Thursday 16 August 2007
The Miracle Ship: A Response to Articles and Queries
The Following is written in response to queries and articles in the local and national media. (see 38 minutes into this extract from Joe Duffy's Popular Irish RTE Radio One Show "Liveline" . The realplayer media link is below)
The radio item and articles refer to the images I have placed here for you to see.
The First Item ahows the Drogheda Indepenent Article that raised the rumpus and sparked 5 weeks of coverage in the form of other letters and articles and radio items.
The second is an image of the original painting discussed, "The Miracle Ship" 2 x 1.5m approx
Third: another later Article concerning the second painting entitled "The Miracle Ship Returns"
The last image is of , "Drogheda Past an Allegory" also mentioned in discussion.
Letter Printed in the Drogheda independent....
I wonder if Cllr Paul Bell was accurately quoted in last weeks Drogheda Independent article on page 2 that featured the painting that was commissioned by OMAC Financial Solutions and Gale McEvoy and Associates called "The Miracle Ship"?
I say "I wonder" because I was not quoted correctly at all. I hope also he would not really like to take the painting I painted and bring it to the" recycling centre". That seems a little harsh, don't you think, especially since it is evident from the report that he hasn't even seen it. I feel that this attack on my good name and my motives in creating this painting is betraying an over-defensive stance. For I can say with hands on my heart that I was not even aware of the Westcourt Hotel's plaque commemorating Drogheda's link with Turkey on the wall in main street. But as I can now show, their plaque can rest on their wall easy for it is based in historical truth.
Once the plaque was mentioned in your paper I went down for the first time to have a look and I see nothing untruthful in what its says apart from the word Great in front of the word Famine. As Brendan Matthews from the Museum in Millmount has been kind enough to point out in his work that he has made available to your newspaper, there was indeed a famine during the siege of Drogheda in 1642 and on the 11th of January of that year at least 2 flat bottomed type of ships called, a Pinnace and a Shallop, managed to skim over the chains that were stretched across the port by the Ulster Gaelic Clans and Phelim O'Neill, chains that were placed there to stop any aid reaching the town via the river. These type of boats were often used by privateers and were referred to as "Turkish Men of War".
Ned Mc Hugh's book about Drogheda from 1790 to 1850 that you mentioned does not appear to cover this period as far as I know. I am sure along with the rest of the wonderful history of this town there will be many more surprises in store about for us about Drogheda's history. For this story about a Turkish ship is indeed soundly based on solid historical fact. The crests of King John and Richard the Lionheart , the people with whom, Tom Reilly claims, the true provenance of the star and crescent actually lies, cannot be substantiated by images of their crests where there is no star or crescent to be found. It is fair to say that the star and crescent can actually be found in pagan times as a symbol much associated with the sea. In fact we remember "The Star of the Sea" in its christianised form as one of the titles often given to the Mother of Jesus, a title given to my daughters Donacarney School. This of course, like many other christianised stories finds its roots in pre-christian mediterranean lands and legends. The Turkish flag has used the star and crescent since 1071 and one of its most prominent forms before then was as a symbol of the goddess Artemis in 667 BC. You can go back further to the ancient Sumerians to find it also in use there. Like most symbols its meaning is potent and contains more than one interpretation much like the symbol of the cross. Indeed it has become a symbol associated with the muslim religion.
However, who is to say that the people whose lives were saved by the miracle ship coming into Drogheda Port against all the odds, did not pass on the story of a Turkish ship to their children? Who is to say that those starving people did not associate the star and crescent from that time on with the same well recorded historic event? Even if the star and the crescent was already in use by the town surely seeing it on the flag of a ship that comes to save your life would make its meaning even more potent? Who would have forgotten such an omen? Local folklore always holds some grain of truth, like a pearl in an oyster.
I think it is wonderful that our town has such a strong association with Turkey. I feel Drogheda should celebrate its diversity as one of its strengths and its fascinating stories can help reinforce our identity and heritage. I am delighted to see that local people have taken the painting of the Miracle ship to heart and I hope they can see like the symbol of the star and crescent itself that there is much more than one meaning there. In fact a painting is like a mirror, each person sees in it a reflection of themselves.
As I can see that the local people of Drogheda are passionate about their history I have completed a second painting of "The Miracle Ship" this time portraying it in relation to the walls of Drogheda. I hope you appreciate my celebration of a theme which is romantic and inspirational to me.
One last thing. The Ricciardelli reference in your article to the painting of the Miracle ship is incorrect as it was the other painting I painted entitled," Drogheda Present : An allegory" , which refers to it directly and very accurately I assure you. Anybody can see these works on my website at www.perfectvision.ie and view for themselves whether or not it is historically accurate. They can view the original Ricciardelli "View from Balls Grove" in the Highlanes Gallery. Contrary to what you said last week in your report I am interested in history and I do research my subject well. In fact your article prompted me to look even deeper and thanks to Brendan Matthews we now have a well referenced source for our town's story of salvation. Perhaps Councillor Bell did not realise that my research, my work, and my motives were pure and founded on solid foundations ? I hope that like "The Miracle Boat" The Truth will escape any chains that try to hold it back .
Sean O'Dwyer, 23 July 07