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Trinity (2014), single channel video 15'43"

Rockingham (2014), single channel video 8'43"

In 2014 I was invited by artist and curator Linda Shevlin to develop and present a project at Roscommon Arts Centre about the site of Lough Key Forest Park, once known as the Rockingham Demesne, and prior to that, Moylurg. The project had a gallery-based component (below) and public art component.


In this project, Rockingham refers to three things:

The Rockingham Demesne: a farming estate near Boyle in Ireland, which was granted to the King family during the Cromwellian Settlement. My Grandfather, Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather all worked on the estate.

Rockingham House: the farming estate’s famous house, built at the start of the 19th century, which burnt down in 1957.

Pat and Annie's Farm: In 1959 Rockingham Demesne was sold to the Irish Land Commission and my grandfather, Pat acquired some of the land to farm his own cattle. We referred to the farm as Rockingham.

Taking stones. To ‘quarry’ a building is to takes stones from this building and use them to make another.

In 1971 Rockingham House, the enormous estate mansion next to Lough Key in County Roscommon, was demolished by the Land Commission. Its cut limestone was sold off for use in other buildings. My Grandfather, Pat Flanagan went and took a number of the stones (flagstones, lintels, capitals etc) before they sold and created a chair at the side of his house. In 2011 we relocated the chair down to the edge of Lough Key. During this period we found stones like the ones Pat salvaged at another site in Rockingham Demesne - the former farmhouse called Kingston Hall. Rockingham is a project to move these stones from Kingston Hall into public space near Lough Key.

Taking symbols. It is said that the Christian church took significant Pagan sites, dates and symbols and replaced them with its own. This is like the process of quarrying - one spirituality is mined in order to build another.

The positioning of the stones found in Kingston Hall in their new location has been determined by the cartographic positions of three religious ruins in the area: Kilbryan, Trinity Island, and Church Island. They are sites that are aligned in spiritual terms, but they are also aligned along the same east-west axis. They are parallel to each other, which is perhaps a continuation of the pre-Christian practice of celestial alignment.

The capitals used in Rockingham House are of the Ionic order. They have a spiral pattern not unlike those found in the triple spiral carvings at Newgrange. The curve, know as the Fibonacci spiral, is found in organic matter such sunflowers, pine cones and seashells. As the Christian church transposed itself upon these pagan belief systems, the arrangement of these relocated stones aspires to symbolically reverse this process. Christian sites here are represented by pre-Christian symbols.

The act of this superimposition is an act of returning; a return to an earlier spirituality, paralleled by a returning of the Rockingham stones from their current site. It is also an act of quarrying - the stones of one monument (in the form of Rockingham House) are used to create another.

Sean Rafferty 2014

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Linda Shevlin, whose generosity, advice and determination has been instrumental in making this project happen. A great many thanks also to Padraig Cunningham for his generous hospitality, and his time and help in a number aspects of the project.
Thanks to Xavier Flanagan, Louise Fitzpatrick (and Lough Key Forest Park), Joan and John Rafferty, Claire Bothwell, Shane O’Dowd, Rhona Rafferty, Feelystone, Coilte, and Marese McDonagh.