Today on a beautiful sunny morning Newry's latest work of art The Newry Docker sculpture was unveiled to a massive crowd of onlookers including politicians, residents from Dromalane and Quayside Close, funders and members of Newry Maritime Association as well at the Sculptures Artist Tony Stallard.

Newry and Mourne Mayor Michael Ruane and Jerome Burns, Deputy Director, Department of Social Development unveil the Newry Docker at the Albert Basin. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Newry and Mourne Mayor Michael Ruane and Jerome Burns, Deputy Director, Department of Social Development unveil the Newry Docker at the Albert Basin. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The Sculpture is modelled in bronze to represent a working docker in the same location the work would have been carried out.

The design has been modelled so as to represent a heroic figure struggling hard with his work whilst at the same time showing an element of the rigging that would have been used to discharge the coal, stone and other materials at the docks.

The project  is a tribute to the memory of the Newry Docks and all the men and women who worked both on land and sea and was unveiled on the quayside at Albert Basin.

The project began as a result of a conversation between James McAreavey of Newry Maritime Association with Eddie Curtis, Dir Admin, Newry and Mourne Council.

Waiting for the ship that luckily never came today were these folk dressed in period costume from the Costume Corner in Newry at the unveiling of the Newry Docker. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Waiting for the ship that luckily never came today were these folk dressed in period costume from the Costume Corner in Newry at the unveiling of the Newry Docker. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The project which was developed and completed through the collaborative workings of Drumalane/ Quayside Close Community Association, the Newry Maritime Association, the Department for Social Development, Newry and Mourne District Council and the Neighourhood Renewal Partnership, highlights the importance of the Docks in terms of the economic and historical impact it had on Newry and the island of Ireland. The Department for Social Development provided funding of £68,750 for the statue, from the Neighbourhood Renewal investment fund.

Artist Tony Stallard who created the Newry Docker Sculpture. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Artist Tony Stallard who created the Newry Docker Sculpture. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Many thousands of men were employed over generations as Dockers and very notably as seamen. Many ships were registered in the Port with the coal importing firm of Joseph Fisher and Sons becoming the most prolific, building up a fleet of up to 15 ships which traded across Ireland, the UK and NW Europe. Many ships were lost and casualties were high. Ashore too the Dockers worked in harsh conditions digging coal from the ships and carrying general cargo on and off vessels. The Albert Basin was a hub of activity and hundreds of families looked to the port forsurvival. Secondary employment for carters and suppliers was crucial also and of course the commerce of Newry was heavily dependent on the Port.

The contribution of all these workers is most deserving of recognition at the very site where their labours are all but forgotten. The Newry Docks closed in 1976 but hopefully this project will rectify this glaring omission and the situation will be remedied with this tribute to those who laid the foundations for the modern Newry we know today. The statue of ‘the Docker’ and the accompanying book recording the history and stories relating to the families who lived and worked serving the people and communities of Newry, will ensure that the memory of the Docks will never be forgotten.

The Newry Docker is unveiled at the Albert Basin today. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The Newry Docker is unveiled at the Albert Basin today. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, Cllr Michael Ruane commended all who worked to deliver this project and said ‘This project will promote the history and character of the local area, which many young people and others would be unaware of today. It will provide a lasting tribute and legacy to commemorate those individuals that helped Newry Docks to become established, providing Newry with a link to not only other areas within the island of Ireland but too many other parts of the world.’

He also thanked the Minister for Social Development and his department for all their financial and administrative support.