Tuesday 21 November 2017

Man spends two years bringing Easter Rising to life with 50,000 Lego bricks

The GPO in 1916, recreated in Lego by Paul Derrick
The GPO in 1916, recreated in Lego by Paul Derrick
The GPO in 1916, recreated in Lego by Paul Derrick
Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego
Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego
The 1916 Centenary parade makes its way past the GPO in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Meadhbh McGrath

After two painstaking years, Lego enthusiast Paul Derrick has finally completed his scale model of Dublin’s General Post Office during the 1916 Rising, using a whopping 50,000 toy bricks.

Paul, who is originally from Hampshire, England, but now lives in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, wanted to honour the centenary in a way that would appeal to younger generations.

“There’s so much out there about 1916, and it can be a lot for younger people to take in. Lego is so visual - it’s not political, it’s not confrontational, it’s just an objective representation of how it was,” he told independent.ie.

“Even when I was building it at home, my daughters started asking things like, why did the Irish people not want the English there? It led on to other conversations for us,” he added.

The GPO in 1916, recreated in Lego by Paul Derrick
The GPO in 1916, recreated in Lego by Paul Derrick

The display, which stretches two-and-a-half metres wide and four metres long, includes the GPO building, an old tram and dozens of Lego soldiers and rebels, and was originally suggested by Paul’s Irish wife Evanna.

“I didn’t know how well it would be received, I didn’t want to play down the significance of the anniversary, but my wife said people would see it as a nice way to commemorate the Rising,” he said.

Although Paul is British, his great-grandfather – who happened to be called Michael Collins – was from Cork, and moved to London in 1920.

Paul is a father of five, and described the build as becoming a family affair, as his daughters Asha (8) and Elise (7) helped make the cobbled streets - not an easy task, considering they required 30,000 bricks.

Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego
Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego

At his Carrickmacross home Paul has a studio dedicated to Lego, where he believes there are over a million pieces scattered about the room.

“The big joke in the house is that it’s ‘daddy’s room’, but it’s a room that everybody uses because we all love Lego,” he said.

Paul estimated that it would have taken 300 hours to build the model had all of the bricks been immediately available, but some of the parts were so obscure that he had to source them from across the globe.

“There are some parts that are so rare they were only ever issued 30 years ago. For example, the top cornicing on the building is made from lots of pieces that have indentations on them.

Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego
Paul Derrick recreated the 1916 Rising in Lego

“They were only ever released in a Lego set from 1979 to 1982, and I needed 300 of them,” he said.

With the help of friends working at Legoland centres in Germany and Windsor, Paul managed to gather all of the parts he needed, and turned to the internet for more challenging finds.

Throughout his project, Paul received support from Lego through the User Group programme for builders.

“They allowed me to have a vast quantity of bricks on the condition that what I build is not outside the Lego ethos – it can’t portray violence, it can’t be represent drugs or alcohol, things like that,” he said.

The 1916 Centenary parade makes its way past the GPO in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
The 1916 Centenary parade makes its way past the GPO in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Complying with Lego’s rules proved to be tricky when trying to effectively capture the events outside the GPO during Easter Week 1916.

“I have to be very careful. With the Easter Rising there’s a very fine line, if I tried to portray it as a British victory or a message about Irish republicanism, they would have said absolutely not,” he added.

Paul is a member of Brick.ie, an Irish community of hundreds of adult Lego enthusiasts, and fellow member David Fennell built the green tram featured in Paul’s model.

As well as his GPO model, Paul built a model of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift using more than 20,000 bricks for London’s Brick 2014 showcase, and the battle of Trafalgar, which features 30 ships, some of which are close to a metre in length.

The GPO build is currently stored at his studio, but Paul has been in talks with An Post about displaying his creation at the real-life GPO.

Next up for Paul is an exhibition in Naas Library, Co Kildare, on May 20, in conjunction with Brick.ie. In the meantime, he will be dividing his cherished build into pieces and hopping in his van for a tour of schools around the country.

When he's not working with bricks, Paul spends much of his time looking after his two autistic sons, Ciaran and Euan.

“I’ve been building with Lego properly for the last 15 years, and I’m hoping to make a career out of it now,” he said.

“My big passion for Lego is historical builds, and I’m hoping to get an exhibition together early next year that I could travel with around Ireland.

“In the future, I would like this to be something that I can do with my two boys, and something we can all do together.”

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