Over the last six weeks, the Armagh Ambassadors have heard a lot about Archbishop Richard Robinson. It is no surprise that as part of his plan, for Armagh to become a city to rival Dublin, he wished to re-develop The Mall too. Certain raucous pursuits did not fit with Robinson’s notion so he gifted The Mall to Armagh’s citizens as a public walkway.
Over the years, its tree lined promenade has become an area for sports such as cricket and a popular walking spot. Those keeping fit, walking their family pet and courting couples have all enjoyed the space.
The Mall stands out as a unique feature in our city today. It is cared for by The Mall Trustees in partnership with the local Council. In 2005 The Mall won the Civic Trust Award and the Irish Architecture Award.
The Mall is home to a number of memorials including the statue dedicated to the children who lost their lives in the Armagh railway disaster in 1889. This stands in front of the modern sculpture, the Turning Point.
‘Turning Point’ by Robert Connolly
Born in Ballymena and from a farming background, Robert Connolly is now an Associate Lecturer in Art at the University of Ulster.
His sculptures are found all over Ireland, from Cavan to Cushendall, from Portrush to Queen’s University Belfast and there are several in Dublin including Kilmainham Jail, Microsoft’s Head Office and Dublin Port. Plus all across the world from Beijing to Croatia, Venice, Toronto and Sweden.
His other sculpture in Armagh is ‘The Celestial Sphere’ which is found outside the Post Office in English Street and of course shares the space theme. This was also researched by the Armagh Ambassadors – click here to read their blog on it.
What is the sculpture?
Turning Point is a bronze globe with a 2.5 metre diameter with drilled holes and various images marked on the outside. It represents the Earth tilted on its axis and is supported by four human figures -two male and two female, in the form of ‘negative’ life casts. Members of the public can look into the globe through the eyes of the figures and see what appears to be the stars of the Northern Sky.
Armagh is its second home
It was originally commissioned for St Anne’s Square Belfast in 1992 where it remained until 2000 when it was moved during development of the area. It was unfortunately damaged at the time and was never re-located in the city.
It was gifted to the City of Armagh in 2012 as the Observatory identified with its theme of Space and made a request that it be placed in Armagh, possibly in the Observatory grounds. It was placed on the Mall as it was considered a more suitable location.
It’s also a sundial with lines of longitude marked on it. Some of the various images also marked on it include leaves, toy soldiers train tracks and circuit boards.
So what does ‘Turning Point’ represent?
The world turns on its axis and also turns around the sun. The stars appear to ‘turn’ around the North Star in the Northern Sky. The four human figures appear to move towards or reach out towards each other each other as they support the world.
As we look through the eyes of the figures we can see what they see- we look into the world to see space – so is it Inner Space or Outer Space?? It gives us an impression of our place in the world and in the universe.
The sculpture is deliberately placed on the edge of a step to give it a sense of insecurity so it seems to be balanced on the edge or perhaps on a turning point.
Thank you very much to the “Queens of Navan” group of Armagh Ambassadors for writing this blog. Here they are in action sharing their findings to the rest of the group – from left, Connie Toner, Mary-Jo Sheridan, Lily Clifford and Marion McGee.