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What I Love About Limerick..with Jim Connolly, sculptor
The Showband Era
Music was an important part of my life. I went to college in the old school of art and design on O'Connell Avenue, which is a lovely area in itself. We lived in the city for seven years as well, before my family moved out of the city and up to Dublin. But I stayed behind. I worked my way through art school playing piano. That was the beginning of serious musical performance in my life. It was the early 60s, and of course there was a vibrant showband scene emerging throughout the country. I formed a band called The Monarch showband, and we had a beautiful singer named Tommy Drennan join us. There were performances everywhere, in the Connolly Hall, St Michael's Hall - very exciting times.
I was born in Foynes. My father was very involved with airports, and for seven years I followed the sea planes that flew in and out of Foynes. When that stopped, and the flights moved to Shannon, we moved to the outskirts of the city. We lived in Raheen, which was all rolling countryside. I'll never forget the first bulldozer I ever saw was the one that began clearing the ground for the hospital in Dooradoyle.
The Limerick School of Art and Design
We have a wonderful and expansive school of art and design in Limerick. but that wasn't always the case. I remember when I was there, there were only 11 full-time art students. Myself and Jack Donovan were actually the first people to graduate as qualified art teachers! But something happened to art teaching in the 1960s, something that damaged the traditional ideals of taught art and sculpture. You had students picking items of metal out of skips, and welding them together. Art teaching became defined by fashions and attitudes. Everyone in the entire world has their own talents, and those shouldn't be shoe-horned into ideas of style.
The River Shannon
I live in Loop Head, but there are such strong links between Limerick and Clare, that I've always considered them two parts of a whole. From my home, I can look North up to the Atlantic, and South over the River Shannon towards the mountains of Kerry. The river is beautiful, a very inspiring piece of landscape.
You've to be very careful when sculpting with bronze, because once your work is finished it's going to be like that for five or six hundred years. I wanted to capture an image reflective of the man in his prime, and I think I did that. Richard Harris was indicative of the times he lived in a provincial Irish city. Back then, if you really wanted to make it, you had to go abroad. It's changed now - people can achieve what they want to achieve in Ireland. But Harris and others had to leave, but they brought the name of Limerick abroad and kept it with them.
Theatre was once such a crucial part of Limerick life. As a young man, I joined a performance company called the Sicilians, who were based out in the Jesuit's school in Dooradoyle. I joined with the same intentions as many young men - to meet young women. But they were wonderful years. The city bristled with performance then, with cinemas and theatres, the Savoy and Cruises Hotel. That's missing today, I feel.