A Barrel of Memories

When you look through a window, what do you see?

I suppose it depends whether you are looking out or looking in.  I have on occasion looked out while looking in.  This happens in my back garden when the sun is shining.  Looking towards the glass I see a reflection of the garden, no wonder the birds are forever stunning themselves and landing in a heap on the ground.

Sometimes looking out through a window, the view or some aspect of it, turns my thoughts inward.

This happened to me on Saturday while at the Waterfront Hall.  We stopped for a quick coffee in one of the bars and as I moved to sit by the window my eye was drawn to a sculpture on the other side of the glass.

A gentleman sitting on a barrel.  By his side and at his feet were the tools of his trade.  He was a Cooper.

We did not have the opportunity to go out onto the roof level for a closer look at the sculpture or find out who the Sculptor was.  To be honest I never asked I will go back and ask some day.  I became engrossed with the little man on the barrel.  I was thinking of ‘Red Dick’ a man I never met. By the time I awoke from my reverie it was time to move on to the next level.

( () )–( () )–( () )

Red Dick was my maternal grandfather and he was a Cooper by trade with one of the Distillers in Dublin in days gone by.  Alas, he died before I was born.  The ‘Red’ in his name came from the colour of his hair, it was much the same as Tommy’s!  In fact he came from Murroe, Co Limerick, a place mentioned by Tommy the other day.  I have talked about that branch of the family in a Podcast back in August 2007.  Our records go back to my 3rd Great Grandfather (1763-1836) and a branch of the family is still in residence.  In the Great Potato Famine c.1854 the old Homestead was a soup kitchen with funds provided by American Quakers.

UPDATE: Thanks to Alice we now know that The Barrel Man was the inspiration and work of Artist & Sculptor Ross Wilson Visit his website for information about other pieces in and around Belfast.

19 thoughts on “A Barrel of Memories

  1. Nick

    I always enjoy seeing a sculpture of an ordinary person rather than some pompous bigwig. I’ve noticed that one at the Waterfront. I’m trying to think of similar ones of ordinary folk around Belfast. The only one I can recall is the two women outside the Europa Bus Centre.

  2. kenju

    I like the statues of ordinary people, too. Some of them are so realistic looking that you might expect them to move.

  3. wisewebwoman

    Lovely GM. I too love the commemoration of the so-called ‘ordinary’ on which giant empires were built – why honour the bigwigs, they did nothing.
    One that moves me to tears is the one in Cobh of the sister and her little brother leaving. I am reminded of my own emigration from that spot.

  4. rummuser

    That is an interesting family history. Since my father now lives with me, there are many fascinating stories about my great grand father, etc are coming down for the first time to me. I am waiting for the opportunity to pass them on to my nephews and grand nephews and nieces as, it does not seem as though I shall ever have grand children of my own!

    What is your take on the statue that is part of my blog’s mast!

  5. Darlene

    I, too, love statues of ordinary people. You can fantasize about them and wonder who they were and what their life was like.

    You mentioned the Great Potato Famine and I recently read a good book that took place during that terrible period. You might enjoy it. It is GRACELIN O’MALLEY by Ann Moore.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    @Nick I wrote about ‘The Monument to the Unknown Woman Worker 1992 by Louise Walsh‘ in Ladies of the Town.

    @Judy – I seem to get double pleasure nowadays, first in really looking at the work and then discovering the story behind the piece or the artist. I am fortunate that several of the sculptors have actually followed my link and visited my blog.

    @WWW – I have heard about the monument in Cobh but have yet to see it…. someday!

    @Ramana – Never say never!

    As for the man on your header… Did his wife lock him out without his clothes? 🙄 Seriously I wondered what the history was behind it. Perhaps you will write about it some day.

    @Darlene – Thanks for the book recommendation, I must watch out for it.

  7. Baino

    What an interesting history. I know so little about my heritage other than my grandparents. Love the sculpture even though he looks a little out of place among all that modernity. He looks defiant enough with those broad shoulders and folded arms! Dirty mind I have, I could never call a man ‘Red Dick’.

  8. Magpie11

    How do you do it? You post something and it,more often than not, reminds me of something…..in this case the cooper at The Heavitree Brewery in Exeter, Devon back in ’67. I’d heard of him and went to scrounge a few barrels for a function and ended up spending hours watching him and talking and listening to him…as with any artisan it was fascinating….. he said he only had one ambition….he wanted to build a clinker built boat. I wonder if he ever did?

    I have to disagree with some of your commenters…these craftsmen and women are far from ordinary… but I take their point and agree with that sentiment.

  9. Alice

    Hey Grannymar, look what I found out about your barrel man. “The “Barrel Man” (“Barl Mawn” in the vernacular) was commissioned by Bass Ireland, in 1997, to mark its 100 years brewing in Belfast. The sculptor is Ross Wilson. It stands outside the Waterfront Hall on the Oxford Street side.” My source? Where else?! Google.

  10. Grannymar Post author

    @Magpie – an interesting story and I am pleased to help you recall it.

    @Alice – Thank you for your help in finding the story of the Barrel Man. I see the artist Ross Wilson has some interesting pieces at his website.

  11. Darlene

    Magpie, I didn’t mean ‘ordinary’ in the sense of ‘common’. I meant it as the opposite of a statue of famous people; example: Winston Churchill.

    Although statues of famous people have their place, I prefer a statue of an unknown person that is representative of a trade or and event.

  12. Grannymar Post author

    Baino, Baino, Baino!

    You still need to delete those double dots from the URL box of every blog you visit. Otherwise you end up as a spam sandwich!

  13. Magpie11

    Darlene.. know …I was teasing…

    Bass Breweries…now there was a drink…a pint of Basses Bitter drawn from the wood after having been allowed to work (after tapping and Spiling) for 48 ours..at cellar temperature… then there was the legendary Basses Red Diamond Pale Ale…bottle conditioned and the only ever real rival to Worthington’s White Shield… “As good as Mother’s milk” :-as the barman/cellarman who taught me how to treat and pour these ales sighed with amazing regularity.

  14. Magpie11

    Nothing like a good beer….. or glass of good wine….or measure of Grand Champagne Cognac….or a good single malt….. unless it’s a glass of fresh spring water straight out of the ground on a boiling hot day!

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