Sunday 25 February 2018

Gallery: 'The twin Towers of Dromore'

Cillian Rogers inside the Old Workhouse and above right, with one of his creations.
Cillian Rogers inside the Old Workhouse and above right, with one of his creations.
Cillian with one of his puppet designs
The first and only photograph taken of the workhouse in Dromore West before it was damaged in a fire. Cillian says that it was taken by a box camera and was the size of a stamp

Emma Gallagher

"It was once a stark choice - come here or board a coffin ship," says Dromore West artist Cillian Rogers.

The Sligo sculptor lives in the old workhouse just outside the village, a building where his grandfather once worked as the clerk.

Cillian explains: "My grandfather, Phil Connolly, was clerk of the workhouse in the early 1900s.

"Part of the building was burned down by the Anti-Treaty IRA.

"It was looted various times by brigades from Dromore West, Mayo and Sligo.

"Not many will know that it was workhouses that defined where electoral areas originated.

"The workhouse was also the origin of county councils and hospitals.

"It was the only place offering medical attention at the time.

"The Sligo, Tubbercurry and Ballina workhouses are knocked.

"This is one of the only isolated workhouses left."

The history of the imposing property dates back to a time that changed Ireland forever, an era that dessimated the rural landscape - The Great Famine.

Dromore West workhouse was built in 1849 to accomodate those suffering following the potato blight.

The building has since had a varied past, from attacks during the War of Independence, fires and looting.

However, thanks to Cillian it's now been restored into a family home.

Cillian says the maintenance of the workhouse never stops.

"It can be a difficult building to maintain.

"Although it looks large, only around one third of the original structure remains.

"Most was either burned or taken down to build houses in the region," he adds.

What is unique about this building is its location - most workhouses were built in towns and cities.

The same builders also worked on what is now the Clarion Hotel in Sligo town.

Cillian says: "The quality of craftsmanship was excellent.

"It must have looked like the Twin Towers to people living in mud huts."

Cillian studied sculpture art in college and moved back to Dromore West to renovate the building.

"I've always had an interest in community and art," he says.

His earlier works, dotted acorss West Sligo, are inspired by mythologies.

They include the Black Pig in Enniscrone, the Diarmuid and Grainne piece in Ballisodare and the 'Two men on a bike' sculptor in Easkey.

Cillian is also behind 'De Valera's Dream' which sits in the square in Tubbercurry.

He has worked and travelled internationally with his craft.

He says: "I do a lot of festivals and parades mostly.

"More recently, I was working with street performers in Hong Kong for New Year celebrations.

"I'm mainly known as the wearer of giant costumes in parades.

"Puppetry too has always been very important to me."

His 'Giant Puppet' video on Youtube has scored 1million hits.

He travels a lot to community shows for children.

"My main ambition is to inspire children, I want them to see my creations and not forget them."

Sligo Champion

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