Monksland tree carvings grab the attention
Three new permanent residents have moved into the Monksland area, in the form of tree trunk carvings beside Arrabawn Co-op.
‘The Three Monks’ is a wood carving which was created by Richie Clarke from Mullingar after he was approached by Monksland Town Team to bring new life to a cedar tree which was cut down by Roscommon County Council.
Speaking about how the piece came about, Kelly Marie Neary from Monksland Town Team explains that they were originally approached by the local Tidy Towns committee.
“A couple of years ago Tidy Towns had the idea that a sculpture of some sort would be a lively addition to the area of Monksland, so they came to the Town Team,” she says. “We then collaborated with Jazz Pharmaceuticals who funded the sculpture.
“The tree was causing a problem, so the council cut it down about two years ago but we asked them to leave the trunks. There were four trunks, but one was cracked so it couldn’t be used.
“It was about this time last year where we had our first meeting with Richie to decide on the design, but unfortunately Covid hit so everything had to be pushed back by about ten months. We were very fortunate to get an opening with Richie two weeks ago.”
The carvings took almost a week to complete, with the monks now on display for the public to enjoy.
Speaking about the sculpture, Richie says that the three separate trunks allow for a different viewpoint of the carving no matter where you stand around the piece.
“It changes as you look at it depending on where you stand around it, and you don’t always get that with a commission,” he explains. “A lot of carvings would be a straight stem, so it’s nice to get that variation.
“I try to have the carving match the area. I ask people about mythology, animals, folklore or historical links in the area. The obvious thing was that the area is called Monksland and there are connections to the monastery, so the idea was three monks. I went over and looked at it, and I had to take into account the size and shape of it, and what kind of detail I could get into it.
“You want it to be recognisable from a certain distance and for people to know what it is while they’re driving by, so you can’t overly detail stuff. They’re slightly stylized, and you can do that within reason and still have a design that is recognisable. Too much detail and the idea is lost.”
Richie has been wood carving for over 20 years, having had an interest in both art and woodworking when he was younger.
“It was one of those things that started as a hobby to be honest. I come from a woodworking background because I’m a furniture maker by trade. When I was younger I was always into sketching and art, and I picked up a wood carving magazine in town one day and I just thought it was fantastic.
“There weren’t many places you could go and learn it, and even now there isn’t, but I just went and bought myself a set of tools and did it as a hobby for a few years. I never took it overly serious but I enjoyed doing it.
“From 2000 on I started to do a lot more of the hand carving, and in 2006 a master woodcarver from the UK named Chris Pye was doing tuition. So I went over to him and refined my skills. It was the best thing I ever did, because he retrained me and showed me how to be more organised with my work.”
Work steadily came in until the economic crash of 2008 when Richie decided to return to private carpentry. However, music and woodworking festivals in the years following soon brought him back to the craft of carving.
“It came to a stage where I was spending half of the year carving, and maybe five or six years ago I completely gave up the woodworking end of things.”
Richie has since created pieces for Mullingar Town Park, Fingal County Council as well as Centre Parcs and the Dublin Zoological Society.
“I brought a few ideas to Monksland Town Team, and they pushed me to come up with a good design which is what keeps the job interesting. If it was the same process or same commission every time you would just get tired of it. It’s very physical and tiring work, so if it wasn’t exciting in other ways then it would be difficult to maintain.”
Kelly Marie says that the team would love to bring more art to Monksland.
“The whole thing goes to show that a few groups working together in a community can really bring something fantastic to the area. It is the first collaboration of its kind where we have worked with an idea from Tidy Towns which a business has fully funded. We have done a few other things and have worked with businesses before, but this is the first big item that has come about as a result.
“We would really like to thank Jazz Pharmaceuticals for sponsoring the piece, and Richard of course. He was fantastic to work with and nothing was ever a problem. He was very patient and understanding of the area.
“The tree otherwise would have been cut down fully, so it’s nice to have something that the whole community can enjoy.”