Post Colony – Killarney National Park, Kerry

This project is the brainchild of Film maker and visual Artist Gareth Kennedy, to make a film as part of an art installation to highlight the cultural and industrial heritage of the Oak woodlands of Killarney (charcoal production, boat building, barrel stave production and more) and to highlight the huge problem of Rhododendron colonisation a non-native invasive species that has superseded and suppressed the native understory shrubs. Gareth filmed the project over 10 days in August (10 sunny days) with Production assistant Hollie Kearns and Stills Photographer Brian Cregan.

My remit on this project was to produce Charcoal (from Rhododendron) and make one legged stools (charcoal makers stools???) with seven students on an island in the lower lake of the Killarney national park.

So Chris Hayes (my glamorous assistant) and I began the process of moving my 6ft diameter X 5ft high charcoal kiln, three pole-lathes, four shave-horses, chopping blocks and all the tools needed to equip seven students, from the dock side at Muckcross House Killarney N.P. to Glena island. Were we set up our work-camp for the 10 days. A tarp was put up for protection from weather and an area was cleared for the fire, the Kelly kettles were in constant use.

The equipment and the students were transported via small (12 seater) fiberglass boats, the kiln going on a separate boat, with myself, Chris and John the boatman. The kiln was setup in the centre of a clearing on the island, after the grass sod had been removed, this was done so we could replace the grass after the charcoal burn. The charcoal was made from Rhododendron cut down on the island, the moisture content of the wood was very high, so I had to adjust my thought process to produce quality charcoal. The production of the charcoal was done as a demonstration by Chris and me, due to Health and Safety issues with very high temperatures and smoke and gasses. The green (fresh) Rhododendron was also used for the turned stool leg, the students used the pole-lathes to turn the legs freestyle, producing their own designs. The stool seats were made from windblown Oak from the Killarney N.P. and again the students were allowed a free-hand to produce their seats.

Most of the students had no experience of woodworking or the use of a pole-lathe and hand tools, my role was to slow them various basic techniques to allow them to select the raw materials, and to mentor them individually in the use of a number of different tools available, each student finding their own feel for the materials and tools.

The project was a complete success, we managed to produce a quantity of quality Charcoal and a large number of individual one legged stools. More over the success is a testament to the students whom worked diligently, with great enthusiasm and came together as a team, helping each other. I will always look back on the project with a smile on my face, the unique setting, the sunny days and the wonderful people I sheared the experience with.

Photos by Brian Cregan

Thank you all.

Film crew, Gareth Kennedy. Hollie Kearns. (Stills) Brian Cregan.

Chris Hayes.

The Students. Ciaran Nugent, Claire Nicholl, Benjamin Just, Fanny Michel, Teah O’Neill, Nollaig Molloy, Dolores Lyne.

Brendan O’Shea N.P. Ranger.

And John, the boatman.