Waiting on the Shore is a highly evocative statue of a woman with her arms outstretched to sea at Rosses Point in Co Sligo.
It was created by sculptor Niall Bruton and pays tribute to the men who sailed the seas off the west coast of Ireland, and to the women who waited at home and prayed for their safe return.
For centuries, successive generations of Sligo families had an uneasy relationship with the sea. On the one hand it provided them with a living with men going off to be fishermen, merchant seamen and sailors.
On the other it was fraught with danger and took lives with frightening regularity. It meant that women could never be at peace while their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers were out at sea.
It was also left to women to run the family and the home while their men were away. And in those tragic cases when men were lost at sea, their wives would have to struggle on and raise the children alone.
With seafaring so dangerous and the stakes so high, it’s perhaps not surprising that woman in Waiting on the Shore has her arms reaching out to sea and perhaps even to heaven, beseeching the safe return of her loved one. She looks as though she wants to pull him back to safety.
Her face is full of sorrow and anguish … perhaps he is already late in his return and she is becoming anxious, praying and hoping against hope that her fears are groundless and his ship will appear any moment.
Hers is the plight of women throughout the ages along Ireland coastline and beyond. The plaque on the base of that statue reads:
Lost at sea, lost at sea,
Or in the evening tide
We loved you, we miss you
May God with you abide.
The three metre high bronze statue looks out across Sligo Bay and fittingly, is close to the base of the local lifeboat rescue service. It was unveiled on 10 August, 2002 in a ceremony involving local dignitaries.
Sculptor Niall Bruton was born in Dublin and now has a studio in Donegal Craft Village. As well as Waiting on the Shore, he also created the Famine Commemoration Statue on the Quayside in Sligo.