text and images by Brian Post
As many of you know I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Ireland at the beginning of February. One of the highlights of the trip was getting to meet Ken Curran and Karl Kennedy of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland (DSWAI). Both were incredibly generous with their time and took me to over to the Lough Boora Discovery Park where the DSWAI built the ‘Gathering of Stones.’
From the DSWAI website: “Back in early 2013 The Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland and the Stone Foundation, USA came together with a vision to invite this international community ‘home’ for a Gathering of Stones in the geographical centre of Ireland.
“The Gathering of Stones is an event where people with an interest in Irish dry stone walls came together, and under the instruction and guidance of the Dry Stone Wall Association built an attractive communal dry stone installation that will act as a permanent monument to Ireland and ‘all’ of it people. A monument that celebrates or dry stone heritage and indeed all events and gatherings that took place during The Gathering 2013.”
With numerous wallers, both amateur and professional, coming from all over Ireland and far beyond, about good portion of the project was built in the initial 2013 event. In addition to wallers, stones were brought from all over Ireland and farther. There are some good stories of the large stone that Sean Adcock and fellows managed to bring from Wales.
The project was then continued and completed in various smaller events and DSWAI weekend walling sessions. Both Ken and Karl related to many times working in the rain on a weekend by themselves or with just one or two other DSWAI members present, to keep the project moving forward. It was huge achievement, and the project was finally finished in 2016.
The design of the project is full of symbolism, with stone from each of the 4 provinces in Ireland, and carved plaques for each it is a very complex build. The central structure is really nothing but features. As soon as you get away from a doorway your hitting the edge of a recess, and don’t forget it is all curving and battered.
The outer ring of freestanding walls were a bit more straight forward, though some of the stone certainly looks challenging to work with. The low retaining wall outside of that was an add on to the original design. Using all the remaining stone that had been brought in and donated.
It is a truely inspiring build and a testament to dedication of the DSWAI core and it’s members. It is free and open to the public to check it out. The Lough Boora Discovery Park in County Offaly is the site of a former peat mine that was converted to a sculpture park. It is a fantastic place to visit if you ever get to Central Ireland.
More information is available here: http://www.dswai.ie/gos