Lifesize Sculpture of
"Tony Sox Byrne"
Olympic Boxing Champion - Ireland
| Tony 'Socks'
Byrne - The Making of a Lifesize Sculpture for Drogheda By Laury
A commissioned sculpture for Drogheda, Ireland
"When I met former councillor Frank Godfrey over two years ago at a function where bronze award sculptures I'd created were being given out, he asked me to write to him with details for the possible commission of a lifesize sculpture of a man he considered to be a 'sporting hero of Drogheda'. Due to a busy schedule (including a public work commissioned by the United Nations Development team in Honduras), it wasn't until after a second meeting a few months later that I was able to comply with his request, providing him not only with prices but with much information he could use to raise funds for the project.
Lo and behold, the commission was finally awarded me in the winter of 2006 for this outdoor statue which commemorates the gallant athletic feat of boxer Tony Byrne, winner of a bronze medal for Ireland at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.
I had met Tony Byrne in Drogheda in the spring of 2005, during which I took pictures and measurements, and collected old newspaper clippings and photographs. Then I took off for China, where I executed another large-scale public work for the city of Kunming in the context of an international sculpture festival.
Since I could 'pick and choose' what I wanted to make, I created a Tsunami Memorial in concrete and bronze as a tribute to those who had lost their lives in the South East Asian disaster a few months before. When the work started on the actual lifesize figure of Tony in clay, I had the help of two close friends of mine, Chinese sculptors Shen Xiaonan and Zhang Yaxi, in preparing the basic armature and rough figurework according to the measurements I'd taken of Tony. Although I was the lead sculptor, they helped me in every respect!
Their large studio in Chongqing (Sichuan) was put at my disposal, and after much research into the exact type of boxing boots and other items of boxing kit of that era, the artwork was completed throughout the course of a 3 week period in May 2006. The choice of China for making and casting the sculpture made a lot of sense as I had executed two public works in China, and cast a number of my UK commissions there in the past.
During the modelling process, I was in frequent contact from the studio in China with Tony's daughter Lisa Byrne in Canada who acted as relay point for her father, showing him nightly on her computer the digital pictures of the sculpture I sent as it progressed for feedback and modifications. The time difference between China and Canada was a barrier which we overcame easily with me taking pictures of the sculpture in the morning, sending them to her so she'd get them when she awoke…. Making changes in the afternoon based on Tony's feedback and then sending her pictures again - until Tony was completely satisfied with the final result! I knew that if he was happy, the Committee in Drogheda - with Frank Godfrey at their head, would be too….
It remained only for the clay sculpture to be moulded, then cast into bronze in Chengdu, before being transported by rail to Shanghai and finally shipped to Ireland!
I feel very privileged to have been asked by Frank to make a tribute for such a dynamic sportsman, a true Irish hero!"
See pics of the finished sculpture here
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