Aviator Harry inbound in bronze

Artist John Sherlock with a model of the planned Harry Ferguson sculpture.
Artist John Sherlock with a model of the planned Harry Ferguson sculpture.

FAMED Dromore inventor Harry Ferguson will soon be coming in to land, with a wave for passing drivers, on the A1 carriageway at Hillsborough.

Harry is once again to be immortalised in bronze by sculptor John Sherlock, whose earlier life-size rendition of the celebrated tractor magnate graces the memorial garden at Ferguson’s Growell homestead.

The new sculpture - to be placed on the roundabout at the A1 carriageway, under the Hillsborough flyover - specifically celebrates Harry’s achievements as an aviation pioneer.

It was at Hillsborough in December 1909 that Harry took to the air as the first Irishman to design, build and fly his own aeroplane.

Having decided to commemorate Harry’s aviation exploits, Lisburn City Council last week unveiled the winning design for what it called “a major public sculpture”.

Alderman Jim Dillon said, “Ferguson was born and grew up just a few miles from Lisburn, in Growell, Dromore; he became one of the most outstanding engineers and inventors of the 20th century; he’s particularly famous for the iconic ‘Ferguson tractor’ which helped to revolutionise farming all over the world.

“However, very few people are aware of his great exploits as one of the earliest pilots and makers of aircraft. This striking sculpture will be a fitting legacy to celebrate his aviation achievements and remind the public of his historic flight near Hillsborough on 31 December 1909.”

The design selection panel included representatives from the council, Dromore’s Harry Ferguson Celebration Committee and the Ulster Aviation Society.

“We received submissions from all over the British Isles,” siad Mr. Dillon, “and the standard was tremendously impressive. We’re delighted with the panel’s choice and we’re confident it will become a much-enjoyed and recognised public landmark on this very busy thoroughfare.”

The winning sculpture is a joint venture between top Ulster sculptor John Sherlock OBE, and Newtownabbey-based metal fabricators PF Copeland.

“We’re thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious commission”, said John Sherlock, “It’s a happy coincidence that both Mark Copeland and myself are also qualified pilots and we’re in awe of Ferguson for his amazing feat to get his unique creation to actually fly and land successfully.

“Our artistic concept is a creative combination of stainless steel and bronze. We believe it’s quite a dramatic piece, and that the public will enjoy and appreciate it and the remarkable man it celebrates.

”The sculpture shows this splendid aircraft as it’s just about to make its historic landing, with Harry waving to the watching crowds in celebratory mood. The piece will present this wonderful inventor to the public as truly a ‘Magnificent Man in his Flying Machine’. Mark Copeland added, “This is an exciting and important commission for our company. It’s also a really challenging piece from a technical and structural point of view. However, we’re no strangers to producing complex public artwork, having completed such well-known Belfast pieces as ‘Nuala with the Hula’ in Thanksgiving Square, and the ‘Spirit of Belfast’ in Cornmarket.”

The overall sculpture will be half life-size and is scheduled for completion in mid-summer of this year. The project has been approved for grant investment from Lagan Rural Partnership under the Rural Development Programme.