To the People of the Sea

To the People of the Sea is a public sculpture at East Strand, Portrush that takes its inspiration from both sails and the sea alike: the iconic Drontheim’s sails become a metaphor for the surface of the sea; the flapping sails metamorph into crests of breaking waves as the bellowing sail canvas is turned into sheets of glistening bronze. The sculpture is a metaphorical vessel for sea-related imagery that offers many angles of interpretation: It suggests a sea creature emerging out of the depth of Irish mythology and awakes associations with prehistoric megaliths brought to this coast by early seafarers. Its vertical surface of an angry ocean is a reminder of legendary voyages that passed through the historic waters of Moyle while the deep blue colour gives a glimpse of the depth of the ocean.

The 4.2m high repoussé bronze sculpture by Holger C. Lönze was completed in 2011. The work was nominated for the prestigious Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture in 2012.

Three generations ago, Portrush’s East Strand provided the base for one of the finest boat builders of the Northern Atlantic seaboard: James Kelly. His exceptional skill, combined with an excellent understanding of the sea and wind, created boats that served the exact needs of the courageous boatmen of the Northern seas. The same wind and wave conditions have now turned East Strand into one of Ireland’s prime surfing locations, answering the needs of a new and different generation of ‘people of the sea’. The sculpture marks the achievements of the people of the sea, most of all of James Kelly. It takes its inspiration from both sails and the sea alike: a Drontheim’s passage rig becomes a metaphor for the curving surface of the sea; the flapping sails of a jibing yawl metamorph into crests of breaking hollow waves as the bellowing canvas is turned into sheets of glistening bronze.

A ¾-size suit of Drontheim sails (passage rig consisting of two main sails and a jib) is set on stainless steel supports 4in (100mm) above the ground. The billowing sails metamorph into a succession of breaking hollow waves which become an integral part of the front surface of the sails. Silicon moulds will be taken from some of Kelly’s original tools (drawknife and spoke shave) and reproduced in bronze. These casts are integrated into the sculpture. As an option, James Kelly’s letterhead with some of his writing will be enlarged and etched into the reverse bronze surface (photo-intaglio). The base has lettering near the edge, describing the gunwale of the boat. Quotes from fishermen, lifeboatmen and surfers alike will be etched into the reverse along with other texts.

The larger sails measure 12ft x 12ft x 3ft wide (4.00m x 4.00m x 1.00m). Overall dimensions of the bronze sculpture are approximately 12ft high x 18ft long x 5ft wide (4.00m x 6.00m x 1.50m wide). Total weight 1,200kg. Weight of main sail structure is 450kg each, smaller jib structure 300kg.

Although the East Strand is not in direct proximity to the busy centre of Portrush, it provides a spectacular vista for the surrounding buildings of the Eastern part of the town and for the main tourism access route to the centre from the Causeway. Overlooking the Skerries, the chosen setting for the sculpture is more rural and maritime than urban in character. Its proximity to the sea provides an ideal context for the nautical/maritime subject matter. Scale, texture and imagery of the work invites the local community, visitors and beach users to engage directly with the work. Its subject matter is inspiring and accessible to all sections of the community, regardless of age, religious, educational or social background.

Extracted from “Public Artwork for East Strand Portrush – To the people of the sea” booklet and “Portrush East Strand Sculpture: To the people of the sea” website by Holger Christian Lönze – Sculptor.