The Haunting Soldier


He is us. He is the common man, not linked to any race, politics and certainly not to the love of War.                                                                                                                Jo Oliver

As we commemorate the Centenary of the ending of the Great War in November the arrival of the towering giant bronze sculpture of The Haunting Soldier to Dublin’s St Stephens Green Park is one of the most powerful and fitting tributes to all those who served and fought and died during the Great War.

Sculptor and blacksmith Martin Galbany’s imposing six metre tall weathered and weary soldier made from scrap metal which towers over the park has attracted huge crowds, all falling silent under his tired gaze.

Designed and constructed at Dorset’s Forge and Fabrication by Martin and metal worker Chris Hannam, he is made up mostly of scrap metal with his uniform and kit and rifle and boots made up from wrenches, car jacks, spanners, hammers, tools, bellows, nuts and bolts and chains.

As you pass through the stone Fusilier Arch entrance to St Stephen’s Green it is a truly emotional experience to encounter him and to come face to face with this exceptional art piece.  There are no words to describe the emotions, sadness and sense of remembrance that he invokes as you study his eyes and face and every aspect of this haunting figure.

Huge thanks are due to Sabina Purcell, whose own family were involved in the Great War, for her determination to bring The Haunting Soldier to Dublin for the Centenary Commemoration of the ending of a War which claimed millions of lives. Thanks are also due to writer JO Oliver who first commissioned this unique sculpture and agreed to let it come to Dublin for the month of November.

A special Stand Down ceremony which is open to the public will be held in St Stephens Green at 3.15pm on Sunday 25th November 2018. As the sun goes down people will gather with a bugler, music and readings to say farewell to The Haunting Soldier before his return to England.



John Behan’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ Sculpture Exhibition


john-behanIt is always exciting and though provoking to get the opportunity to view the new work of John Behan one of Ireland’s foremost sculptors which are on view in Dublin’s Solomon Gallery.

In this exhibition John Behan manages to both move and challenge us with his stunning pieces of sculpture. Opened by President Michael D Higgins this show displays all the depth and character of Behan’s work as an artist still driven by his love and compassion for humanity.

Just as his incredible bronze famine ships continue to depict the ghostly exile of Ireland’s Great Famine emigrants sailing to new shores, Behan having conducted art workshops in the Eleonas  refugee camp in Athens which houses over 2,000 Syrian refugees has  been inspired to chart new journeys .

This time with a number of magnificent bronzes Behan has captured the plight of desperate migrants on flimsy overcrowded ribs, dinghies and boats desperate to flee war-torn Syria in the hope of finding refuge and peace.  The lonely figure of a man lifts the doll like figure of a small child taken from the sea.

In his series ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ Behan returns to one of his favourite figures the bull, and as in William Shakespeare’s famous words, he depicts the ever changing form and figure of the bronze bull, from its early days of vitality and strength, vigour and power to eventual old age and weakness and frailty.

As John Behan celebrates his eightieth birthday, he not only continues to make art and to sculpt, but continues to inspire us all.

Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed the World

IMG_3928What an amazing launch in Dun Laoghaire’s Lexicon Library for Sarah Webb’s wonderful new book Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed The World.

Sarah and talented Illustrator Lauren O’Neill have shone a light on 28 amazing intelligent, hardworking, pioneering Irish women who have influenced people both at home here in Ireland and across the world.

In terms of design, Blazing a Trail is visually stunning and an exhibition of Lauren’s illustrations from the book is currently on display at the Lexicon.

Sarah has done a huge job in compiling, researching and finding out more about these incredible women some of whom I’m ashamed to admit I was not even aware of.

From Maureen O’Hara, Sybill Connolly, Eileen Grey, Nellie Cashman, Aleen Cust, the list I promise is truly varied and this is a book that deserves to be read by girls of all ages.

Ossian Smyth Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Librarian Marian Keyes helped to launch the book alongside O’Brien Press Editor Aoife Walsh.  There was a great surprise when a few members of Sarah’s talented young writers group, complete with wigs and costume, entertained us with dramatized scenes from the lives of three of these remarkable women.   What a brilliant night and what a brilliant book!

‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ for the first time in Ireland- on stage at The MAC Theatre in Belfast.


The Cast of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ on stage at The MAC Theatre in Belfast 

There was great celebrations and fun at the opening night of the stage play of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ on Friday in Belfast. I was a strange mixture of nerves and excitement as I watched my story so beautifully unfold on the stage of The MAC Theatre.

CAHOOTS and Director Paul McEneaney have done a marvelous job with this truly innovative production which combines music, song and story to help tell the story of The Great Irish Famine.


With Director Paul McEneaney 

The actors were amazing and I found it very emotional watching Eily, Michael and Peggy and their family as the potatoes fail and their lives change forever. The three children, forced to leave home, must fight to survive as they go in search of their great-aunts. 

Sabine D ’Argent’s circular stage set is deceptively simple, but hides a few things which combined with  Carlos Pons Guerra’s  choreography and James McFetridge’s lighting bring a haunting kind of magic to the show.     

There were tears, emotion and laughter along the way and like all the audience I was riveted by the incredible songs and Garth McConaghie’s stunning music which has added another layer to the story.

The play surpassed all my hopes and expectations and I was overwhelmed by the reaction of kids, families and lovers of the book, to the show.

Charles Way’s adaptation of my book works brilliantly and the hard work and effort of the large cast and crew have resulted in a very memorable stage production which I promise is different from anything else most of us have seen.

I was so happy when I saw the show again the next day and am Belfast bound again later this week.

Thank you to everyone in CAHOOTS and at The MAC Theatre for putting ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ on stage from this very grateful author!

The Cast and Crew, My daughter Mandy  and On stage  

‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ opens in Belfast’s Mac Theatre today

me with kids

With  my Eily, Peggy and Michael –Maeve Smyth, Philippa O’ Hara and Terence Keeley

What excitement with the opening of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree today in the Mac Theatre in Belfast!

So proud of all the cast and crew, and wish them all so much luck today as the show opens. All the hard work and weeks of rehearsals and now it’s finally on stage for audiences both young and old to come along and see. Hope you all enjoy it and that you find it as moving as I did when I first saw it.

Good luck to everyone in Belfast and have an amazing day!


The amazing cast are – Maggie Cronin, Julia Deardon, Adam Dougal, Terence Keeley, Colette Lennon Dougal, Frankie McCafferty, Philippa O’Hara and Maeve Smyth