A new Celtic tree sculpture in the Belmont area of Derry, funded by the Housing Executive, has been given the thumbs-up by local schoolchildren.
Pupils from St Patrick’s Primary School were taken on a visit to the recently completed work of art located on Ballyarnett Road.
Local sculptors Jim Hughes and Sean Tarr carved ancient Celtic spirits into the trunk, breathing new life into the dying Beech tree.
Jim, who was successful in securing funding to buy new carving tools from the Housing Executive’s Social Housing Enterprise programme last year, said:
“These trees are dying and in the past they would have been cut to a stump – you see them around the city – the Housing Executive thought carving them would be a better idea.
“The carvings represent the spirit of Derry’s River and Lough Foyle, Bran MacFheabhaill.
“It would be great to see more of these tree carvings around the city.”
The schoolchildren had been asked to become artists for the day and take part in a poster competition organised by the Housing Executive’s Social Education Officer, Patrick Duddy.
He said: “As this Beech tree has been given a new life as a sculpture, the schoolchildren are drawing their own ‘Tree of Life’ depicting their family/friends/interests – we’re looking forward to seeing the finished posters.
“We brought the P5 pupils to the new sculpture today to explain what the carvings mean and to help the schoolchildren, as part of the local community, take ownership of the tree.
“I was delighted to hear the children saying they liked the carvings and they were keen to learn more about the sculpture.”
Housing Executive Area Manager Eddie Doherty explained where the idea for the vibrant new sculpture came from.
“Our grounds maintenance team was approached by a local resident who suggested turning the tree into a sculpture rather than cutting it down,” he said.
“We thought it was a good idea to create something unique that local people can be proud of and visitors will want to see.
“As the work was progressing, we received a lot of positive feedback from residents and passers-by who are interested to know what the tree was being turned into.
“It’s wonderful to see local children embracing the sculpture - we’re thrilled they like it.”