by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Alderman Jim Dillon with PF Copeland's Paul Forde and sculptor John Sherlock
LISBURN Council has unveiled the winning design for a major public sculpture which will be placed near the Al at Hillsborough to celebrate pioneer aviator Harry Ferguson, who in 1909 was the first Irishman to design, build and fly his own aeroplane.
Harry Ferguson was born and grew up in Growell, near Hillsborough, and became one of the outstanding engineers and inventors of the 20th century. He's particularly famous for the iconic 'Ferguson Tractor' which helped to revolutionise farming all over the world.
"However, very few people are aware of his great exploits as one of the
earliest pilots and makers
of aircraft" explained Alderman Jim Dillon. "This striking sculpture will be a fitting legacy to celebrate his aviation achievements, and remind the public of his historic flight near Hillsborough on December 31, 1909."
The selection panel for the sculpture included representatives from Lisburn Council, the Harry Ferguson Celebration Committee and the Ulster Aviation Society.
"We received submissions from all over the British Isles and the standard was tremendously impressive" said Mr Dillon. "We're delighted with the panel's choice, and we're confident it will become a much-enjoyed and recognised public landmark on this very busy thoroughfare."
The winning sculpture is joint venture between top Ulster sculptor John Sherlock, and PF Copeland, one of Ireland's leading metal fabricators.
"We're thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious commission," said Mr Sherlock, "Its a happy coincidence that both Mark Copeland and myself are also qualified pilots, and we're in awe of Ferguson for his amazing feat to get his unique creation to actually fly and land successfully.
"Our artistic concept is a creative combination of stainless steel and bronze. We believe it's quite a dramatic piece, and that the public will enjoy and appreciate it, and the remarkable man it celebrates.
The sculpture shows this splendid aircraft as it's just about to make its historic landing, with Harry waving to the watching crowds in celebratory mood. The piece will present this wonderful inventor to the public as truly a 'Magnificent Man in his Flying Machine:"
Mark Copeland added: "This is an exciting and important commission for our company. It's also a really challenging piece from a technical and structural point of view. However, we're no strangers to producing complex public artwork, having completed such well-known Belfast pieces as 'Nuala with the Hula' in Thanksgiving Square, and the 'Spirit of Belfast' in Cornmarket.
"We're certain the Ferguson sculpture will be well received by the public.
The overall sculpture will be half-life size, and is scheduled for completion in mid-summer. It will be placed on the roundabout at the Al Dual Carriageway, under the Hillsborough fly-over, and will be seen by up to 30,000 passing travellers each day.
The project has been supporter with grant investment from Lagan Rural Partnership under the Rural Development Programme.