When I look at the original mill house with its doorway intact and inscribed in very definite and elegant French ‘Le Strange’ above the arch and dated 1673 it fascinates me. I think the delicate style of the writing is juxtaposed to both its age and its seasonally harsh surroundings; essentially it is so stylish and so French. Then there is the house that I am presently living in with its quirky English gentrified post war feel and the writing ‘Perry and sons Estab. 1927’ across the front window in an art deco type face. This area was not just lived in by the French Huguenots and the Anglo Irish it was also cultivated by them. Hopefully as we grow and mature as a contemporary Irish society we will value these simple doorways and houses as part of our heritage. In Ferbane there are some great crafted windows and doorways. Seamus in the hardware shop ‘Bits and Pieces’ told me that these particular features were made by a carpenter by the name of Jackson known to the area at the turn of the century.
I feel that these elements of our towns become more precious as the monoculture of Spars and Centra’s spread out from the larger cities. I know that these convenience shops are probably a much welcomed addition to a lot of towns but how they are nestled in towns such as Ferbane is very American. In this respect I hope that in the future we will look more to our European neighbours for architectural and town planning inspiration..
This whole area around Belmont has become so special to me, the bridges, the weir, the walk along the canal. I have never spent a full cycle of all the seasons in the countryside before and it really has been a powerful time especially the spring, watching the birth of so much life simultaneously. I feel that I am experiencing Belmont Mills at a great time of renewal; I have seen the mills get new roofs and the pebbledash taken off to reveal such beautiful brickwork in the glorious month of April as I sit writing this now in the tempestuous month of June! Presently I am working on an installation to be exhibited at the botanic gardens in Dublin during the month of September.
The work will consist of seven full sized microcrystalline wax toy horses placed in a group amongst the trees. The theme of the horses is based around a sense of cyclical rebirth and a personal homage to ‘Der blau reiter’ group and artists such as Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky.
I feel that Belmont mills and its immediate area is a precious part of our country and heritage and should be both treasured and nurtured for our future generations. I would like to thank Sinead O Reilly, Tom and Sandy and family, Pine and Sandy, Jeff and Kay Perry and say hello to everybody else I’ve had the fortune to call a friend in Offaly and like Arnie, I’ll be back!
(This article first appeared in Visual Artist and by their kind permission we are able to replicate it here on our website. We are grateful to them for this facility.)”