One week on and mystery of missing Celtic sea god statue goes global

The sculpture of Mannan�n Mac Lir remains missing after it was stolen from Binevenagh mountain on January 21.
The sculpture of Mannan�n Mac Lir remains missing after it was stolen from Binevenagh mountain on January 21.

One week on since the iconic statue of Manannán Mac Lir was stolen and there is still no trace of him, but those intrigued by the mystery are as keen as ever to know who took him and why, where he has gone and if he will ever be found.

The theft has become a global talking point with news of the crime crossing the Atlantic and reaching ‘The New York Times’ and to Russia in Sputnik news in Moscow, while people from Canada, America, Brazil, Spain and Japan have taken to social media to vent their outrage and anger on the Facebook page ‘Bring back Manannan Mac Lir the Sea God’. Many have even offered to make a donation to replace the £10,000 statue.

One of the illustrations featured on the Facebook page.

One of the illustrations featured on the Facebook page.

The theft has brought world wide publicity to the area. It has also created awareness about Manannán Mac Lir, summed up by Eddie Espie who posted on the Facebook page: “Nothing has made him more famous than the manner of his departure.”

The man who poured his heart and soul into the sculpture, artist Darren John Sutton from Dungannon, said the attention to the disappearance of the Celtic sea god statue was so overwhelming in the past week he had to switch off his phone.

“It was mental,” said Darren, speaking to the ‘Journal’ on Wednesday, “but I can understand the reaction. People want it back and it shows there is a lot of love for it.”

The ‘Game of Thrones’ sculptor says he is just as puzzled as everyone else as to why the statue was sabotaged, or what has become of it, but he knows for sure its removal wasn’t a simple job.

Just like the almost 6,000 people backing the Facebook campaign, Darren says he would be “over the moon” should the fibre glass sculpture turn up but says, realistically, it’s probably in bits as those who stole Manannán Mac Lir most likely had to cut off two to three foot from his feet upwards to get an angle grinder to the steel frame and remove it from its base.

Darren has spent 16 years producing public art in Scotland, England, Portugal and latterly Ireland. He says it’s the first time anything has ever happened his work.

“It’s pure madness,” he said. “It’s never happened to me before. I just don’t know.”

When asked what he would say to the person, or persons, who made off with his statue, Darren made a simple appeal: “Just bring it back. Bring it home and see if we can get it repaired,” he appealed.

Darren says although he has got over the initial sick feeling he had when he first saw the damage to the sculpture, which took more than six months work to create, he is still crushed about what happened but says the worldwide outpouring of support has provided some comfort and makes him feel proud people held his work in such esteem.

The statue was one of five located across the Roe Valley as part of a Sculpture Trail aimed at boosting tourism in 2013 by Limavady Borough Council. The remaining four pieces of artwork have been left unscathed. Limavady Council Chief Executive, Liam Flanigan is among those who would love the see Manannán Mac Lir brought home.

“The mythological importance of Manannán Mac Lir is tied in very closely with this area. The Broighter Hoard is one of the most famous archeological imports to have been found in this area and is believed to have been an offering to Manannán Mac Lir the sea god. It is also of mythological importance thoughout the Celtic world - Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales - so this is very important to our area and Darren’s sculpture was extremely well received and loved by people of the area and its many visitors, and it has been a very important part of our wider heritage tourism strategy.

“Therefore, we are very keen to see the statue either voluntarily returned and replaced and, if not, we shall be investigating how we can do that ourselves to ensure Manannán Mac Lir’s return.”

Mr Flanigan said Council believes the massive interest in the sculpture “has awoken a whole new body of interest, not just in our area around Limavady but also the whole fantastic area of Celtic mythology, which is so strongly bound to this region, and I think this will inspire many people to come and visit the area and find out more themselves.”

In the meantime, a reward remains on offer for information about the whereabouts of the Manannán Mac Lir missing statue. Anyone with information should contact Limavady PSNI on the non emergency number 101.