The early steamers of the nineteenth century transformed sea transport and communication between Wales and Ireland.
Even though many of the large ships retained masts and sails, I choose to focus on the iconic funnel that symbolised the steamer. They were feats of engineering and were made in such a contrasting way to the early crafted vessels.
My early steamers are focussed on communication and the written word.
As this was the age of metal, and in a way the beginning of the throw-away society, I decided to work mainly with discarded pieces of metal which I found around the port and harbour of Caergybi/Holyhead.
Prospero, in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, is a complex character strongly associated with magic powers. I find it interesting that it was also the name given to the ship that laid the first telegraph cable across the Irish Sea, between Holyhead and Howth – an act of magic.
This is the first time that the Irish sea-bed itself played a part in connecting (by telegraph cable) both land-masses and cultures. I felt I had to include this physicality, with a plinth (of sorts) for the ship. The cut core circle represents the cable going below the surface, and is surrounded by a drawing detail of a cross section of the telegraph cable that was used. The edge of the plinth has the first message telegraphed across the Channel.
Keeping with the idea of communication and the connection of languages, my next vessel had to be one of the mail packet steamers.
Holyhead became the port for mail to Dublin from the UK at the beginning of the nineteenth century. With the improvement of transport links, the Holyhead & Kingstown Packet HKP service with its hand stamps started in 1860.
My mail packet steamer follows the same idea as the previous ship ‘Prospero’, and includes reference to the HKP hand stamp that became the practice for all mail packages.
The marine contours on the plinth define the various depths of the channel which lies between the two ports, a distance of around 50 miles.
The Anglo-Irish Cable of 1852, with further links, timeline and references
Holyhead & Kingstown Packets
10 December 2020