Dungiven library was packed to capacity on Wednesday to celebrate the “timeless beauty” of the legendary “Gem of the Roe”, Fionnvola, which has been immortalised in bronze by internationally renowned sculptor Maurice Harron.
With pride of place in front of the state-of-the-art library, on the footpath and shown off on a plinth, the committee responsible for the project hope the sculpture will become a landmark.
Weighing just under one tonne, those who gathered as the almost six foot high sculpture was unveiled gasped in admiration.
“She’s beautiful, just lovely,” said 81-year-old Patsy Kelly from Dungiven.
Derry County Board chairman, John Keenan said it was “magnificent, because it brings together the story of Fionnvola together and she’ll be seen by thousands who will be in Derry for the big year ahead, with the Fleadh and the Feile and the GAA congress,” he told the ‘Journal’.
Cathal O’hOisin, East Derry Sinn Fein MLA, and member of the DCAL committee, said Fionnvola is wonderfully placed for the world to see.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and, along with the library, has really put the heart back into the town,” he said. “Well done to all involved.”
Dungiven boxing champ, Paul McCloskey said the sculpture was another jewel in Dungiven’s crown.
“It’s fantastic and really gives the town a boost,” he said.
Among the Fionnvolas who attended the event to see their namesake’s big night, was 18-year Fionnvola McLaughlin. Proud of her name, the teen said she had been named after her granny, Fionnvola Doherty, or ‘Vola’ as she was affectionately known.
“A lot of people can’t pronounce my name, so it can be a bit of a conversation starter,” she said. “I’m very proud of my name, and I think this is great because it’s a way of telling the story.”
Another admirer of the sculpture was Rose McLaughlin from Dungiven who said it made her “proud” to see the legend immortalised in bronze.
“We’ve been very excited about this and I just think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think we should all be very proud.”
Local councillor Sean McGlinchey said the project was “a great boost for the town”.
“We’re very lucky to have this and we, as a community, need to look after her now,” he added.