‘Model’ for famous Derry sculpture comes face to face with himself

A Derry man whose likeness features in an iconic statue on the city’s riverfront has come face-to-face with himself on a visit home.

Muredach Doherty (70) is a cousin of the late Eamonn O’Doherty, the Derry-born artist behind the famous ‘emigrants’ sculpture located at Sainsbury’s along the city’s waterfront.

Dublin-based Muredach was back in his home town last week and took the opportunity to get up close and personal with the artwork in which he features.

He told the ‘Journal’: “It was only after Eamonn had completed the sculpture that he told me that he’d used me as the model for the man’s face.

“He asked me if I’d seen the statue - which was then located in Waterloo Place - and, when I said I hadn’t, he said something like: ‘Well, you should go and see it. You’re going to be looking at yourself’.

“Eamonn later revealed that he’d used my sharp facial features as a template for the adult male figure in the statue.

“I didn’t pose for it and he didn’t ask me to sit down so he could draw - he told me he simply used my features from memory.

“Eamonn and I were close - particularly during our years in Dublin. He was a really good guy and was very kind to me when I moved to Dublin from England. I miss him greatly.”

Muredach hails from a well-known family in Derry. His father, Barney, was a school teacher and a former headmaster at CBS Brow of the Hill.

Raised in Clarendon Street, Muredach’s younger brother is Shane Paul O’Doherty, a former IRA explosives operative who served a long jail sentence in England for his involvement in a letter-bomb campaign.

Muredach attended St Columb’s College - where contemporaries included Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, writer Seamus Deane and musician Paul Brady - before continuing his studies at UCD.

After stints in town planning, in England, and teaching, in Castlederg, Muredach relocated to Dublin where he hooked up with cousin Eamonn, who was raised in Derry’s West End Park.

“When I landed in Dublin, Eamonn looked after me until I got my own place,” he says. “He was good like that - kind-hearted and generous.

“Over the years, we met up regularly and, despite his immense talent, he always remained grounded.

“He was a first-rate artist, a really talented musician and a dedicated political animal. He really was a shining light.”

Muredach, who worked as a solicitor until his retirement, believes the emigrants statue is situated in a wonderful location.

“It’s now in its proper context. You have the river, the bridge and the view - to me, it seems perfect.

“I feel so privileged that Eamonn chose me out of the blue, as it were, to feature in the work. He did it without any fanfare and only told me in passing. That was the type of man he was - unassuming to a tee.

“As a proud Derry man, I’m immensely honoured that he should have thought of me when he was creating such a powerful and poignant piece of sculpture.”

Eamonn O’Doherty, who died in 2011, is best known for his public sculptures across Ireland.

He is responsible for some of the best-loved works of public art in the Republic - including the Quincentennial Sculpture in Galway’s Eyre Square, the James Connolly Memorial, across from Dublin’s Liberty Hall, and the Anna Livia fountain (aka ‘the floozie in the Jacuzzi), which is located in Croppy Acre Memorial Park near Heuston Station in the
Irish capital.