Fountain Estate (or The Fountain) is the last remaining Protestant community on Londonderry’s (as the approximately 500 Loyalist residents most assuredly call it) cityside. A Unionist island in a Nationalist sea, if you will.
The Apprentice Angel while appearing like a rather mundane bronze sculpture of a nobody is in fact a most symbolic piece of sculpture in a city full of symbolism. The Apprentice Angel – bringer of freedom – symbolises the apprentice boys’ locking of the city gates against the forces of Catholic King James II thus starting the 1689 Siege of Derry . Rather ironically, for the Protestants of The Fountain being “locked” in this small island estate IS often seen as freedom.
When times were bad this very small minority in an overwhelming Catholic city felt as if the 1689 Siege had never ended. Indeed one of the Estate’s murals (political wall paintings common in Northern Ireland, especially in Derry and Belfast) exclaims :
“Londonderry Westbank Loyalists still under siege – No Surrender”.
Take a closer look at the Angel and you will see his coat is covered in keys – the symbolic keys that lock the young residents (members of the local Cathedral Youth Club who designed this sculpture with the assistance of artist Ross Wilson in 2009) into the estate as well as keys which can unlock their minds and grant freedom.
The sculpture contains casts of two of the most famous keys in the City’s history, those used by the apprentice boys in the closing of the City gates and initiating the 1689 Siege of Derry. The original keys can be seen in nearby St Columb’s Cathedral.
On the back of angel is a winged heart with a key hole. This symbolises the fact that an apprentice is someone seeking learning and knowledge and that we want our children to know the meaning of freedom.
The sculpture is located across the road from the Cathedral Youth Club on a formally derelict block which is now a small communal space. On a closing note, I was saddened to see the ongoing need for the fence separating the Fountain Estate from its Catholic neighbours (left hand side of the picture above).
This entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Hands Across the Divide – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.