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A whale of a time at MacCarthy's!

Dateline: March 2020


Adrienne MacCarthy was thrilled when a whalebone engraved by Beara artist Danny Osborne came on loan to MacCarthy’s Bar – from the same whale as a vertebra on display in the pub for nearly 30 years!

    In 1991, the body of a fin whale was washed up on the rocks at Rossmackowen, a few miles east of Castletownbere, and Danny acquired a pair of its ribs.

    Later, he engraved each of them, one depicting the Beara coastline from the Bull and Calf rocks with the Skelligs beyond to Dursey Island and Bere Island – the route the doomed whale would have taken to its last resting place – and the other the northern coast of the Sheep’s Head peninsula.

    Over a period of several days, Danny went out to sea with a local fisherman to sketch the Beara coast prior to the engraving process which was carried out over a couple of months using red ochre and whale oil. Danny got the idea from an 18,000-year-old mammoth bone he once saw in Canada which, engraved with pictures of animals in red ochre, impressed him greatly.

    After Danny, to Adrienne’s delight, offered to display the Beara rib in the pub, he and potter Richard Harvey, with whom Danny has worked on craft projects in the past, brought it in and hung it over the front counter, providing a fascinating new conversation piece for locals and visitors alike.

     Danny, who lives at Garranes, and was a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in the 1990s, is an international artist probably best known for his 1997 Oscar Wilde monument in Merrion Square, Dublin. At the core of his practice is his connection to the geologic landscape, especially volcanic and glacial environments.

     For more than four decades, and based in Beara since 1971, he has travelled to remote regions of the world with his wife Geraldine to film, paint and sculpt.

     Danny’s whalebone with the Beara scene has been on display in various exhibitions in recent years: at the West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Limerick City Gallery of Art and Drogheda Municipal Gallery.

     He said: ‘After I finished exhibiting this whalebone in public galleries I had it at home and, rather than letting it gather dust there, I suggested to Adrienne that it could be displayed in the pub, especially as it was from the same whale as the vertebra she already had.’

     The vertebra was given to Adrienne back in 1991 by fish-farm workers. ‘I soaked it in the bath for a few days and then had it mounted on a board and fixed on the wall,’ she said. ‘I was asked at the time if I’d like the jawbones, too, but if I’d put them up as well they’d probably have brought the ceiling down!

     ‘When Danny came in late last year and said we could show his engraved rib bone, amazingly from the same whale, I was delighted.’

     The fin whale, also known as the finback whale or common rorqual, and previously called the herring or razorback whale, is the world’s second largest animal after the blue whale. It can grow to 90 feet in length, and weigh more than 100 tons. It’s known for its elegant slender body and rapid swimming speed.

     Looking at the picture of the skeleton below, we can see what Adrienne meant about those jawbones!

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* Danny Osborne with Adrienne MacCarthy below the engraved whalebone. Below: a close-up of the rib and Danny's art work, with Dursey Island depicted top centre.

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* Above: the whale vertebra in its familiar place in a corner of the bar. Below: Details of Danny Osborne's red ochre engravings on the other rib he obtained from the beached whale, showing sections of the Sheep's Head peninsula coast.

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* Above: a fin whale at sea. Photo: Aqqa Rosing-Asvid

* Below: the skeleton of a fin whale. Photo: H Zell

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