Bye-gum: Pana’s Echo Boy gets a waxy new look

Bye-gum: Pana’s Echo Boy gets a waxy new look

The Echo Boy, in its iconic calling pose, on Patrick Street. After years of weathering, wear and tear, along with a horrible build-up of discarded chewing-gum, the little lad has undergone cleaning and preservation work by expert conservator Eoghan Daltun. Picture: Dan Linehan

CORK’S iconic Echo Boy statue has undergone cleaning and repair works to remove an “enormous amount” of chewing gum blighting the bronze sculpture.

Last month, Cork City Council commissioned a conservator of sculpture to inspect, repair and clean the renowned statue on Patrick Street.

The council’s heritage officer Niamh Twomey said that the statue “celebrates a unique part of Cork city’s local history” and is “an interesting story for both local and tourist alike”. She said the repair and cleaning work has now been completed.

Speaking to The Echo, conservator of sculpture and a sculptor in stone Eoghan Daltun, who carried out the work, said the project took several days to complete.

Mr Daltun, who is based near Eyeries in the Beara Peninsula, said: “As regards Echo Boy, it was a fairly straightforward job because you’re just talking about one material, ie, bronze.

“You start off by cleaning the statue and the procedure is you have to brush it all down very thoroughly to remove any dry lose matter such as dust.

“The next thing then, in the case of Echo Boy, probably the biggest problem I encountered with that statue was an enormous amount of hardened chewing gum had been attached to it.”

Chiselling the hardened gum off would risk damaging the statue, he said, so Mr Daltun had to painstakingly remove the chewing gum in very small pieces using a surgical scalpel.

“Once that was done I cleaned the entire statue down with white spirit to just further remove any layers of dirt or anything that had accumulated on the surface of the bronze.

“Once the statue was cleaned, I applied several coats of a special wax called Renaissance.

“What it does is that it soaks into the porosity of the bronze and it acts as a sort of sacrificial layer so that the weather and so on beating down on the statue is basically attacking the wax rather than the underlying bronze.”The final stage was to buff the whole statue down.

Opposition

Whilst there was support shown online for the works carried out to the beloved statue, Monkstown man Joe Burns wrote to the council to express his dissatisfaction.

In the email seen by The Echo he highlighted a number of his concerns, including that wax was added to the statue.

“It will inhibit the natural process of patination taking place. Immediate removal with expert intervention is desirable.

“Though well-intentioned, it’s misguided to attempt to ‘polish’ a work of bronze on which a natural patina has formed,” he said.

On this, Mr Daltun acknowledged there is often a divided opinion on whether restoration works should be carried out to sculpture or not.

“You could take the line that ageing is part of the natural process and it enhances the sculpture if it gets dirty or whatever else, if you’ve got mosses and algae growing on it, it’s part of it — and there is that view.

“The problem is that for every person who feels like that, there’s probably 50 who think it’s in a terrible state and it needs to be cleaned up.

“You can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time. All you can do is keep most of the people happy most of the time,” he said. He added that the works he carried out were also conservation works as the wax applied “isn’t just there to make the statue look nice” but also protects it.

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