Light Boat at High Tide

“I came from work in the boat and I tied it to the front door in Ship Street. The big tides would be in around Christmas time and after it. They’d be always at dinner time. Midday, one o’clock tides. Always the big mad tides y’ know”.
Jack ‘Pops’ Lowth former docker and resident of Ship Street

Having spent some time absorbing the atmosphere of Ship Street over the past year I realised what a special place it is. It suggests itself as an urban amphitheatre, a place that channels the energy of a mass body of water, a source that soothes but also has the potential to impact significantly on those who live in it’s reach.

The current residents who are land dwelling folks, follow the tides, as fishermen or sailors do, in order to literally ‘baton down the hatches’ at their respective front doors to prevent the river from entering when the tide is high or the rains are heavy; cars get parked on the Marsh Road or higher ground to prevent water damage.

As the street has been falling into disrepair over the years, it was felt by Upstate Theatre Project, who have been working alongside the residents over the past number of years that it would be a suitable gesture to place a Christmas tree in the green at the riverside to bring some festive light to the street .

Due to welcome drainage and maintenance works at the site, the green area became off limits and the Christmas tree idea turned into a winter light sculpture to both commemorate and celebrate the site.

Many, many drawings and ideas were discussed and in keeping with Upstate Theatre Project’s vast research and original desire to focus on the boat building and fishing tradition within the street, ‘Light Boat at High Tide’ was realised.

The starting point for the sculpture is, in many ways, in the sound recording that accompanies the sculpture. Jack ‘Pops’ Lowth speaks about stepping out of his boat and into his home at No17 where the sculpture is situated. Two red horizontal lines of light represent the height of the water level during a severe flood. The sculpture ‘Light Boat at High Tide’ sits at this high tide mark and highlights the crux of the issues that have faced and continue to impact the street at present but hopefully not into the future.

Historically each family in Ship Street chose a distinctive colour to indicate their boat so the coloured lights of the sculpture nod to this sense of community, whilst the white net points to the fishing tradition in the street.

The boat shape itself is illustrated using a mix of Christmas lights, in keeping with the season and to offer the residents who live in the Street some seasonal cheer during the dark days of Winter, something we all can relate to during this time of current global uncertainty.

The site can be seen as a microcosm of the impact of environmental and social planning issues that effect modern urban development. The sculpture is, in a manner, a way of shining a light on an important site within Drogheda in order to keep the discussion of it’s future alive and relevant.

I would like to thank Upstate Theatre Project, the Residents of Ship Street and lighting designer and technician John McGovern for all their valuable help in understanding the space and realising the project.

Artist, Vivienne Byrne

Light Boat at High Tide

futurepastpresent is the project that continues to work alongside residents, former residents, collaborating with artists, architects and the public services to develop plans for the regeneration of Ship Street.

Light Boat at High Tide audio

Featuring the voices of Olive (McDonnell) Vaughey, Jack ‘Pops’ Lowth, Oliver Collins, Josie (McDonnell) Owens, James ‘Billo’ Lowth and May (Collins) Farrell.

The project is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and the Drogheda Credit Union