Balor by Fred Conlon

When my close friend and cousin, the sculptor Fred Conlon, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2004, he surprised me and everyone who knew him by his philosophic acceptance of his fate. He was at the peak of his powers, esteemed for his stone sculpture, and now he had to accept that he would never wield a hammer and chisel again. He was given nine months to live, but he was determined to continue with his art. Confined to a wheelchair, with a little power in his right hand only, he couldn’t carve stone any more, but he asserted that he could draw, paint, model in clay or papier maché. And he decided to embark on an ambitious multi-media work which would represent his fate. The central motif of this work was to be the myth of Balor. And he produced a representation of the Slaying of Balor, an expressionistic piece totally unlike anything he had ever done before. He invited his friend, the artist and designer, Frank Conway, to become involved in the creation of this installation with a video dimension. Fred’s son Finn was to contribute photographs, and other friends had other chores. He asked me for a poem or lyric. And Fred was orchestrating the whole creation from his wheelchair. Article continued...

Not Balor, Lugh
by Jack Harte

for Fred Conlon, Sculptor

No Balor you
although by name a dark Fomorian
struck struck struck down
by that shaft
that cruel cunning shaft
launched
not by some fortuitous bowman on the hill
but by the flesh of your own flesh
the treacherous patricidal shaft
of your own substance.

And yet
you are not Balor
you are not of the withering north.
Balor’s fearsome eye
the one set in the centre of his skull
spread winter death and desolation.
No
your mind’s eye
benign
like an internal sun
shed naught
but light and life and generosity.

Yes
more Lugh
the multi-skilled
whose powers were honed
in communion with the sea
wielder of the long rays
slayer of winter
upon the epic fields
where you
drew inspiration
from a cleft boulder
the cast-aside token
of the anger of a demi-god.

Like Lugh
you mastered
arts and crafts
began by righting
the defects
of a bauble in a shop window
and proceeded
to release the beauty
the Creator had immured
in blocks of ancient stone.