Brian Moss reports on ‘The Metal Man’ who stands towering over the Tramore coastline, keeping those at sea safe from harm
If you happen to find yourself hopping barefoot three times around a tower, a tower topped by a giant sailor made of metal on a secluded hilltop overlooking Tramore bay, and you’re doing so to encourage the prospect of marriage within the next twelve months, don’t fear!
It’s not time to consult those attired in white coats, you’re just paying a visit to and indulging in one of the many myths associated with Tramore’s legendary cast iron protector ‘The Metal Man’.
Tramore’s Metal Man is one of the county’s, if not the country’s, more intriguing monuments.
The 14ft-cast iron statue lords over the bay and protects seafarers from Tramore’s beautiful yet at times treacherous shallow waters.
Indeed it was due to a sea tragedy that ‘The Metal Man’, as he’s affectionately known, came about.
Undoubtedly, the story behind The Metal Man is as intriguing as the monument itself.
‘The Seahorse’, a British transport freget went down with the loss of over 360 souls in 1816 off nearby Brownstown head, and the insurance company, Lloyds of London, who insured the vessel, didn’t want a repeat of the tragedy.
They commissioned and funded the building of ‘The Metal Man’ on the cliff, and the corresponding two towers across the bay, on Brownstownhead, as warning markers for nearby ships.
By 1823, all the necessary work had been completed and The Metal Man took up his vantage point over-looking the bay. The tragedy left a lasting impression on Tramore and the ship’s image was later adopted as the town’s official logo. Keen collectors of crystal will know the sea horse is also the symbol for the world famous Waterford Crystal products.
Tramore, once a sleepy fishing inlet, has grown over the last century to be one of the country’s premier summer holiday resorts. Yes, many a happy day was had by families from the length and breadth of the country, not to mention the overseas visitors on her sandy shores and nearby amusement park and promenade. Indeed, yours truly has washed a great deal of Tramore sand off his feet on family vacations over the years.
Of all the attractions Tramore has to offer it is The Metal Man, however, appearing so small from the sandy dunes of Tramore beach, which literally stands out like a beacon.
There are so many legends attached to this fellow it can be difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction.
Even The Metal Man’s height is a topic of debate.
Some say 9ft, others 14ft; having been relatively up close and personal to Tramore’s great protector, I’ll plump for the latter.
One of the stranger myths attached to the statue is the aforementioned thrice barefoot hop around The Metal Man’s tower in a bid to encourage matrimony in the preceding 12 months.
A word of warning though, if you are struggling to find a suitable partner to take you up the aisle, perhaps to be seen hopping shoeless around a tower on top of a secluded cliff at the tip of the south-east coast of Ireland may not be the best way to encourage potential suitors!
Another of the legends attributed to The Metal Man is that on stormy coastal nights he finds his voice and is said to be heard recanting his maritime warning “Keep out, keep out, good ships from me, for I am the rock of misery” – if hearing that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck nothing will!
The look and design of The Metal Man was the brainchild of a Cork man, celebrated sculpture Thomas Kirk, who unveiled his creation at an exhibition in London in 1817.
The casting of the statues was carried out by John Clarke two years later, at the request of the ballast board. Clarke cast four statues from the same mould. Little brother hasn’t quite the vantage point of big bro, however, and can be found in the harbour at Rosses Point in Sligo. The whereabouts of the other two are unknown.
Kirk is still considered one of Ireland’s foremost sculptures with Dublin’s Nelson Pillar, once the capital’s great landmark, amongst his creations.
The Pillar loomed large over Dublin City for over 100 years until deemed surplus to requirements by the IRA, and blown up in 1966, much to the horror of the capital’s citizens.
Over the years, The Metal Man has become synonymous with Tramore and is maintained by the local council getting a brand spanking new fresh coat of paint every three years, British blue white and red if you don’t mind!
Over 180 years in situ, and set to reign for many more, regardless of your marriage intentions, a trip to Tramore’s very own big friendly giant is definitely something to put on your Deise ‘to do’ list!