A poignant World War II marking designed to ward German bombers away from neutral Ireland has been uncovered and restored to its former glory.
Left to the elements and overgrown with gorse, the large ‘Eire’ sign (pictured) on Wicklow’s Bray Head had been lost and forgotten over the years.
But after summer wildfires on the head exposed the sign, it was spotted by a Garda air unit in early August, sparking a volunteer campaign to restore the sign, now a monument.
Made out of around 40 tonnes of stones hand-arranged to spell out the letters EIRE, it is one of 82 neutrality markings erected around the coast of Ireland during World War II.
As well as declaring Ireland’s neutrality to German pilots who may have been disoriented by fog, the markings acted as navigational aids for friendly aircraft, and were part of Look Out Posts set up to help protect the country from invasion.
Despite its neutrality in the war, the German Luftwaffe made several intentional bombing raids on Ireland between 1940 and 1941.
The volunteers spent the best part of a week cleaning the stones, returning them to position and cutting back gorse.
The restoration was organised by local businessman Aidan O’Toole and three volunteers, including Declan Carroll, managing director of the chemicals company Sika Ireland. To help preserve the monument, Sika donated 100 litres of weather-resistant coating to paint the stones.
"We could have simply whitewashed the stones but the product Sika has provided offers a finish that will ensure the stones need little, if any, maintenance for years to come, no matter what the weather throws at them," Carroll said.
Photograph: The restored neutrality marking on Wicklow’s Bray Head (Photograph courtesy of Sika)