STORM Darwin, which struck and caused havoc throughout Limerick on February 12, will live long in people’s memories. But now, Knockaderry-based wood sculptor and craftsman Gerry Fenniman is to create a different kind of memory, transforming two of the trees knocked in that storm, into works of art and comfortable outdoor benches.
The trees, an oak and a beech, were blown down, along with almost 20 others in the Demesne in Newcastle West. And while the majority of the fallen broadloaf trees were sold on, county council area engineer Jim Condon revealed earlier this month that Mr Fenniman had been given large blocks of wood of oak and beech and asked to create two park benches.
He has also been asked to sand the stump of the oak tree which has been left in the ground at the rear gate of the Demesne at Cullinagh. The idea, Mr Condon told local councillors, is to use it as a teaching tool for children, who will be able to see and count the rings and learn about the life-cyle of the oak.
A piece of the Demesne oak is also to be lightly sanded and put on display in the Desmond Castle.
It has been a busy few weeks, Gerry Fenniman acknowledged. With so many good quality trees fallen, the big challenge has been trying to save as much wood as possible for future use.
“A lot of the trees that were knocked were far too good to be used for firing,” he said. He and fellow craftsman Jamie Sheahan from Templeglantine have been travelling all over West Limerick with their new, mobile saw-mill salvaging good quality timber.
And, down the line, Gerry hopes to work some of this wood into things of beauty.
Meanwhile, he is looking forward to making the two benches for the Demesne. “I have attacked them already,” he explains to the Limerick Leader. “What I have done is I have cut them into sections and what I plan to do to something that combines the rustic with something a big more modern.”
“I will be making them in my workshop and I expect they will be ready in a few weeks.”
Working with wood is a joy for Gerry and he is particularly pleased to be working on storm trees. “I think people experienced a kind of loss with all these trees,” he said.“There is a natural respect for trees, and particularly the trees knocked in the storm.” In his work, Gerry likes to draw out the integrity of the wood.
His work includes sculptural pieces as well as one-off pieces of furniture.
Gerry, from Barefield, Co Clare, returned from the US in 2008 after living there for 12 years. He is now settled in Knockaderry with his wife, Marie, daughters Ingrid, Honora and Eilís and son Gearóid.