A statue honouring Olympic Gold Medallist Dr Ronnie Delany was officially unveiled in his home town of Arklow today (Friday).
President Michael D Higgins sent a special message for the occasion describing Ronnie Delany as a “true sporting legend and a wonderful ambassador for Ireland.”
Dr Delany was born in the County Wicklow town on 6th March 1935 and was previously honoured by Wicklow County Council with a Civic Reception in 2016 and the naming of a housing estate there in 2019 after him.
Ronnie Delany achieved international fame when at the age of 21 he won a Gold Medal in the 1500m race at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, on 1st December 1956. He went on to achieve more success on the track and later in business working with Aer Lingus and the B&I shipping company.
In 2006, Dr Delany was granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin. That same year he was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by University College Dublin. In 2013 Villanova University appointed and proclaimed Ronald M Delany Doctor of Humane Letters. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 2009.
Following the previous honours in his home town, it was decided to further honour Arklow’s famous son with a sculpture to mark his remarkable achievement. Renowned sculptor Paul Ferriter was commissioned to bring to life the famous event of 1956.
Welcoming the guests to today’s unveiling, the Leas Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Tommy Annesley, said he appreciated the dedication required to achieve sporting honours. Ronnie had achieved more than most, culminating in winning the ultimate honour, an Olympic Gold Medal.
“This statue is no more than Ronnie deserves and I am honoured to be here this afternoon to join Ronnie and his family and friends, to pay this very special tribute to one of Arklow’s finest”, he said adding: “Statues are very rare, and are reserved for special people who have achieved something out of the ordinary—and Ronnie did exactly that.”
Cllr Annesley thanked all of the sponsors who contributed to this wonderful commission and thanked the sculptor Paul Ferriter for his skilful depiction of Ronnie in his prime.
Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, Mr Frank Curran, said the decision taken by Wicklow County Council in 2016 to commission a statue to afford the ultimate accolade to Arklow’s Olympic gold medal winner Dr Ronnie Delany, was one of the easiest decisions ever made by the Council. He said: “It is a fitting tribute to an athlete who beat all others in the 1500m final in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.”
He thanked all those involved in the project, the local committee, established by the Arklow town team; Michael Nicholson, Director of Services, and all his staff and the staff of Arklow municipal district. He also acknowledged the elected members who supported the project from the start.
Mr Curran had no doubt that people would be as impressed as he was with this statue, and how the sculptor Paul Ferriter has uniquely captured Dr Ronnie Delany. He congratulated Mr Ferriter for his wonderful work.
He added: “When we emerge from the effects of COVID and return to normal, this statue, situated as it is, at the entrance to Ronnie’s birthplace Arklow, will act as a beacon to signify the towns return to growth post-COVID. This investment by the Council, coupled with other significant developments in Arklow, such as the wastewater treatment plant, and the floor relief scheme, will enable the town to finally reach its full potential as a place of prosperity.”
The Cathaoirleach of Arklow Municipal District, Cllr Miriam Murphy, said this was a very special day “when we honour one of our own” explaining how Ronnie was born in Arklow. She added: “In fact we are practically in his front garden as he lived a stones throw away from this very spot. Only a very small number of athletes have won Olympic medals representing Ireland, and gold medals are particularly scarce, so Ronnie’s gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 was truly special.
“We had honoured Ronnie with a Civic Reception in 2016 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his great triumph. There is also a housing development in Arklow named Delany Park, in honour of Ronnie. And now we have the ultimate honour for Ronnie. This wonderful statue greets everyone as they arrive in Arklow and it will serve as a reminder of his marvellous achievement, as an Arklow born athlete.” Cllr Murphy extended a special welcome to Ronnie’s wife Joan and his extended family.
Mr Kieran Mulvey, Chairman, Sport Ireland, said Ronnie Delany was the iconic figure in Irish Athletic sporting history in Ireland. “His sporting achievements are legendary and he has served as an inspiration to successive Irish athletes who have gone on to win international success in Olympic and World championships,” he stated.
He went on: “At the raw young age of 21 years this gangly youthful figure confounded the greats of the athletic world by winning the Gold Medal in the 1500 metres Final at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. He achieved it in a then Olympic record time of 3.41.2, and he was then only the seventh man to beat the four-minute barrier in this prestige race.”
Mr Mulvey explained how Ronnie won many races worldwide, he was the “King of the Boards “in the USA, where competition was the keenest, and became as he is now a living legend of international sporting achievement.
Dr Delany expressed his thanks and said he was honoured and privileged to have the statue erected for him.