Eamonn McCann - The Marlborough man who stayed true to his vision

Derry sculptor Eamonn O'Doherty who has passed away.
Derry sculptor Eamonn O'Doherty who has passed away.

Eamonn O’Doherty was best-known in his native Derry for the “Emigration at the Fountain” monument designed for Waterloo Place. In Dublin he was better recognised as the man who made Anna Livia, aka the Floozie in the Jacuzzi, the bronze figure rippled by water which reclined in O’Connell Street until removed about 10 years ago by the city council - then reinstated earlier this year beside Heuston Station without the water-feature which have given it its character. Typical.

Eamonn fashioned the Connolly Memorial opposite Liberty Hall, the Tree of Gold across from Busaras, the Eyre Square Galway Hookers, the huge Protogonos figure at St. James’s Hospital in the Liberties, the Swans at the Antrim Hospital and much, much more - including the Great Hunger famine memorial in New York. Even those who wouldn’t have been able to put a name on him will have had their picture of the world somewhat shaped by his work. Eamonn – or “Yammin” as he was commonly addressed – also painted, played music – was a demon on the tin whistle – designed type-faces, taught architecture and was an inventive and tireless raconteur.

His death last Thursday will have devastated not just his wife Barbara and children Aisling, Meghan, Rosie and Eoin but also a wide and remarkably variegated circle of friends, some of whom will recall him not only or mainly for his formal art but from long nights of song and convivial whimsy at his and Barbara’s rambling and always open home in Donnybrook and later near Gorey in Wexford.

He was a Marlborough man and an old boy of St. Columb’s. Among his closest associates from the old days in Derry were Noel McLaughlin, Noel Hegarty, Seamus McGonagle and Big James Doherty, all now, alas, also gone.

Not everybody was uncritically enthusiastic about Eamonn’s work. It was figurative and frequently sentimental: this was certainly true of the Waterloo Place piece, with its sturdily dignified family and winsome child by the fountain. But he stayed true to his own vision through a long creative life: didn’t see sentimentality as necessarily negative. I think I saw him only once, and then in company, in the last 15 years of his life. But I remember him well, and all the memories are good.

Read more from Eamonn McCann in the Journal every Tuesday