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Eoin Madigan

Clare stonemason awarded prestigious British craft fellowship

By Nicola Corless

A CLARE stonemason has been awarded a prestigious British craft fellowship. Eoin Madigan was named as one of three Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) William Morris Craft Fellows.

Three to four fellowships are offered by the society each year, depending on funding and are aimed at talented, young craftspeople involved in repairing historic buildings.

Eoin is a sixth-generation stonemason and has previously worked on repairs at O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher. The fellowship involves a six-month conservation tour of the UK involving site, workshop and studio visits, allowing the young craftspeople to work alongside master craftsmen on heritage projects.

It recently started at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey.  According to the Ennistymon man, the fellowship is both an honour and an opportunity.
“I am hoping to learn from some of the best craftsmen. I am passionate about the conservation of our buildings at home and I have seen so much needless destruction of our buildings because of a lack of knowledge really of hand crafts,” he said.

The fellowship aims to foster a new generation of outstanding craftsmen and women with the expertise to pass on skills for working with historic materials. It also prepares them to lead and manage historic building contracts, while deepening their understanding of the importance of gentle repair. As well as learning from some of the best stonemasons and craftspeople these islands are home to, Eoin believes the fellowship acts as a form of additional professional accreditation in a field where such a framework is lacking.

“It is very hard to get accredited in my line of work at home. There is no schooling for this type of thing. As a mason, as a craftsman, I find it difficult to get any accreditation for what I do. In the UK you can get accreditation in any area and it is sad that I have to go away to do this but I hope that what I learn on this fellowship I will be able to bring home and put it into practice there,” he remarked.

Eoin has worked as a spray painter, spent a year in a joiners’ workshop and servicing diggers at a plant hire shop. He took a nine-month course in traditional dry stone walling then his mother’s (and forefathers’) stonecutting passions took hold. He has the joy of working headstones, originally carved generations ago by his family and wants to maintain this ancient art. Eoin’s love of history and heritage, he received from his mother, well-known local historian Frances. Indeed

Frances completed an MA thesis on her great grandfather Patrick Madigan, who was himself a Kilfenora stonecutter.
“I get my passion and love of heritage from my mother definitely. I am very lucky because I get to see my ancestors’ work the whole time; any graveyard you go into in Clare, you can see the Madigan name on the gravestones,” he said.

As well as the fellowships, the SPAB also offers three scholarships to architects, surveyors and engineers with third-level qualifications. They take part on the heritage and restoration tour with Eoin and the other two fellows.

“I am very lucky to have the opportunity to get to meet with the scholars. They are young architects who are very passionate about what they do and about heritage and sustainability. Normally architects and craftsmen are at loggerheads so it is great to get the opportunity to work with them and see their side of things,” he outlined.

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