Friday 26th November 2021 saw the arrival home of 6 new residents to Armagh – the work of contemporary visual artist and sculptor, Tim Shaw. Shaw has created a collection of 6 bronze sculptures capturing The Armagh Rhymers, which were featured in 2020’s Royal Academy of Arts Summer Show in London.
To celebrate the arrival of these stunning pieces The Armagh Rhymers hosted Shaw and guests at Aonach Mhacha in Armagh.
Speaking at the event, Shaw remarked that this was a time in the world when the values of Mummers and their traditions and their closeness to the earth should be celebrated and appreciated.
Shaw and Armagh Rhymer Annie June Callaghan recited Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Last Mummer’ in which the Mummer has been rejected by all whilst his family are ‘charmed in a ring in front of the luminous screen’. In this poem Heaney laments that the Mummer’s traditions have been rejected in favour of the modern delights of the television – Vallely notes that this is as important a message today as ever and hopes that having these sculptures here in Armagh will celebrate and promote our traditions for generations to come.
The Armagh Rhymers; Barry Lynch, Larry Harte, Robert McGlennon and Annie June Callaghan, performed traditional songs including the anthem of the Wren Boys ‘The Eagle Conquering Wren’.
The Armagh Rhymers hope to exhibit the pieces locally in 2022.
About the Artist
Shaw was born in Belfast in 1964. In 2013 he was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and he exhibits in the London Summer Exhibition annually. He won the prestigious Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts London Summer Exhibition in 2015, the Mullan Prize at the Royal Ulster Academy, and a Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship.
“I first saw The Armagh Rhymers perform ten years ago on Stephen’s Day deep within rural Armagh. It was a remarkable winter scene: heavy snow had fallen upon a frozen grey landscape and the Mummers rhymed and sang their way from door to door, dressed in masks and skirts made from straw. They appeared primitive and other-worldly. I have watched The Armagh Rhymers perform several times since. Through conversations with the mumming community and through my own creative journey, I have been trying to find the essence and the meaning of these customs…(they) originated from an age when communities were at the mercy of the seasons, but what is their relevance in a modern digital world where much of what is demanded is met almost instantaneously by the touch of a button? If there is anything that the current pandemic has taught us, it is that we very much remain at the mercy of nature. Perhaps the mummers’ tongue provides a space for us to reflect upon what is important in life, and what counts beyond the endless pursuit of wealth and acquisition of stuff that does
not matter.” Tim Shaw, 2021
The Mummers Tongue..Amongst the People!
by Brigid Donnelly, With Chi and Rooted in Cavehill and Armagh Composed on 17th Oct 2020 and refined on 26th + 30th November 2020
Yellow Straw – through Tim Shaw
Feet Planted; their Chi flows;
Striking Torsos .. Powerful Thrust ..
Spirit , Essence Captured
Shaw Gets it , Personifies the Master Mummers;
He Is One !
Two Still ; Two Stock;
Two Praise; Two Prance ?
Aligned for … Battle, Threat, Dance?
Masked ; These Animal Spirited Minds ?
Sculpted Mummers; Challenge; Provoke;
Rhyme and Tongue …
Anne and Dara .. The Rhymers Immortalised !
Again ! Modern / Ancient Sculpted Way
The Way, The Truth and Their Light …
Sensuous straw skirt swirling ; the lilt; the lift ; knee poised ;
The Tongue Unseen ?
Unheard?; The People Hear;
Whoring Amongst ….
Authoritative Presence …
Melodeon Soloist ; Holds Court …
Bodhran Silent : Wasn’t There,
“My father played the melodeon
Outside our gate,
There were stars in the Morning East
And they danced to his music”;
The Rhymer played the melodeon
Outside, By the Beaghmore Stones,
There were stars in the Evening West
And they danced to his music , Bright !
The Stars, This Night,
The 17th !
Launched the 78th Dark Sky Site –
There were stars in the Evening East;
Watching with Us,
‘Til you get here…
Chant and Grace
On this Place.
Equinox; All 4!
Every Day; and Any Day
Star Bright !
The Sperrin’s Soul
Is Vastly Wild!
The Sperrin’s Gods
Sky Gazing Hides.
The Milky Way
Mars Corona !
This Sacred Site;
Megalithic Portals To….
Constellations Above You,
Look Up !;
From your back door;
Locked Down; Restricted???
Head Back; Neck Aches;
Strains ; Eyes Search …
Comets Fizz In…
In A Flash, in
The Self Same Sky….
With Room To Rhyme in
Mummers Tongue; (Mother’s Tongue / Mother Tongue)
Will Be There….
New Constellations .!
Didn’t You Know ?
“Look Up !!
From the Streets and the City;
Look Far Beyond Tower and Mast…!”
Alice Milligan advises us !.
Look out from your Covid Cluttered Mind;
Look across your Rural Green Fields,
Through your November Hedges,
Their shapes fire your imagination:
Feic (Irish for look)
Feic past the Portent Blackbird,
Feasting, Pecking on Your Decomposing Bramley,
Resting on the sod turned, winter grass,
of your postage stamp back garden;
ploughed by hurling/ camoige boots, hurl and sliotar
Rosie and Green Bramley Chucked out, discovered to be,
Decaying in it’s Rotten core
Through, Over, Past, Up, Forward…
However you want …
To whatever you want ..
The Chi of the Yellow Straw
Wherever You are !
At Bheitheach Mhor
‘Til You Get There…..
Sense Your Chi Flow in Unison
Within The Yellow Straw..
Tim Shaw’s Artistic Depiction-
The Mummer’s Chi in Yellow Straw !!