An art installation celebrating the 'High Man' and the myths and monuments of the Boyne Valley region has been unveiled at Drogheda's Workspace Centre.
A suitably enormous depiction of the “High Man” – a giant in the landscape of Louth and Meath – has been erected as an art installation at Drogheda’s Workspace Centre in the back lanes.
The huge poster, measuring about 12ft by 6ft, was designed by Drogheda author Anthony Murphy and artist Richard Moore, and has been installed at the Workspace Centre by its manager, Paul Lappin.
The artwork depicts an enormous hero or warrior figure in the roads of Louth and Meath, first spotted by Richard Moore in maps of the area over 20 years ago.
“Ireland’s myths and legends speak of giants, gods, warriors and heroes. The Boyne Valley region is the heartland of many of these stories. The most important myths and monuments from the past are based in this area,” said Anthony Murphy, author of several books about the mythology and archaeology of the region.
In 1999, local artist Richard Moore discovered a huge human-like figure in a map of the Boyne area. It measures 12 miles (19 kilometres) from top to bottom. The figure appears to be standing with his legs in the Boyne River and is located in an area that was anciently known as Ferrard, from the Irish Fir Ard, meaning “High Man”.
The “High Man” resonates with many of the area’s myths and legends. For instance, when the Milesians came to Ireland to take it from the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Bronze Age, their bard and spiritual leader, Amergin, was the first to step ashore at the Boyne estuary, placing his leg on the southern river bank and proclaiming “what land is better than this island of the setting sun?”
The area shown on this map was also known anciently as Muirthemne, the plain which the great warrior hero Cúchulainn called his own. Cúchulainn was famous for fighting battle while standing in the water of a river ford, just like the High Man.
Cúchulain’s father was Lugh, one of the chiefs of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods associated with Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, the 5,000-year-old passage mounds of the Boyne Valley. The modern-day name of Ferrard/Muirthemne is Louth, which is an anglicised form of the name Lugh.
Local folklore suggests that a giant, named Osgar, who was one of the great warriors of the Fianna, used to stand guard over the harbour of Drogheda, just like the High Man appears to do.
The legend of Garrett’s Fort, beside the mouth of the High Man figure, tells of a sleeping army of soldiers under a magical ringfort near Ardee, led by Fionn Mac Cumhaill or Earl Garrett. It is said that a hero will come and rouse them for a great battle.
What is this giant figure that has mysteriously reappeared in our midst as if Manannán’s cloak of invisibility has been lifted? Many of these myths might relate to the stars, in which our ancient ancestors took a great interest. They studied the movements of the sun, the moon and planets as they wandered among the stars, and recorded these movements on stone at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
The High Man might also be seen as a representation of the constellation we know today as Orion, which has always been depicted as a giant hero, hunter or warrior. Orion is located at an important junction in the sky, where the path of the sun, moon and planets crosses the river of the sky, the Milky Way. In ancient Ireland, the Milky Way was known as Bealach Bó Finne, the Way of the White Cow. The Boyne river has the same name – the river of the white cow.
“The appearance of the High Man reminds us of the reawakening that is taking place in modern times. We are witnessing a revitalisation of our most ancient myths, and a resurgence of interest in our most sacred ancient places,” said Richard Moore.
“The High Man is like the Olympic torch bearer, and on the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, he appears to carry the sun across the sky. This is perhaps an indication of the magnificent potential of humanity,” Richard added.
“We have a beautiful heritage, and our culture represents part of our soul. This re-emergence of ancient light and wisdom is a reminder that we can overcome the darkness and welcome in a new era, just as the Tuatha Dé Danann did when they arrived in Ireland, descending from the clouds.”
“The legends have come alive. Lots of our ancient myths and folk tales tell of great giants and gods and heroes. And now we’ve found one, in the heartland of these very myths. He is the High Man, an ancient hero reawakened.”
Anthony and Richard thanked Paul Lappin for his work to highlight the heritage and tourism potential of the region.
For more information on the High Man, see this page.