It looked on the map as if it’d be easy to find – it was just off the motorway and beside a little river but no – we ended up in a bleak industrial estate and the monument was nowhere to be seen.
Midleton is not a big town – I would think that a monument to honour the kindness of the Choctaw Nation would’ve been well known to everyone. They’d had a ceremony there last year and the First Nations chief had travelled all the way from America to be the guest of honour.
But no, the first person I asked had never heard of it. Nor had the second. “A big steel sculpture? Big feathers, right here in Midleton? No, but there was someone in the Subway sandwich bar. “I’m going off to collect the kids from school”, she said, “you can follow me”, she said.
So we followed her in our car, past a couple of roundabouts, under a bridge, through several traffic lights, speeding along narrow winding streets until we arrived breathless at the shiny sculpture.
Wow, and wasn’t that nice of her – we’d never have found it otherwise. But that wasn’t all. As we stood there admiring the impressive structure, another car pulled up and it was a teacher from the local school. “Do you know the story of this wonderful sculpture?” she asked. “We do, but tell us anyway…”
It was lovely to be there and the locals so friendly. “The kindness of Strangers”, Fionnuala said later, and that’s what the sculpture was about too.
I suppose it’s not that widely known but during the terrible famine in Ireland in the 1840s, the people of the Choctaw Nation organised a collection to send aid to the starving people in Ireland. They showed such kindness despite the great hardship they themselves had faced when they were driven from their land by white settlers in what became known as “The Trail of Tears”.
The 20 foot high sculpture comprising of nine stainless steel eagle feathers arranged in a circle to represent a bowl of food was commissioned by Midleton Town Council to recognise the generosity of the Choctaw Nation. Entitled “Kindred Spirits”, this beautiful sculpture is the work of Cork-based artist Alex Pentek.
It was officially unveiled last year and the ceremony was attended by Choctaw Nation chief Gary Batton and a delegation of fifteen from Oklahoma, USA.
It is now my favourite sculpture. Have you seen it yet?