On the wild and windy Sunday afternoon of December 8th, residents of the Putiaghan area of
Belturbet gathered on the new Belturbet By Pass for an unusual event. Being temporarily closed
for works, the By Pass was eerily quiet, except for this small gathering of neighbours. In the
centre of the By Pass, moving slowly and steadily in a clockwise direction, Killeshandrabased
Performance Artist Sally O’Dowd gradually formed a visible circle by dropping handfuls of salt on
the dark, fresh road as she went. The circle of salt reached each edge of the By Pass, 13m in
diameter, the exact outline of the Bronze Age Burial Site that lay beneath. Salt was used in
ancient times as a cleansing ritual. The Putiaghan residents waited patiently, then followed the
circular salt outline, struggling to keep the candles they held in jars in their hands alight in the
wind. The group eventually formed a circle of light on the Burial Site as dusk fell. Light was used
in ancient times in celebration and in ceremony. A large fire awaited the gathering on the side of
the By Pass. Warming themselves by the flames, they shared baked potatoes and sweet baked
apples, tea and coffee, feasting near the spot where the ancient Burnt Mounds once stood. By
dark, they had dispersed to their homes, the fire out, the road once more eerily empty, the salt
circle slowly dissolving from sight.
The event was conceived and organised by visual artist Yvonne Cullivan through conversation with local resident Eileen McCaffrey, and was carried out with the cooperation of a number of Putiaghan residents. Yvonne is the artist selected for a Public Art Commission under the Per Cent for Art Scheme with Cavan County Council, arising from the construction of the Belturbet By Pass. During the research and development phase of the project, JuneSeptember, Yvonne engaged in extensive community consultation and research involving locals and experts in an exploration of the unique aspects of Belturbet local culture. One such aspect was brought to Yvonne’s attention by Eileen the discovery of the extensive Bronze Age Burial Site and a series of Fulachta Fiadh (Burnt Mounds) along the proposed route for the By Pass, which was subsequently excavated, documented and built upon. Eileen and her fellow Putiaghan residents expressed a strong connection to this prehistoric community and a wish to mark the presence of the Burial Site and Burnt Mounds.
Following on from the research and development phase of the project, the primary outcome of Yvonne’s commission will be a series of short film / audiovisual works. This event in Putiaghan marks the first phase of production for the project. The audiovisual works will be housed digitally through an interactive application. It is envisaged that the app will serve as an interactive onsite compass, providing a unique onsite experience for those who choose to visit Belturbet. The app will be distributed free of charge across platforms and will allow a worldwide audience to experience Belturbet through remote engagement and therein has potential to attract visitors to the area. The audiovisual works will also be distributed to the film and gallery circuits.
Since sound is also a major focus of the artist as an integral part of the end product, another aspect currently under consideration is an overarching sound piece emanating from Belturbet and responding in audioglimpses to the content of the the visual works.
In order to achieve the above, the artist is collaborating with renown local and national artists and experts on specific aspects of the creative process.
Yvonne would like to thank Eileen and Eugene McCaffrey and the residents of Putiaghan who participated in this event. Thanks also to Paul Mulligan of Cavan County Council, Shelley Cole of Belturbet Community Development Association for her insight into ancient ritual, Sally O’Dowd for her collaboration and expertise, Padraig Conaty for filming the event, Ciara Gaffney for assistance with filming, and Declan Doherty for catering.