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Kilbaha sculptor turns heads at Writers Museum

WHEN Kilbaha sculptor Seamus Connolly left Kilbaha for Dublin on Tuesday, he didn’t flinch at the sight or sound of a pair of recognisable heads rolling around his back seat. The bronze busts were of Munster writers John B Keane and Frank McCourt and it was Seamus’ job, having sculpted both, to get them to Dublin. The heads are now ensconced in the Dublin Writers Museum, having been donated by the Kilbaha man.

Seamus Connolly in his studio in Kilbaha with the two busts. Photograph by Declan MonaghanThe Listowel and Limerick men are the first non-Dublin writers to have their bronze heads mounted in the museum, which is 20-years-old this year. The busts were unveiled by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan on Wednesday.
“I was commissioned by the Frank McCourt Museum in Limerick to sculpt a head of Frank McCourt. It’s a copy of that head which I’ve cast and that’s the one that’s being donated to the Writers Museum,” Seamus explained.
“In the case of John B Keane, I have the original moulds from the life-size statue I worked on previously. I’ve taken a mould from the head of that statue. I’m doing it in conjunction with my gallery up in Dublin, Doorway Gallery,” he added.
Seamus sees some links between himself and John B Keane, given that both made their living in the West of Ireland.
“John B Keane stayed around and he continued to live and do his work without ever leaving Listowel. It’s kind of like my own. I live down here but my work goes everywhere. I have an empathy in that way,” he reflected.
While Frank McCourt emigrated to the US long before Seamus Connolly started going to school in Limerick, the Kilbaha sculptor said he did witness a level of poverty in Limerick.
“When I went to Limerick as a teenager, there were still families living in tiny houses. There was still a lot of proper poverty,” he recalled.
At the Dublin Writers Museum on Wednesday, Robert Nicholson, the museum’s curator since its inception in 1991, said Seamus’s donation of both bronze heads is praiseworthy.
“When this museum was opened 20 years ago, John B Keane’s career was still flourishing and Frank McCourt had yet to become a household name. Now, sadly, both have passed on. We welcome this opportunity to acknowledge, through the presence of these portraits, their great contribution to Irish literature,” he said.
The busts will be on permanent display in the Dublin Writers Museum’s Gallery of Writers. The museum is located in the former home of the Jameson Family on Parnell Square.
Last September, a life-size Seamus Connolly depiction of the late Dermot Earley was unveiled in Gorthaganny, Roscommon.


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