George Clendining, Westport in Co. Mayo
The Monument on the Octagon in Westport was erected in the memory of George Clendining in 1843. George was born in Westport in 1770, son of the Church of Ireland Vicar of Westport. He went to school in Westport and continued his studies in Trinity College.
Following the 1798 rebellion Lord Sligo's agent John Gibbons, a prominent United Irish man, was forced to flee the country and George was appointed the new agent. He later became involved in banking and in 1826 was appointed agent for the Bank of Ireland and ran one of the earliest branches of a bank outside Dublin. The bank operated from his newly built mansion ‘Grove House’ on Millstreet.
He became a very wealthy man, a result of his own hard work and financial expertise. His entrepreneurial skills were a huge asset in the rapid development of Westport during the early 1800’s. The monument was erected in his memory and is testament to the regard in which he was held locally.
George died at 73 years of age, 1843, and immediately following his funeral his friends formed a committee and raised the funds to erect the monument. The sculptor is unknown. Originally the full-size figure of George Clendining was placed on top of the fluted doric columns on an octagonal podium, which had two female figures representing benevolence and philanthropy.
The sides facing Market Square and Shop Street were decorated by the Clendining Coat of Arms, the inscription "to the memory of George Clendining" faced James Street and Peter Street. The other four sides bore the inscription "born Westport 1770, died in Westport 1843".
During the Civil War, Irish Free State Troops were housed in the town hall. The statue was used for target practice and the head was shot off. In 1943 the Union District Council removed the statue, crests and inscription from the monument.
In 1990 Clendining was replaced by a statue of St Patrick, made of Portland stone by the sculptor Ken Thompson. Matching panels were inserted depicting scenes from the saint's life.
By Bernie O'Malley