Monument honouring famous Clonmel-born novelist is back in situ

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

A monument commemorating a famous Clonmel-born novelist has been restored and returned to its original location on the riverside in the town, four years after it was damaged and removed during the Flood Relief Scheme.

The installation pays homage to Laurence Sterne, the novelist and Anglican clergyman born in Clonmel in 1713 who’s best known for his novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

Ron van der Noll, the designer and sculptor Bobby Blunt oversaw the return of the sculpture to the green area near Joyce’s Lane, opposite the West Gate car park, on Monday morning.

The installation comprises four individual columns of stone that stand on their own right. Each piece also has a bronze plaque on top and when viewed through a specially-designed hole the plaques align to form an image of Sterne’s face.

The sculpture was installed in 2004 but was damaged in 2008 during the first phase of the Flood Relief Scheme. It was taken away to the County Museum for safe keeping until it was restored.

Visual artist Ron van der Noll, who says he’s delighted to see his creation returned to its rightful place, paid tribute to local environmentalist Shay Hurley and a group of local people who had campaigned to ensure that the sculpture would be returned.

When commissioned to create the sculpture he was given a list of suggestions by the Borough Council and he thought that Laurence Sterne was “an excellent subject”.

The Tralee-based artist, who’s originally from Holland, said he received a very positive feedback when he announced on his Facebook page that the sculpture would be returned.

“The piece has been embraced by locals and that has great value”, he says.

The title of the installation is ‘Nothing Odd Will Do Long’, which was the reaction of famous author and lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson when he read Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy.

Although he didn’t rate Sterne’s novel too highly the Clonmel-born novelist had the last laugh, with Tristram Shandy regarded as one of the greatest comic novels in the English language and a book that influenced James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, among others.

Shay Hurley believes it would be a good idea to include the names of and quotations from other famous writers, in both the Irish and English languages, on plaques on the wall near the Sterne monument.

These would include GK Chesterton, whose detective priest character Fr. Brown, who appeared in his short stories, was inspired by Monsignor John O’Connor, a parish priest in Bradford, Yorkshire.

Monsignor O’Connor, the son of Michael O’Connor and Bridget Mulcahy, was born in Scrouthea, Clonmel on December 5th 1870.