Oisín Kelly

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Statue of James Larkin on O'Connell Street (Oisín Kelly 1977)

Oisín Kelly (17 May 1915 – 13 October 1981) was an Irish sculptor.

Kelly was born as Austin Kelly in Dublin, the son of William Kelly, principal of the James Street National School, and his wife, Elizabeth (née McLean).[1] Until he became an artist in residence at the Kilkenny Design Centre in 1966, he worked as a school teacher. He initially attended night class at the National College of Art and Design and studied briefly in 1948–1949 under Henry Moore.

He originally concentrated on small wood carvings and his early commissions were mostly for Roman Catholic churches. He became well known after he was commissioned to do a sculpture, The Children of Lir (1964), for Dublin's Garden of Remembrance, opened in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. More public commissions followed, including the statue of James Larkin on Dublin's O'Connell Street.[citation needed]

He figures in five lines of Seamus Heaney's second "Glanmore Sonnet":

"'These things are not secrets but mysteries',/Oisin Kelly told me years ago/In Belfast, hankering after stone/That connived with the chisel, as if the grain/Remembered what the mallet tapped to know."[2]

Works on display[edit]

  • The Children of Lir (1966) Garden of Remembrance, Dublin 1
  • Two Working Men (1969) by County Hall, Cork
  • Roger Casement (1971) Banna Strand, Co. Kerry
  • Jim Larkin (1977) O'Connell Street, Dublin 1
  • Chariot of Life (1982) Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1


  1. ^ Biodata, linenhall.com.[dead link]
  2. ^ Seamus Heaney. Field Work. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1979, pg 34.


  • Fergus Kelly (2015) The Life and Work of Oisín Kelly. Hacketstown, Co Carlow: Derreen Books. (ISBN 978-0-9933063-0-3)
  • Fergus Kelly (2002) Kelly, Oisín, The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. (ISBN 0-7171-3000-2)
  • Judith Hill (1998) Irish public sculpture. Dublin: Four Courts Press. (ISBN 1-85182-274-7)