‘Mindless’ act of vandalism in Bessbrook is condemned

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

‘Mindless’ act of vandalism in Bessbrook is condemned thumbnailBessbrook Pond and the Flax Flower which was vandalised.

THE Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has led condemnation of vandalism to a sculpture and the theft of signage at Bessbrook Pond.

Councillor Roisin Mulgrew described those behind the incident as "mindless", adding that the art sculpture is "treasured" by members of the public.

Erected by the Slieve Gullion Landscape Partnership and created by local artist Alan Burke, the sculpture was based on a flax flower and highlighted the central role the Bessbrook linen mill played in the rich history of the village.

The Sinn Fein councillor said: "It is a shame that such a magnificent piece of local art has been mindlessly targeted by those responsible.

"Bessbrook has a vibrant culture and heritage, and this sculpture sought to champion and promote this history for local citizens and tourists alike.

"This act of blatant disrespect and vandalism will only bring residents together to strengthen and reassert the culture of the village, and encourage further celebrations of its heritage for the world to see." Cllr Mulgrew's thoughts were echoed by the Chairperson of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, Des Murphy.

He said that the incident has deeply angered all those involved with the promotion of the rich history of the area.

Mr Murphy said: "The sculpture drew great attention both from locals and visitors alike.

People from as far away as the USA & Europe contacted us to praise it.

"The information board was erected to highlight the rich history of Bessbrook, the Pond and the local area.

"It's removal has deeply frustrated those of us people from all ages and backgrounds who are working together through art to encourage people to reach across boundaries. We view it as a mindless act of criminal vandalism." Mr Murphy outlined what the Public Arts project had set out to achieve.

"The public art is part of The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Fund programme to conserve and enhance some of the region's most treasured landscapes," he said.

"Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are managing the £1.4 million programme. The scheme aims to engage people with the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and surrounding landscape." The opening verse of "The Ballad of Camlough River", by James N Richardson, was used as inspiration when designing the sculpture by Alan Burke for the mill pond.

Quoting the poem, Mr Murphy said: "Know ye the fame of the bright little river, Which floweth through Bessbrook from moorland and lea, Between blue waving flax-flowers and rushes which quiver, He runs his short course from the lake to the sea.".

He continued: "This opening verse sets the scene of the origins of Camlough river.

"The river that flows from Camlough lake, born of fire and ice, to be harnessed at Bessbrook pond to power the mill in Bessbrook, which in turn drove the local economy, forging communities and a social scene that survives to this day.

"Key to this all is the flax plant. Without it, the river may have ran its course to the sea largely unmentioned. The production, processing and eventual weaving of the fibre from this plant is why the river rose to fame.

"The geography of the area, the quality of the water and the ability to grow flax locally, conspired to grow the linen industry in the locality of Bessbrook."


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