Top American politicians and Nobel Peace Prize winners are amongst the holders of some of Inishowen’s most unique artwork.
Made from locally sourced bogwood up to nine thousand years old, Mary Doherty in Bocan has been providing the peninsula and its tourists with stunning sculptures for the past seventeen years.
The origins of the art of the Bogwood dates back to the 1800 and Irish man Patrick McGuirk is generally credited with having been the first professional practitioner of the craft.
It is said that he served in the British army, and while at his last posting, Gibraltar, he exercised his carving skill on the local hard coconut shells. He later returned to Ireland and in 1821 presented a carved bog oak walking-stick to George IV during that monarch’s visit to Dublin.
The history and beauty of the raw material is part of the reason why the mother of three started her unique business.
“I always wanted to work with wood and then one day I lifted a piece from the bog and it all started from there,” explained Mary.
“When I made a few pieces I was encouraged by others to show the pieces and sell them. I was so nervous and timid, I knew I liked the pieces but I didn’t know what other people would think. I didn’t care about selling them, I was just so happy for people to say they liked them.”
But since her husband built her a fully equipped studio and workshop there has been no stopping the Culdaff woman who customers include Newt Gingrich who was the Speaker in the American Congress when Bill Clinton was President and ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ John Hume also holds one of Mary’s Peace Doves.
As well as notable personnel, the proud owners of Inishowen Bogwood are people the world over from Australia to Canada to Austria and even Saudi Arabia. The visitor book in the Bocan based studio is packed with names and well wishes from all over the globe including Austria, Melbourne and Boston.
“I never thought it would be as popular as it has been. I’d say I’ve made about 500 pieces so far and I only have a few left so I must have sold a few. I recently sent a batch to Boston and I’ve sent others all over Europe. Many of my customers come back again and again, I even had a woman drive from Dublin just to buy a wedding present from me. I’ve met so many people, people I now consider to be my friends.”
Taking part in the Derry Journal Craft Fair this Sunday, 13th, in the Everglades Hotel in Derry’s Waterside, Mary is used to showing her pieces in this type of setting.
“I used to go to craft fairs all the time and we went to the RDS in Dublin every year. But I haven’t been in a while, so I’m looking forward to meeting all the visitors and other exhibitors at the Craft Fair in Derry. The city has always encouraged artists, artisans and craftspeople - I think it’s very much part of Derry’s Culture and I’m glad to be a part of it.”