This painting of our neighbour shows a man in whose face is reflected the history of much of the twentieth century. Harold was born in Monkstown, County Dublin, in 1921, the same year as the Treaty with Britain that led to the foundation of the modern Irish state. He was sent to school in Windsor, where his classmates included the Romanoff princes, Michael and Andrew, nephews of Tsar Nicholas II, with whom he formed a guard of honour at Windsor Castle at the funeral of King George V, in 1936. In 1941 Harold joined the Indian Army as an officer. Returning to his native Dublin, his business included making the special red and white striped coatings for Dublin's iconic Poolbeg power station chimneys (featured in my painting 'Shelduck'). Harold is related to the great Irish Fitzgerald family, the knights of Glin, who are descended from the earls of Desmond and the Gaelic kings of Connaught. Harold was also friends with Capt Kelly-Rogers, formerly Winston Churchill's personal pilot, who lived near us in Portmarnock. All of which made for a fascinating historical swirl in which to paint a portrait of this remarkable man.
egg tempera, 46 x 61 cm © Fergus A Ryan, 2016
On exhibition National Gallery of Ireland Nov 2016 to Mar 2017
Hennessy Portrait Prize 2016 Shortlist Exhibition