Back to Nature, way, way back

sculpture by Maurice MacDonagh at Lough Boora Sculpture Park

Ah yes, Bord na Móna Yellow (it was a much nicer yellow than Covid-19 Yellow). It was used on everything from turf harvesting machines to the little narrow-gauge turf trains… to the power stations themselves. It was also used on a sculpture by Maurice MacDonagh at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly.

“Raised Circle” (above) is constructed from recycled narrow-gauge rail and fixed one metre above the lush vegetation of the bog, sometimes disappearing during the summer season and then re-appearing in the autumn.

It is a quiet, unassuming piece…  No, it’s not “just a circle”.

The symbol of the circle stands for wholeness, unity, perfection, infinity, eternity, Life, the universe, everything.  As Pythagoras might’ve said, the circle is the most perfect shape. Every point of the circumference is the exact same distance from the centre. It has no beginning and no end; it is infinite; so, what more could you possibly want, you pleb (!)

sculpture at Lough Boora by Kevin O'Dwyer photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Of course, if it’s geometry you’re after, there’s also the triangles at Lough Boora, as you see above. This is a piece entitled: “60 Degrees” by Kevin O’Dwyer.

He constructed the series of equilateral triangles of decreasing size to highlight the shadows that were cast on the landscape as the sun crossed the sky from morning to night and from summer to winter. One can imagine the ancient Mesolithic people of Lough Boora similarly studying the movement of sun, moon and stars.

Yes, back in 1977, the area of Lough Boora was investigated by archaeologists who discovered several carefully made stone tools amongst the charcoal remains of ancient campfires, dated between 6800 and 6500 BC.  These were the temporary campsites of hunters during the Mesolithic Age (the Middle Stone Age).

sculptire in Lough Boora by Naomi Seki
Above: 2002, and below: 2020

But perhaps the most telling sculpture in this wonderful place is the piece above by Naomi Seki, the Japanese artist who took part in the original sculpture symposium in 2002.

It’s a wooden structure entitled: “A Tree in a Sculpture” and it poses the question: when will the tree grow taller than the sculpture?  Eighteen years later, we have the answer – the manmade structure has fallen and the tree continues to grow.

You might think that it was arrogance on the part of the sculptor, to think that she could build a structure that would outlast a tree, but methinks that she knew very well what the final answer would be – because that Birch tree was never going to reach 8 metres in height out there on the windswept bog.

So the sculpture still works, still makes you think, even though only a fragment of the original structure remains.

Lough Boora Discovery Park, Co. Offaly

Maurice MacDonagh

Kevin O’Dwyer

Naomi Seki

Olivier Cornet Gallery


  1. Here is some grist , to your mind mill Eoin ? Feudalization of Irish land began with the Normans , later the Plantations; but rundale as a form of community ownership was able to continue to exist under ‘indirect feudal bondage’
    see Dr Eoin Flaherty’s aerial images of Doagh village and Rundale system, Mayo into 20th C at Carrow Teige -Rossport ) . Our ancient Brehon Laws codified this gender-balanced way of living . But a people who allow 10,000 of us to become homeless, and require emergency accommodation , at huge and inefficient cost , are doing something very wrong , even fiscally .

    We need Policy which draws on our collective wisdom and seeks to bring our settlements from pathology to wholeness again . From desiderata, driven by Green philosophy, we need to move quickly to practicality and tools , methodologies which can achieve the 17 Sustainable Development goals within environmentally and socially driven, fair- minded, governance.
    Dr Eoin Flaherty :” create a better understanding of the complex relationships between society and nature.
    Most of the discussion of the dualism of nature/society has tended to replicate this divide as reflected in the intellectual division between the natural sciences and the social sciences: cross this analytic divide and provide an analysis that incorporates both natural and social variables.

    Theoretical framework for examination into the essential structures of the Irish rundale agrarian commune.
    analysis of modes of production includes not only social relations (people to people) but also relations of material appropriation (people to nature) and therefore allows us to combine the social forces of production with the natural forces of production.

    mediated through the process of metabolism, which refers to the material and social exchange between human beings and nature and vice-a-versa.
    crucial is how the natural process of metabolism is embedded in its social form – its particular mode of production.

    Crucial idea in the concept of socio-ecological metabolism. Some modes of production such as capitalism create a rift in the process of metabolism.

    In Ireland, gavelkind (gabháil cine ) was a species of tribal succession, by which the land, instead of being divided at the death of the holder amongst his sons, was thrown again into the common stock, and redivided among the surviving members of the sept.
    A known custom was for the youngest son to divide the land into equal parts, and for his brothers to choose their parcels. The eldest chose first, followed by the second, and so on, until the youngest received the remaining land. The purpose of this system was to ensure equitable division of the land.


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