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05 Jul 2022

Mystery of new Laois mural finally revealed

There has been a lot of intrigue over the last few weeks about the mural that has appeared on the facade of the old County Hotel in Portlaoise.

Professional mural artist Ciarán Dunlevy has worked on the large artwork that spans the three floors of the Main Street building owned by Laois County Council and awaiting redevelopment into social housing apartments.

Locals have been enjoying watching the beautiful piece come together and speculating on what is being depicted.   

The artist has now confirmed the full story behind the mysterious mural, commissioned by Laois County Council and supported by the Portlaoise Municipal District Office.

It is a tribute to Fionn Mac Cumhail, one of Ireland’s most formidable mythological warriors who grew up in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Laois.  

“When local poet Laura Murphy shared her new poem with me, I was intrigued. As well as learning that Fionn spent his formative years in Laois, I also became aware that he was nurtured and trained by women. When Laura read the lines honouring the three women that made Fionn Mac Cumhail, the scene of the mural instantly appeared in my imagination and I thought we need to honour these women on a wall.”

According to the Irish legend, Fionn’s mother was a beautiful long-haired woman called Muirne. At the time of his birth, she and Fionn were in danger. To protect him she entrusted Fionn into the care of his aunt, a Druidess named Bodhmall and her companion, a Warrioress named Liath Luachra. Bodhmall and Liath devoted their lives to minding and training Fionn. They taught him to swim, run, jump, hunt as well as poetry and the martial arts of Ireland.

The mural depicts the scene on the one day that Fionn’s mother came to see him in secret.  Muirne looks on in great joy and longing as she watches him playing happily with Bodhmall and Liath in the woodland surrounding Glenbarrow Waterfall.

Speaking of the ethereal being that emanates from the waterfall, Dunlevy says;

“This is a tribute to the visionary art of AE Russell, a preeminent figure of the Celtic Revival whose representations of the Aos Sí, the otherworldly beings of Ireland or the ‘Shining Ones’, are beautiful beyond measure but have been, for far too long, overlooked.”

Muireann Ní Chonaill is Laois Arts Officer.

“This mural brings a vibrant, magical energy to Portlaoise’s Main Street. It is wonderful to see this visual artist’s response to the work of our local poet Laura Murphy. Ciarán has done a wonderful job in honouring Fionn and the women who made him,” she said.

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