Got word from a reader today that a sculpture made in honor of a donation from the Choctaw Nation to the people of Ireland in 1847 has been finished and is now on display in Bailic Park in Middleton, a small town of 12,000 not far from Ireland’s southern coast in County Cork.
The backstory about this monument, which was named “Kindred Spirits,” is super interesting.
The monument of nine eagle feather towering 20 feet into the air, was made by sculptor Alex Pentek.
Aligned in a circle, the look is imperfect, bends and creases in one feather distinguishing it from its next metallic counterpart. The feathers stand strong, made from steel and bound together with more than 20,000 welds. But they also give off a sense of fragility, a feeling that a strong breeze could topple them at any moment.
“This monument represents this time of great instability,” Pentek explained last March when I talked to him via Skype. “But it also represents this great moment of compassion, strength and unity.”
Sculptor Alex Pentek stands next to the massive 20-foot feathers he made for the “Kindred Spirits” monument.
During the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s, more than a million people perished in Ireland when a blight decimated potato crops that served as the primary food source for almost half the population, but primarily the rural poor.
The impoverished Choctaw Nation, just years removed from being forced to walk the Trail Of Tears, was able to scrape together $170 to send to Ireland to help feed starving people. The sum would be close to $5,000 in today’s money.
Joe McCarthy, who today serves as East Cork’s municipal district officer, said that’s why the Choctaw donation meant so much to people back then. Just when they thought nobody cared, a group from across the world reached out to lend a helping hand. The county is paying for the sculpture, which a local Irish newspaper reported will cost more than $100,000.
“These people were still recovering from their own injustice, and they put their hands in their pockets and they helped strangers,” McCarthy said. “It’s rare to see such generosity. It had to be acknowledged.”