Westport on your mantlepiece


RIGHT ON TIME Tina Burns is pictured in the heart of Westport holding one of her miniature clocks. Pic: Conor McKeown

Local woman creating unique miniature Clock and Octagon moulds

Oisín McGovern

WHAT symbol or landmark best represents Westport? Where to even begin answering that question!
Tall and majestic stands that mighty Reek whatever way you approach the Clew Bay town. Once you’re there, for sightseeing you can take your pick of the Mall, the Quay, Westport House, or either of the local churches.
You’ll find manmade canals, big houses, picturesque harbours and splendid churches in plenty of towns across this great island. But nowhere else will you find two landmarks quite like ‘The Clock’ and ‘The Octagon’.
Over the years, thousands of tourists have paused for snaps besides two monuments that Westport can truly call its own.
Erected between 1843 and 1845, The Octagon is an eight-sided plinth that houses a statue of Saint Patrick, who keeps a perpetual watch over the holy mountain that bears his name. Just down the street you have the 75-year Clock, a monument that is aesthetically pleasing but an unreliable timekeeper.
Local county councillor Christy Hyland once remarked that he couldn’t simply throw Croagh Patrick into a trailer if he wanted to show the world what made Westport special. Heaven forbid anyone ever topples The Octagon and tears off down the soon-to-be-built N5 with one of Westport’s crown jewels.
Instead, those seeking to bring a little bit of Westport home with them can now look no further than local woman Tina Burns.
After 38 years in ‘a good job in the civil service’, the women behind ‘Clocktagon Crafts’ (spot the play on words?) has recently taken to making miniature moulds of The Clock and The Octagon.
“Initially when I left school, I was offered a job by Joe Berry (the late owner of The Mayo News) because he knew that I was artistic, and art was what I wanted to do. I had always been artistic, and I did go to college [to study art for a few months] but I left that when I got ‘the good job in the civil service’,” she tells The Mayo News over coffee and scones in the Wyatt Hotel last Thursday morning.
“I never really dabbled, only on and off while I was working. I didn’t really do anything with art. Some portraits here and there, but that’s it.”

Seizing the opportunity
Like many others, Tina seized the opportunity to move back west in March 2020 when those who could were ordered to work from home. Last December she took an early retirement from the civil service before becoming, in her words, ‘a late recruit’ into the local artistic scene.
“But Westport is just that kind of a town, it’s like a genie got out of the bottle with me. The artist all came out again and I just got this notion that I had to make an Octagon and a Clock,” she recalls.
The process of figuring out how to recreate these stony icons involved plenty of trial and an abundance of error.
At one point, she ended up with a face ‘like a horse’ after applying a highly toxic resin to one design.
“I spent the best part of a year and a half trying to figure it out,” Tina explains.
“I wasn’t trained, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how I was going to make this happen. I spent a lot of money trying to get this right and find the right substance.
“So many things ended up in the bin. So much money ended up in the bin, you wouldn’t believe it. But finally, I got there.”
One would suspect tourists would be an open goal for this sort of unique, made-to-order souvenir.
However, Tina’s creations have proved more popular with faraway Covies than Bill and Patti visiting from Wisconsin.

Local made product
Already, two models have been shipped to ex-pats living in America, who clearly appreciate the value of a good locally made product.
“I could take this and I could send it off to China and I could get thousands and thousands of them, probably little plastic yokes. But I don’t want that. I want to make each one of these myself,” Tina says.
“I wanted the town to craft it, in Westport, on High Street, where I live. That’s what I want.”
As well as moulding miniature versions of The Clock and The Octagon, Tina is also a keen hand at fluid art – a style of painting where there are no paintbrushes involved – which she has used to apply gleaming marble glazes to heart-shaped canvasses.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, she can be found selling her various wares by The Octagon – the very place that inspired her foray into moulded figures.
Were it not for the cost involved, she says there are plenty more local sites and vistas that she would love to downsize into something fit for a mantlepiece.
It’s safe to say, however, that Tina Burns’ love of her home-place is there to be seen in every work that churns out of her High Street home.
“I love it. I’m nearly obsessed. It’s like watching a new child being born each time, daft as that sounds,” she says.
“I’m just pretty much addicted. The problem is my house is filling up with all kinds of everything and I can’t just keep making it. I need to sell it.”

Would you like to buy it? Then email: clocktagon@gmail.com or Tina Burns on 087 6784616.