A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. Here’s five hundred for a piece in the Ulster Museum, by Northern Irish artist John Luke.
The Old Callan Bridge, by John Luke (1945)
A path leads down a hill, and curves round through the fields before crossing over a great bridge that leads towards a short wide tower on the horizon.
The eye is immediately drawn to a group of three colourfully dressed figures lounging on the bank of the path in the foreground. The nearest is a black-haired girl in a red dress. She lounges, gazing off into the distance, grasping in one hand a swathe of blue material that trails along the bank. Beside her a black dog sits, relaxed but alert. On the other side of her stand the second of the three figures, a blod-haired young boy. His outfit – a dark teal shirt, red tie, dark blue shorts and grey socks with bright coloured bands at the cuff – suggest to the modern eye a school uniform, with its formal nature. The third member of the group, a brunette in a cheerful yellow top and blue skirt, stands with her back to us. She is using a stick nearly as long as she is tall to poke the bushes at the top of the bank, keenly observed by a second dog. Its white coat mottled with black is identical to that of another dog further down the path, which is being walked on a short leash by a young boy. His outfit appears similar to that of the first boy, although differently coloured – a red shirt paired with grey shorts. His socks, however, appear identical – grey with coloured bands at the top. A third, similarly dressed boy (set apart by his wine shirt and reddish hair) walks past in the company of an adult man. His brown hat marks him as a grown up, and his sober brown jacket, lighter brown trousers and shiny black boots all set a serious tone to his appearance. He has a stick that he leans upon as he walks, although he does not appear that old – perhaps a wounded veteran, returned from the war. At the bottom of the hill, a girl in a red dress chases a figure out of sight – the blue shorts and black boots that are all we can see of him mark him as another boy. She holds a brown strap or rope, the two ends apparently held taut by the boy she is chasing.
As the path curves, it runs between two fields. In one, a cow contentedly grazes while another heads down the bank of a river to drink. In the other, a white horse gazes off into the distance, his feed and water set out before him.
The road turns once more, and goes up and over a large bridge with five arches to the heavily forested far bank. There, an almost hidden path leads off from the main path through the trees, presumably to the grand house (or church) that we can see poking above the treeline. To the right of the trees stands the round tower, its width making it look short even though it clearly stands at least four stories high. Behind it, fluffy white clouds trail across the blue sky.
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