The most spectacular and successful sculpture on the road to Sligo must be The Gaelic Chieftain on the Curlews bypass near Boyle, Co Roscommon. It was inspired by the Battle of the Curlews in 1599 when, during the nine years war, Red Hugh O'Donnell defeated an English army on the Curlew Mountains.
Unveiled in 1999 by Trim resident, Minister Noel Dempsey, it is by Derry-born sculptor Maurice Harron.
A combination of excellent position, visible from a distance whether travelling to or from Sligo and great use of material make sit one of the best of the many sculptures dotted on bypasses and road improvements around the country as a result of the percent for art scheme.
O'Donnell left Ireland for Spain after the end of the war and the defeat at Kinsale. Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bhaird, chief poet to O’Donnell, implored God’s protection for his lord:
Dia dot eadráin san amsa
ar ghluasacht ngaoth ccodarsna,
ar ghoin n-ainchridhigh gach fhir,
‘s ar mhoir n-ainbhthinigh idir.
Osborn Bergin translates: ‘God protect thee at this time from the motion of contrary winds, and from the cruel wound of every man, and from all stormy seas’.
O’Donnell died soon afterwards in Spain aged 29. It was suspected by many that he had been poisoned by English agents.