Fergal McCabe kindly offered to donate his fine watercolour, “A Dun Laoghaire Cappricio”, to the National Yacht Club. We were delighted to accept the painting, as it not only depicts the National Yacht Club, but also as it has several other links to the club via the Dublin Bay 21’s as well as “Setanta”. Fergal has provided the note below, which provides some fascinating details of the painting and its inspiration.
A DUN LAOGHAIRE CAPRICCIO
A composition of imaginary or real architecture in a picturesque or dramatic fictive setting which encourages a reappraisal of its qualities.
A fictionalized assemblage of archaeological and architectural bits and pieces, a luxury image of cultural plenty
For many years now I have been exploring the architecture of Ireland and particularly its great practitioners Gandon and Johnston, through the medium of the capriccio and examples of my efforts have been displayed in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Irish Watercolour Society.
Walking the East Pier of Dun Laoghaire Harbour over the years, I came to realise that the panorama of the seafront is as astonishing a vista as that provided by the magnificent urban harbours of Valletta, Helsinki or Marseilles and that it was an obvious subject for a scenic composition.
Its towers and terraces, steeples and fortresses, its mix of fine classical and modern architecture, its history as the last sight of Ireland for so many emigrants and often the first glimpse for visitors; all set against a background of mountains and fronted by an ever busy harbour, contribute to this work of the imagination.
But, above all I have used the drawing to celebrate the Harbour’s yachting heritage. In the left middle ground of the composition is ‘Naneen’, the first of the Dublin Bay 21 fleet to be rebuilt through the heroic efforts of Fionán de Barra and Hal Sisk. Its topsail, though part of the original 1903 design is, of course, a ‘gaffe’ as it was omitted in the revised 1918 design now being used in the revival of this historic fleet. In the right foreground is ‘Setanta’ the Hustler 35 sailed by Ronnie O’Donovan, Finbar Cahill and my brother-in-law, the enthusiastic sailor Aodh Dowley and to its left a flock of fearless Oppies in which his grandchildren now venture forth in all kinds of weather.
Sir Roger Casement appears of course, but the sole living presence in the composition is ‘The Banjo Man’ in his established position at the Battery serenading the beginning of the sailing season with the strains of ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’.
I am delighted that this evocation of all the bits and pieces that entertain my daily walk has found a home in the National Yacht Club’s wonderful collection of maritime art and artefacts and particularly pleased that it will join the work of my fellow architect, Bill Nolan whose 1980s masterpiece featuring the stalwarts of the Club has pride of place in the entrance hall.
Hopefully my watercolour will become a conversation piece for the habitués of the bar and its cryptic allusions become more obvious as the night progresses.