OFFALY County Council made sure the Obamas did not leave the county empty handed by presenting them with a number of unique gifts.
Offaly County Council resolved at its meeting on May 16 to accord a Civic Welcome to President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the occasion of their visit to the President’s ancestral home of Moneygall, on May 23. The Council also decided to present gifts with Offaly themes to President and Mrs Obama to mark the occasion.
The Scroll of Civic Welcome and the presentation gifts were be conveyed to the President and his wife through the good offices of the US Embassy in Dublin for protocol reasons.
The scroll welcoming President Obama was prepared on vellum by well-known Irish calligrapher, Tim O’Neill, and in lettering that emulates the Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells. It is signed by Cllr Danny Owens, Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, and Pat Gallagher, Offaly County Manager. The parchment is accompanied by the Offaly flag, with a guide to the heraldic significance of the Offaly coat of arms.
The President also received a selection of pieces to symbolise the heritage and culture of Offaly.
A model of the Durrow High Cross, near Tullamore, carved by laser into a solid block of glass, by Arctron was one of these. The Durrow High Cross was commissioned in the ninth century by the Kings of Meath and the panels of the cross illustrate a variety of biblical scenes
Black is the Earth, a CD of an original musical composition by acclaimed Tullamore- based composer/musician, Adele O’Dwyer was also among the gifts. The piece, commissioned by Sculpture in the Parklands, Lough Boora, reflects in sound the evolution of the peat boglands, which are an integral part of the landscapes of County Offaly.
A number of books selected from Offaly County Council commissioned works to reflect the history and heritage of Offaly were also presented.
These included Stories from a Sacred Landscape. Croghan Hill to Clonmacnoise, by Caimin O’Brien, offers a vivid picture of Offaly in the early Christian period. Living Under Thatch, by Barry O’Reilly, includes detailed illustrations of thatched buildings in Offaly, similar to the original Kearney homestead in Moneygall; Offaly History & Society - Essays on the History of an Irish County, edited by William Nolan and Timothy P O’Neill, is a history of the county from its earliest days to the late 20th century.
Not to be outdone a special gift was also commissioned for Mrs Obama.
‘Andromeda’is a unique pendant specially commissioned by Offaly County Council. Designed by Rachel McKenna, Architect, Offaly County Council, and crafted by jeweller Cathal Barber at his Studio Workshop at RJ Barber and Sons, O’Connell Street, Birr, the pendant is based on the flower in the Offaly Coat of Arms Andromeda Polifolia or Bog Rosemary.
In the pendant, the leaves of the Bog Rosemary, fashioned from highly polished silver, enfold the central delicate pendulous flowers, set over a partially ‘hammered’ silver base. The four flowers represent the Obama family, two open flowers and two buds; the flower representing the First Lady is completed in 18c gold with a secret diamond.