Oh, Dunlavin. When I think of Dunlavin, I think of the old ballad – Such grief and such sorrow in one place was ne’er before seen, when the blood ran in streams down the dykes of Dunlavin’s Green – and even though nowadays, it is a homely little town nestling in the rolling countryside of west Wicklow, the story of the massacre of some 36 locals in 1798 was still ringing in my ears as I travelled down there at the weekend for the Dunlavin Arts Festival.
But somebody once said that the beauty of art is that it can transport you in an instant, from this earthly realm into the world of the imagination. You could be in a cold prison cell somewhere or in the trenches of WW1 or maybe just in the depths of despair – and the image of a simple primrose or the face of a child, for instance, can remind you of other places and possibilities and thus, bring you consolation and lift your spirit.
In any case, my thoughts of treachery and bloodshed* were soon banished when we arrived in Dunlavin. There was a lovely atmosphere in the town. The sun was shining and the place was buzzing. There was music playing and children’s crafts and plant sales and history walks and – believe it or not, there was a high-flying trapeze act on the green – and there was art exhibitions. I saw five or six of them!
I was there to see the ‘invited’ group show in the Market House – and I was delighted to have my work in such good company. Other artists included Shay O’Byrne, Nicola Lynch Morrin, Elke Thonnes, Gráinne Dowling, Helen Blake, Keith Wilson RUA and RHA members: Joe Dunne, Martin Gale and Anita Shelbourne.
(I had a couple of my ‘Apple’ paintings in the show, like the one seen above)
Now, there’s one final point that I must mention – nothing to do with art – but about a connection between Dunlavin and Harold’s Cross. Aralt (or Harold) was a Viking who was killed in the Battle of Gleann Máma in the year 999 and is reputedly buried outside Dunlavin under the Crehelp Pillar. Could this be the same Viking that the cross of Harold’s Cross was named after?
They say that he was the younger brother of Sitric, the Viking king of Dublin (but whether or not he was the same fella who used to drink in McGowan’s pub, I suppose we’ll never know).