Tom Dunn Statue Unveiling Marks Historic Moment in Rostrevor’s Shared History
A bronze statue, which commemorates and celebrates the history of Tom Dunn in his home village of Rostrevor, has been unveiled by Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland.
The unveiling of the statue took place during a special event on Sunday 17 September in The Square, Rostrevor and is the result of the collaborative effort between Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the local historical group, the Tom Dunn Project, under the PEACE IV Shared Spaces and Services programme.
In addition to the statue created by artist Rory Harron, this cross community Peace IV Tom Dunn Shared Spaces and Services Project encompassed multiple components designed to tell his unique story. These include interpretative panels, an educational walking trail, a mobile audio APP and a series of hedge school workshops. The project was supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
His legacy as the local hedge school master and as a leading United Irishman meant he was known locally as the ‘Peasant Patriot’. He knew the power of education and the inclusive nature of his teaching to both Catholics and Protestants through his hedge school and evening recitations of scholarly books, enlightened the poor and oppressed. As a testament to his life, emphasising how he played a pivotal role in guiding local communities towards a more integrated, cohesive and shared society, a series of intergenerational hedge school workshops were held this summer which paid tribute to Dunn and his pivotal role as a cross community educator and leader.
Highlighting the project’s significance, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Valerie Harte said, “This PEACE IV Shared Spaces Project educates us about our shared past and the importance of equality and bringing communities together. The beautiful bronze statue of Tom Dunn created by the artist, Rory Harron, serves as the centrepiece of the Tom Dunn Shared Spaces experience with the walking trail guiding visitors on a captivating journey through Rostrevor’s rich heritage and scenic beauty.”
Following the unveiling of the Tom Dunn Statue, Dr Mary McAleese, who is patron of the Tom Dunn Society, said, “The inauguration of the Tom Dunn Statue and Tom Dunn walk in the beautiful village of Rostrevor is much, much more than a nod to a hero of our troubled and violent past. It is in fact a statement of intent about our shared future as a people of divided loyalties, beliefs and politics who are nonetheless neighbours with a strong desire to walk together, work together and make peace together.
“It was the dream of the Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters who formed the United Irishmen over two centuries ago that Ireland would be a place where freedom and equality flourished. Tom Dunn died for holding that ambition. Here on Cherry Hill he was mercilessly flogged. He died from his wounds and is buried in Kilbroney graveyard.”
Dr McAleese concluded. “As the fine, relentless scholarly work of Siubhan O’Dubhain, John McCavitt and others has shown, remembering Dunn today allows us to bring his principles and his exemplary civic decency to bear on all our tomorrows.”
Thanking everyone involved, Chair of the Tom Dunn Project, Dermot Russell said, "I am delighted for our committee both past and present that we have come to this final stage of the project. I know this will be off great benefit to the Tom Dunn Society who will continue with their annual activities and events to keep the legacy and history of Tom Dunn alive.”
The Tom Dunn Project was a cross community group formed in 2017 to facilitate the Tom Dunn Shared Spaces and Services Project. It worked in partnership with the three local churches to promote the shared history ethos of his story. This work is now carried on by the Tom Dunn Society.