Béal na Bláth Centenary Project, designed in collaboration with Cork County Council CPIU Architects and Professor Finola O'Kane, delivers an unbiased interpretation of Michael Collins' death, maximising accessibility and safety for daily visitors and commemorative crowds alike. The project was designed and built in time for the centenary of Michael Collins’ death and a State-led commemoration event at the site on 22nd
The new memorial landscape at Béal na Bláth creates a more authentic and solemn experience of the ambush site, with the historic memorial cross erected a short time after Michael Collins’ death now separated from the modern road by a path retracing the alignment of the road as it was in 1922. Massive slabs of Valentia Slate, almost two tonnes in weight each, line the gently sloping path through the memorial landscape. On the slope itself, ‘milestones’ are inscribed with the placenames Collins’ convoy passed through on the day of his death, from Skibbereen to Rosscarbery, his birthplace near Sam’s Cross and Woodfield, on to Clonakilty, Ballinascarty, Bandon, and finally Béal na Bláth itself.
The project has been commended for its sensitive handling of this historic subject matter, being described by the RIAI Awards 2023 jury upon being awarded the Public Space and Urban Design Award as “a cultural landmark that has been carefully reinterpreted, while respecting and informing the historical significance of the location… as a public space that has utility and meaning in an important cultural landscape.”
Sunpath Metaphor & Symbolism
Stones of Irish Slate from Valentia Island stand in the landscape as a permanent salute to Michael Collins’ life. Slate ‘milestones’ along the pathway, spaced apart proportional to their geographic distances, are engraved to recall the west Cork place names relating to his final journey the day of his death.
As the August sun sets, coinciding with the timeframe of that journey, leaving Skibbereen at around 5pm and arriving in Béal na Bláth around 7.30pm, shafts of sunlight shine through notches cut in the stones’ open perpend joints. As the wall is curved in plan, these shafts of light, first shine on the ‘Skibbereen’ and ‘Rosscarbery’ milestones, and move in turn along the path, past ‘Sam’s Cross’, ‘Clonakilty’, on towards ‘Bandon’, finally illuminating the final milestone ‘Béal na Bláth’ around 7.30pm, close to the whitewashed stone marker near where he fell.
As the sun continues its final descent, the fading light moves up over the historic memorial cross, and skyward into the canopy of the newly planted Scots Pine trees, which are old Irish mythological symbols of hope and new life ahead.