats," he said.

Anita Guidera

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