Queen Maeve’s bull

Telling the Táin Bó Culaigne tale in tapestry

A group of eight talented Meath artists are currently working on a tapestry which is part of an inter-county community arts project celebrating the legend of the Táin Bó Culaigne.

Five tapestrys are being created to depict the progress of the Táin Bó Culaigne from Roscommon to Louth.

Each county through which the Táin passes is involved: Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath and Louth.

In Meath, artist, Ina Olohan is the facilitator for the project while those working on the tapestry are Tracey Owen-Griffiths, Cosette Olohan, Sinéad Leahy Fervy, Jenny Richardson, Margaret Dean, Philomena Barrett and Ann Campion.

"We have been working on this since last August and there has been a huge time commitment. There is a great atmosphere, a great sense of industry and nice teamwork," says Ina Olohan.

The eight Meath women meet every week in the old Vocational School in Kells and use various techniques to create the tapestry including stitch, embroidery, appliqué and textile printing .

"Artist Sophie Coyle designed the artwork telling the story of the great epic, and there is a facilitator appointed in each county to work on the local section of story with a group of local sewers," Ina explains.

The groups in each county produce a tapestry 1.5 metres by three metres, which tells its own story, but they will be brought together to tell the whole story of the Tain epic.

"The central image we are working on in Meath is of Cúchulainn being healed by the god Lúgh. Cúchulainn has been injured in the battle between Queen Maeve and the King of Ulster, for possession of the brown bull of Cooley.

"The story is from the Ulster cycle of hero tales and the written versions date back to the seventh and eighth centuries. This story is also found in The Book of Leinster," Ina explains.

Ann Campions says it has been an absolutely fantastic experience. "I am a member of the Quilting Guild of Ireland and the UK and that is how I became involved.

"It has been fabulous working with such talented women and our facilitator, Ina, is such an amazing talented artist. It is a huge privilege to be working with them on this project.

"It is hard work and a huge committment, but great fun," she says.

Margaret Dean agrees that it has been a great experience.

"I love it. Everybody is so interested in sewing and stitching. It can be hard to find someone that speaks your language but everybody is so interested and we love experimenting with different things and showing each other how to do different techniques. It is a great experience," she says.

The group would like to thank the Louth Meath Education and Training Board for allowing them the use of the school.

"The room we are using is great, with long tables and great sunlight," says Ina.

The Táin project is sponsored by Creative Ireland. It is a collaborative project with An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk, the Táin March festival, and their organiser. It is spread across five counties and the five tapestries each show a scene based on each county's geographical location as described in the Táin Bó Cuailgne. It will be displayed at the Dundalk arts centre and they will later be displayed separately in their home counties.