Council name Athlone’s new art gallery - the Luan Gallery

After much discussion at Monday’s monthly meeting of Athlone Town Council it has benn decided to name Athlone’s new art gallery the Luan Gallery.

A shortlist of names had been given to town councillors to choose from after a competition to name the new gallery was launched during the summer.

There was much debate in the chamber over the possible names, with some councillors expressing concerns over the use of an Irish word.

“This art gallery is for the town, but also for visitors,” said Cllr Mark Cooney. “I like the name Athlone Art Gallery. Other names are nice too but if you’re not from Athlone you might not know what they mean, like Luan for example,” he added.

However Independent councillor Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran disagreed. “Tourists are our core and they love the Irish language. The name Luan Gallery will get people talking,” he said.

Cllr Gabrielle McFadden added that “The Luan Gallery has a nice sound to it. We could have a description of why we chose Luan”.

“There were over 246 different names entered into the competition. If we keep it simple people will come in. I second the Luan Gallery,” added Cllr Paul Hogan.

As Gearoid O’Brien explains in his book Athlone - On the Shannon, the name Luan comes from the Irish for Athlone, Baile Áth Luain. Several versions of the name Luan appear in early Irish literature. A popular version of the history of the name involves the town’s first entrepreneur Luan MacLuighdeach (or Luan the son of Lewy ), who lived at the end of the first century. It is believed that he ran an inn close to the river and frequently guided travellers across the waters. In time the crossing became known as Áth Luain or ‘the Ford of Luan’. Among the myriad of myths, stories, and references that surround the name is the suggestion that Luan is derived from Luna which is Latin for moon.

Miriam Mulrennan, Athlone Art and Heritage manager said, “This is a very important and exciting milestone in the development of Athlone’s new contemporary art gallery. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who entered the competition and participated wholeheartedly in arriving at this decision which involved a lot of debate, discussion and reflection. This inclusive process reflects the spirit of local interest that will be so important to the gallery’s future. I am delighted that the name suggests a strong sense of place and heritage as well as presenting opportunities to explore the folklore that surrounds the name Athlone. Our aim is that the new Luan Gallery will be a beacon of progressive and innovative works of art in the heart of the country.”

As a number of people proposed the name Luan a draw will take place in the coming weeks and will be followed by a prize-giving ceremony.

Extensive building work on both the Luan Gallery and Athlone Castle is due to reach completion at the end of this month. An exhibition featuring the work of accomplished regional, national, and international artists is currently being planned for the Luan Gallery for November.

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