A Celtic sea god statue – which made headlines around the world after its bizarre disappearance – looks set to make a return.
The artist who created the original Manannán Mac Lir sculpture has spent the last six months painstakingly making a replacement sculpture.
Standing at nine feet two inches tall, the majestic piece of art is “back on his boat and nearly ready to be placed on his hill”, according to the Games of Thrones sculptor, John Darren Sutton.
The Dungannon artist was reunited with the Celtic sea god sculpture after it was found dumped on the mountainside just a few hundred metres from its original spot on Binevenagh mountain.
Mr Sutton saw it was badly damaged, with half the head missing at the back, and attempts to remove the arms and neck were visible all over the sculpture.
Speaking to the Derry Journal, the artist said: “I didn’t realise how badly damaged it was. Everywhere you look it needed repaired.”
Those behind the bizarre incident left a cross in place of the statue with the words ‘You shall have no other Gods before me’.
Mr Sutton said they had a job on their hands when removing it, and he doesn’t believe the culprits did it as a prank.
“It took too much effort because you can see where they tried to saw it off at the beard, the neck and the arms,” he said. “They obviously went to some effort, but they shot themselves in the foot. I don’t think they realised there would be such a backlash. Everybody was talking about it. They obviously didn’t think it through.”
SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan said having the sculpture back on Binevenagh could be a major boost for tourism.
“I am delighted to hear the sculpture is almost ready for its return, as I have always been passionate about it and very aware of John Darren’s talents. I think it could really benefit tourism in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough, but it needs to be marketed properly. When it was stolen it became a worldwide phenomenon,” said Mr Mullan.
“I hope we can use the old one as an educational tool and to draw tourists. I’ve said before I think it should be placed in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady.”
A spokesperson for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said they were delighted at the completion of the new sculpture and look forward to its return at Gortmore viewpoint in the near future.