07 February 2006

I will arise and go now: Poet's back on his pedestal

Irish Independent

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usA LIFE-SIZE bronze statue of poet WB Yeats, badly damaged when a car ploughed into it six months ago, has been reinstated in all its former glory. Click to view - Yeats on way to 'hospital' - statue weighs around 3 tonnes! - photo from Sligo Heritage

Before resuming its dandy pose yesterday morning, the Yeats figure endured a further indignity as it was dangled unceremoniously by the neck from a JCB for several hours while the final adjustments were made to the pedestal.

The Rowan Gillespie-designed sculpture had been part of the cultural fabric of Sligo since it was first erected outside the Ulster Bank on Stephen Street, close to Hyde Bridge on the Garavogue River, in 1990.

The "victim" had suffered multiple injuries in the crash including two broken legs, a damaged nose, a grazed forehead and a broken arm.

But the delighted sculptor, who moulded new feet and ankles for the figure and was there to witness yesterday's event, said he was pleased with the finished product.

"Replacing the feet and ankles was the biggest problem because I had to get the angle exactly right but I am happy with the result.

"He's had a rough time of it but in fact, if anything he's looking slightly better now," he joked.

Rowan, pictured above as the statue was being re-installed, took advantage of the accident to carry out a few improvements to the work on aspects which had irritated him in the past.

"There had been a problem with the limestone base. A light was added which was being used as an ashtray and there was a plaque, all giving the effect of the base of a Christmas tree. I have made it simpler and I think it works better," he said.

He has also given the esteemed poet greater protection from spectacles thieves.

"His glasses have been stolen several times but now they are welded on and have razor sharp edges," he said.

There was general welcome that the 140cm statue was returned to the spot which had been originally selected because of a reference the poet made to the bank building when he went to Stockholm in 1924 to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

President of the Council of the Yeats' Society, Michael Keohane, who described the statue as the single reference to Yeats which was visible in Sligo town, welcomed its return.

"It is sort of a focal point in the town and it is nice to have him back," he said.

ANITA GUIDERA

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