If you would like to see a work of living legend, take a stroll through Mullingar Town Park, where the tale of how one of the high kings of Ireland, Malachy, slayed his foe, the great Viking leader Turgesius in Lough Owel, lives on.
A sculpture titled 'The Norse and The Gael’ has been created by wood carver Richie Clarke, who has incorporated other mythological creatures, including the Norse dragon, an Irish Wolfhound, and the great war goddess, The Morrígan.
The official unveiling of the Cullionbeg native’s work, commissioned by Westmeath County Council, took place last week, when the chairperson of Mullingar Municipal District, Cllr Peter Burke, said it was “amazing to see something that has fallen down and essentially gone to disrepair” be transformed into a beautiful sculpture.
“Sadly the tree was condemned,” Richie, who now receives commissions for his wood sculptures from as far away as Paris, London, Munich and New York, as well as right across Ireland and the midlands, told the Westmeath Examiner.
Exploring the link between King Malachy, Turgesius and the local connection to Lough Owel, Richie explained that “Local folklore says that King Malachy drowned Turgesius in the lake, which is probably legend.
"But what is truthful is that Malachy did kill Turgesius at the time, in 845.”
“I wanted to do some other imagery. I wasn’t exactly sure how sound it would be until I started going into with the chainsaws. Luckily enough 80% of it was carvable.
“Over Malachy, I put an Irish Wolfhound image to represent the whole Irish side of it. Cuchulain is always represented by a Wolfhound at his side. Over Turgesius is the Norse dragon – that is a very strong Viking image. In the middle then, we had this bough coming out and I wasn’t exactly sure what to put on it.
“Towards the end of the piece it dawned on me what should go there is an image of the Celtic war goddess, The Morrígan.
"It would have been in pagan times and the Irish warriors would have prayed to the war goddess before battle, the same way the Viking warriors would have prayed to their gods.
Six weeks of work, and around 240 hours later, the condemned ash lives on with the history and legend attached to the two great warriors and the place where Turgesius allegedly met his watery end, Lough Owel.