Whiteabbey sculptor immortalises aviator

Whiteabbey sculptor John Sherlock with a minature model of his Ferguson sculpture.
Whiteabbey sculptor John Sherlock with a minature model of his Ferguson sculpture.

A UNIQUE partnership between a Whiteabbey sculptor and a leading Newtownabbey firm has resulted in a major commission for a piece of public art.

Sculptor John Sherlock OBE and metal fabricators PF Copeland have successfully obtained a commission to celebrate pioneer aviator Harry Ferguson, who in 1909 was the first Irishman to design, build and fly his own aeroplane.

The overall sculpture will be in stainless steel and bronze, half-life size, and is scheduled for completion in the summer.

It will be placed on the roundabout at the A1 dual carriageway, under the Hillsborough fly-over and will be seen by over 30,000 passing motorists each day.

Ferguson was born and grew up just a few miles from Lisburn and became one of the most outstanding engineers and inventors of the 20th century.

And he is famous for the iconic Ferguson tractor which helped to revolutionise farming all over the world.

However, very few people are aware of his great exploits as one of the earliest pilots and makers of aircraft.

Sherlock’s striking sculpture will be a fitting legacy to celebrate his aviation achievements, and remind the public of his historic flight near Hillsborough in 1909.

John said: “We’re thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious commission.

“It’s a happy coincidence that both Mark Copeland and myself are qualified pilots, and we’re in awe of Ferguson for his amazing feat to get his unique creation to actually fly and land successfully.”

“Our artistic concept is a creative combination of stainless steel and bronze.

“The sculpture shows this splendid aircraft as it’s just about to make its historic landing, with Harry waving to the watching crowds in celebratory mood. The piece will present this wonderful inventor to the public as truly a ‘Magnificent Man in his Flying Machine’.

“We believe it’s quite a dramatic piece, and that the public will enjoy and appreciate it, and the remarkable man it celebrates.”

Mark Copeland of PF Copeland added: “This is an exciting and important commission for our company. It’s also a really challenging piece from a technical and structural point of view.

“However, we’re no strangers to producing complex public artwork, having completed such well-known Belfast pieces as ‘Nuala with the Hula’ in Thanksgiving Square, and the ‘Spirit of Belfast’ in Cornmarket.

“We’re certain the Ferguson sculpture will be well received by the public. Our team at PF Copeland is looking forward to a successful collaboration and partnership with sculptor John Sherlock and with Lisburn City Council as they further enhance their civic environment with this unique installation.”