Gift of art will mark Liam’s new ‘Freeman’ status
WHAT do you give the man who has everything?
That was the dilemma facing Ballymena Borough Council when it came to choosing a gift for Hollywood ‘A-lister’, Liam Neeson.
In keeping with civic tradition, the Council will present the celebrated actor with a gift to commemorate the award of the Freedom of the Borough next Monday – and the Council’s choice is a pastel painting by acclaimed Ballymena artist, Catherine Flood.
Inspiration for the gift came from Ballymena’s first citizen, Alderman P J McAvoy, who says: “The Freedom of the Borough is the highest accolade which we as a Council can bestow and we wanted to mark the occasion with a particularly special memento which Liam could keep and enjoy for years to come.
“I know that he is passionate about both his home town and the local landscape this area so we opted for a particularly striking painting of Slemish...an area known around the world not only for its natural beauty but also for its associations with St Patrick.”
Catherine Flood, whose artistic credentials include membership of Ulster Women Artists, The Arts Society of Ulster and The Pastel Society of Ireland, is thrilled that, after the high profile ceremony on January 28, one of her works will be going home with Ballymena’s most distinguished son.
“This is all very exciting for it came as an absolute surprise to me,” she said.
“I think pastels give a very pleasing, soft effect and they worked well for me as I worked on ‘The Road To Slemish’ so perhaps that is what appealed to the Council.
“I’m a real Liam Neeson fan and I’m proud to say that he already has one of my pictures, bought for him many years ago by a friend here in Ballymena.”
Catherine, who is well known in the town as a driving force behind the Ballymena Arts Club, narrowly missed out on a chance to meet the actor a few years ago.
She says: “I was waiting for a bus load of people to turn up for an art class I was taking and I couldn’t imagine why they were running so late. When they did arrive they all piled out of the bus, bubbling with excitement; it seems that the driver had spotted Liam Neeson just strolling along the road.
“He asked if they’d like to meet him and, when they all said ‘yes’ he stopped the bus, they all scampered out, and apparently Liam Neeson was absolutely charming, with a word for everyone! Now I have a story to top that one!”
Catherine has been painting since she first moved to Ballymena some 36 years ago and was taken under the artistic wing of the well-known local artist, Suzanne Forth.
She says: “Ballymena is recognised as being an extremely vibrant centre for the arts and the town has more than its fair share of accomplished artists, which makes me all the more delighted that my work has been chosen to mark this very special occasion. I just hope Liam Neeson enjoys the painting as much as I enjoyed working on it!”
The Mayor may well have had future opportunities in mind when he first viewed the painting, for he added: “I’m hoping that, when they see this interpretation of Slemish, some of Liam’s celebrity friends may be encouraged to visit us as tourists: certainly Liam will encourage them to come, for he is one of our most enthusiastic and influential ambassadors!”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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