The unveiling of eight original pencil drawings by world renowned illustrator Edward Ardizzone in Belmullet this week was a very proud moment for the dedicated local heritage group.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in the Belmullet Arts Centre on Monday to perform the official opening of the exhibition of drawings, which Coiste Oidhreacht Iorrais have been working since 2011 to bring home to Erris, after they were uncovered in an old shirtbox in the late artist’s attic by his daugther Christiana.
Ardizzone, who was born in a French colony of Vietnam in 1900 but grew up in England, is one of the most highly regarded illustrators of the 20th century.
He is best known for his work illustrating children’s books and also as an official artist with the British War Office during World War Two.
An extensive collection of his war illustrations and wartime diaries are on display in the famous Imperial War Museum in London.
Ardizzone’s Mayo connection developed through the English writer TH White.
Christiana had often heard her father speak about his fond memories of his time spent in Erris in the 1950s, creating the illustrations for a book by TH White about the region called The Godstone and The Blackymor.
When she came across the drawings, she knew they related to this period in her father’s life.
It was Fr Kevin Hegarty, a member of Coiste Oidhreacht Iorrais, who brought the discovery of the drawings to the heritage committee’s attention.
They immediately set about making contact with Christiana Clememce to see about securing the drawings for Erris.
“We didn’t have the funds to purchase the drawings so we set about asking local organisations and individuals in the area to help,” explained Ian McAndrew, a member of Coiste Oidhreacht Iorrais. “Everyone came in behind us and within 10 days, the committee had the money to buy the pencil drawings.”
Since then, the committee has brought the drawings back to Erris and called in expert services to have the drawings suitably framed in special protective glass.
Mr McAndrew said the paintings are “very much sought after” and come complete with the illustrator’s own handwritten notes on them.
The Ardizzone exhibition can be viewed by the public, free of charge, during Áras Inis Gluaire opening hours.