“It is sad that the only really worthwhile monument in Tramore can only be seen from a distance.” – Tramore Tourism website
The prospect of Tramore’s famed Metalman finally becoming accessible to the public as part of Waterford’s amenity and tourism offering is back in play.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Waterford City & County Council Chief Executive Michael Walsh said it has “an intention to resolve access to the Metalman by Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) if necessary but we are only looking at the detailed issues at present”.
The significance and potential ‘pulling power’ of the Metalman from a tourism perspective had been made plain in exchanges between the Council and Government in recent months.
Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe, who visited Waterford earlier this summer, is said to be particularly enthused by the potential of the site, and one suspects Government TDs Paudie Coffey, Ciara Cownay and John Deasy have made soundings of their own on this long-standing issue.
It’s understood that representatives from Minister Donohue’s Department have been in communication with City Hall about the delivery of a project that would undoubtedly prove popular with locals as well as international visitors.
According to Tramore Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Chairperson Mary Daniels, “the Metalman project is, for me, the ‘big one’ to watch in Waterford over the next year or so”.
She told this newspaper: “Opening up the Metalman would obviously fit in well with Ireland’s Ancient East; we know that Minister Donohue is very au fait with the site’s significance and we know that Michael Walsh and the City & County Council Executive are intent on positively exploiting the site and putting it to the best possible use.”
Previous attempts to open the site “for a variety of reasons” as Mary Daniels put it, didn’t come to fruition; with Tramore Tourism having invested a great deal of time into the issue in recent years.
“That prospect went by the wayside, unfortunately, but that’s in the past now and we need to think about what can be done in the immediate to long term future as opposed to what hasn’t happened up to now,” she added.
“And given that we have local and central government both singing from the same hymn sheet, to me it’s clear that we now have some positive momentum in place.
“Momentum is a word which we’ve been able to use a lot in relation to Tramore over the past year or so and to see the Metalman integrated into our year-round tourism concept would be the icing on the cake. And I’m very, very hopeful that we can finally get this across the finish line at long last.”
Michael Walsh said that the City & County Council has “made a limited provision in our capital programme for” the project .
“In the context of Ireland’s Ancient East, obviously the Metalman is a significant asset and our objective would be to seek unencumbered access and also to make some parking available at the location.”
Acknowledging the historic significance of the site, Mary Daniels said the Metalman’s “ancient myth is very intriguing”.
She added: “The story goes that if you hop around the Metalman three times, then you’ll be married within a year, and if we can positively capitalise on that and give it a modern twist, I think we can create a new tourism concept which Tramore – and Waterford in turn – can benefit from.”
Mary Daniels explained: “Despite the many technologies and portals nowadays enable new match-ups and relationships, the number of single people in the State is on the rise. The last Census in 2011 indicated that there are 392,000 one-person households in Ireland.
“So if you, excuse the pun, ‘marry’ that growing number, and tie that into developing Tramore as part of an ‘experience driven’ weekend break/holiday package, including the Metalman and its legend, then I believe we have a real opportunity for Tramore and Waterford to further develop our cultural heritage offering whilst tapping into popular culture.”
She continued: “There’s no reason why we couldn’t create a matchmaking festival in Tramore similar to Lisdoonvarna (which runs until October 4th) which ties in the Metalman and its legend. Over 60,000 people visit Lisdoonvarna over the course of the festival and it’s an event that’s known the world over – and I think there’s room in Ireland for another festival like that!
“For me, the Metalman is our Blarney Stone, so if we can dovetail heritage with popular culture, and I believe we can make this work in Tramore, then I think we’re really on to something.”
Mary Daniels said the reaction to the lighting of the Metalman and its pillars in green prior to Saint Patrick’s Day last year was a clarion call to the relevant stakeholders to put the magnificent site to positive use.
“There was a huge reaction to it being lit for Patrick’s Day, and it created a great deal of chat locally and further afield – and there was a similar buzz generated when we lit up the Railway Station building when the new tourist office opened a few weeks later.
“It showed the affection so many of us have for both landmarks, and now that the Railway building has been secured by the Council, which is fantastic news, thoughts have naturally turned to what can be done with the Metalman. It’s common sense that we do something that puts the site to good use. And the will is there to do it.”
She added: “To have the pillars permanently lit would be a welcome development – it might be a good first step, perhaps.
“What Tramore Tourism had in mind for the site is well-known by now: the potential of connecting it to Newtown Cove with a pedestrian bridge, for example, of having an ‘open air’ museum there tracing the history of the Metal Man, the statue’s inception, how it formed part of what was intended to be a set of four such figures, of which only three were made (one is positioned in Sligo Bay at Rosses Point, the other sank on a ship bound for Australia) so there’s a great story here that’s worth telling.
“It’s an area steeped in history and it would be great to share that history and culture to a wider audience.”
While there are ‘legacy issues’ when it comes to the site, Michael Walsh’s suggestion that a CPO could come into play signals the determination of the City & County Council to continue Tramore’s upward tourism trajectory.
One suspects City Hall will take the most prudent path available when it comes to creating this new tourism product, capitalising on one of the south east coast’s most famous landmark.