Horse for a course
On the centenary year of its official founding, Ballinrobe Racecourse and the County Mayo town of Ballinrobe is about to be graced with a very handy horse, 24 hands in total, which equates to a colossal eight feet high!
But this giant Gee–Gee is a great deal slower than the typical thoroughbreds normally seen thundering around the picturesque track, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Partry mountains. At around three tonnes, it won't be going anywhere.
This is a horse of a different color - red cedar to be precise.
The Horse and Rider sculpture is the brainchild of local man Paul McDonald of the Tidy Towns Committee with the financial backing of John Flannery, Manager of the Ballinrobe Racecourse, and Councillors Michael Burke and Damien Ryan.
The €18,000 sculpture has been wholly funded by local businesses and the people of the town, so it represents somewhat of a gift-horse to the local council, as none of the funding came from the public purse.
In common with a lot of towns in the West of Ireland, Ballinrobe has seen a decline over the years, largely due to unemployment and spiraling demographics, but there are signs of optimism and regeneration. More visitors are discovering this old historic, market town, drawn by its ancient landscape of lakes, mountains, ringforts, and castles.
Jimi Morley of the local garden centre sees the landmark sculpture as "representative of the spirit of Ballinrobe and a strong visible connection to its equine heritage."
Sky High Horse
Ireland is synonymous with all things equine and there is a very strong sense of identity with horse racing in the town, with a tradition dating back to the 18th century and beyond. The ancient Irish held the horse in the highest esteem; this is reflected in Irish mythology where a horse known as ‘Echdae’ – the horse of the heavens is tasked with drawing the chariot of Aine the Sun Goddess across the skies.
Remarkably, considering the fine detailing, the sculpture was carved by chainsaw! Tommy Kerrigan, alias Chainsaw Tommy, has been carving, mostly animal figures to order for years, but this was by far the biggest commission he’s undertaken to date.
‘Big Red’ is currently stabled in Tommy’s workshop awaiting site approval from Mayo County Council which is leaving locals champing at the bit!
“At least I don’t have to feed it ... or muck the thing out," says Tommy.
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