The return of sea god sculpture Manannán Mac Lir

The damaged Manann�n Mac Lir...and the new steps for visitors to view the replacement sculpture at Gortmore on Bnevenagh.

The damaged Manann�n Mac Lir...and the new steps for visitors to view the replacement sculpture at Gortmore on Bnevenagh.

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When it went missing its bizarre disappearance made news around the world and, when it resurfaced, its suspicious return made just as many headlines.

For the artist who created the original Manannán Mac Lir sculpture, the task of replacing the nine feet two inches tall piece of art is proving to be a time consuming challenge.

‘Game of Thrones’ sculptor, John Darren Sutton from Dungannon was reunited with the Celtic sea god sculpture after it was found dumped on the mountainside just a few hundred metres from its original spot. He knew it was badly damaged, as half the head was missing at the back, and attempts to remove the arms and neck were visible all over the sculpture.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, the artist said: “I didn’t realise how badly damaged it was. Everywhere you look it needs repaired.”

Those behind the bizarre incident left a cross in place of the statue with the words ‘YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME’. Mr Sutton said they had a job on their hands when removing it. and he doesn’t believe the culprits did it as a prank.

“It took too much effort because you can see where they tried to saw it off at the beard, the neck and the arms,” said Mr. Sutton. “They obviously went to some effort, but they shot themselves in the foot. I don’t think they realised there would be such a backlash. Everybody was talking about it. They obviously didn’t think it through.”

The steps erected at Gortmore on Binevenagh where the replacement Manann�n Mac Lir sculpture will be located.

The steps erected at Gortmore on Binevenagh where the replacement Manann�n Mac Lir sculpture will be located.

For weeks the story of the missing sculpture made news, and was the subject of lengthy discussion at meetings of the former Limavady Borough Council. Even the police became part of the story, conducting an air and land search for they called ‘a missing person’.

When the Bannside Ramblers stumbled upon the sculpture, a month after it disappeared, it was initially hoped it could be repaired, but after consulting Mr Sutton, Council decided the best way forward was a replacement sculpture by Mr Sutton costing the same as the original, £9,950. Before work can start on a new sculpture, Mr Sutton has to repair the damaged one to make a mould of the original which he will then laminate with resin. While unable to give an exact time frame as to how long before visitors to Gortmore Viewing Point will once again see Manannán on display, Mr Sutton hopes to have the sculpture complete before the end of the year. Meanwhile, preparing for its return, the former Limavady Council installed a new access point, comprising of 36 steps.

SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan hopes the original sculpture can be displayed at the Roe Valley Arts Centre. He says the replacement sculpture will be a “boost for local tourism”.

“I think it’ll be a major tourist attraction, bringing visitors to here from around the world. Given the publicity from before, Manannán will market himself,” added Colr. Mullan.

It took too much effort because you can see where they tried to saw it off at the beard, the neck and the arms

John Darren Sutton
A damaged Manann�n Mac Lir.

A damaged Manann�n Mac Lir.