Thursday, 8 March 2012

Visiting Yeats Country 'The Land of Heart's Desire' at the North West Region Ball

Our North West Region comprising Counties Sligo and Leitrim is probably our smallest region in Engineers Ireland but certainly one of our most active. They recently hosted their Annual Ball in Sligo. At the suggestion of the very active North West Chairman Seamus Lee we visited The Model Niland Art Gallery in Sligo town where we found a display of works that included Jack B. Yeats, Paul Henry, George Russell (AE) and other national and international artists. Of course the association of Sligo with the poet William Butler Yeats and his painter brother Jack B Yeats is very strong. More of that later.

We were delighted that the North West Region Ball was attended by the Mayor of Sligo Cllr Rosaleen O'Grady and the Vice Chairman of Sligo County Council Cllr Matt Lyons. John Power Director General of Engineers Ireland also attended with his wife Mary.

Seamus Lee North West Region Chairman, Cllr Rosaleen O’Grady Mayor of Sligo,
PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland
and Cllr Matt Lyons Vice Chairman of Sligo County Council
There was a huge attendance at the event for a Region of its size. Most noticeable were the number of young engineers and even a few students from Sligo IT. I can recall last attending this event some 10 years ago after we opened the RPS office in Galway with the same enthusiastic cross section attending the North West Ball. A very young Emer Concannon was Chairman of the West Region back then and it was great to meet her again last weekend. I’m glad to see that she is still active as PRO on the Region Committee which is still a very active mix of young and some very experienced people. There is also a good mix of private and public sectors, local authority and industry people. This winning formula can also be seen in the other more active regions around the country and is clearly missing in the less active regions.

North West Region Committee – At back left to right Joe Healy, George Chadda, Gerard Scott, Rowan O'Callaghan, Anthony Skeffington, Deirdre McNulty,Emer Concannon, Geraldine O'Gorman, Pal Hardiman, Micheal O'Halloran, Francis Fidgeon,  front row Seamus O'Toole, Seamus Lee, Darragh O'Boyle, Michael Walsh.
The Mayor in her remarks spoke kindly of the contribution that Engineers have made and continue to make to the development of the Region and spoke of the welcome that all visitors get and will get in the 'The Land of Heart's Desire' as Yeats called Sligo in one of his famous plays.

Responding to the Mayor my speech was short - trusting that brighter days lie ahead for the engineering industry especially in construction and drawing on the tremendous contribution that our export industries in Pharma, Computing and Biomedical engineering are making towards national recovery.

The North West Region certainly doesn’t hang around 'cursing the darkness' as they staged a Las Vegas Casino event between dinner and dancing. Though unusual at an Engineers Ireland dinner the casino had the intended effect of getting everybody into groups together actively and quickly getting to know everybody and clearly having fun too!

Having fun at the Las Vegas Casino at North West Region Ball in Sligo
There was also Engineers Ireland business to be done. I conferred Titles on one new Fellow William Brennan and a number of newly qualified Chartered Engineers from the Region. I also had the pleasure of presenting the local pharmaceutical industry Abbott with their Employers Accreditation from Engineers Ireland. This is a mark of their Continuing Professional Education (CPD) that they continue to give to their engineering employees to compliment their own professional development as individual engineers.

North West Region Chairman Seamus Lee and Engineers Ireland President PJ Rudden
pictured with the staff of CPD Accredited Employer Aboott Pharmaceuticals
The North West Region Ball was a credit to the organising Region Chairman Seamus Lee Secretary Rowan O'Callaghan (who acted MC on the night) and Region PRO Emer Concannon. This Region appears to have insulated itself from the effects of the recession by the sheer determination to unite and make the very best of the great human resources that they possess as they clearly showed on the night. I wish the Region continued success in the years ahead.

Before I leave Sligo I have to tell you about the The Model Niland Art Gallery.  This is another example of some of the fantastic artistic facilities built around Ireland over the past decade similar to The Visual that I toured in Carlow at the end of January. Nora Niland was Sligo County Librarian in the 50s 60s and 70s and Founder of the Sligo Municipal Art Collection. She started the collection by borrowing five works by Jack B Yeats to exhibit for the first Yeats Summer School in 1959. It has grown to some 300 works. On the tenth anniversary of her death in 1998 the collection was named after her and moved to The Model School on the Mall in Sligo. Thus the Model Niland Gallery was born.

Viewing Jack B Yeats works in The Model Niland Gallery in Sligo with Curator Lara Byrne
We toured the gallery in the company of the Curator Lara Byrne who gave us a potted history of the Yeats family in Sligo not only WB and Jack but their talented father John B also. There are a number of Jack B Yeats works on display. The one that caught my eye was the one of Red Hanrahan standing on Ben Bulben looking across at its sister mountain Knocknarea. Jack painted this at the request of his older brother William Butler to accompany his poem 'Red Hanrahan'. The painting certainly depicts the scene described in the poem 'The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knocknarea and thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve may say'. The Maeve in question was Queen Maeve of Connacht who is reputed to be buried at the top of Knockarea mountain at Strandhill west of Sligo town.

There is an Exhibition of John Butler Yeats and Jack B Yeats called ‘Father and Son’ on in The Model Niland in Sligo from May 12th until September 2nd this coming summer. There is also an Artist in Residence quarters, a series of individual and fully occupied Artists Studio Centre, a substantial cinema and even a restaurant in the new Niland. Well done Sligo Borough Council, Sligo County Council and the Arts Council!

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