Buddhist temple

WATCH: The Allihies community ties their connection to the Buddhist temple

A special ceremony in Beara saw gold-plated dragon heads and other ornaments installed on the roof of the first purpose-built Tibetan temple on the peninsula.

A PIECE of copper excavated from a mine deep beneath the ground at Allihies has been inserted into a sacred ornament and placed atop a copper-roofed temple at a nearby retreat center.

Tadhg O’Sullivan, chairman of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, presented one of two copper ingots mined at Allihies in the 1800s at a special ceremony held at Dzogchen Beara.

Shortly after a traditional Tibetan blessing, Tadhg and project manager Leon Rossiter placed the ingot inside the central copper ornament, known as the sertog.

From a safe distance, guests watched as highly skilled workers placed a protective blanket around the gold-plated sertog and cables winched it into place atop Ireland’s first purpose-built Tibetan temple at Garranes.

Throughout last Thursday, under the scorching sun, workers continued to put in place the remaining 14 glittering ornaments, including four gold-plated dragon heads that were placed at the corners of the temple roof.

Each of the ornaments was made in Tashi Jong in northern India and it took 18 months for sisters Maella and Isha Wootton – affectionately known by their work colleagues as the “Sisters of Dragons” – to research, test all the products , forming and gilding the copper decorations with gold leaf.

Tadhg O’Sullivan said the inserted ingot was one of two “precious” pieces of copper they had at the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, a popular tourist center which explains how copper mining was central to the history of the region.

One of the gold plated dragon heads being installed. (Photo: Anne-Marie Cronin)
Leon Rossiter, project manager and Tadhg O’Sullivan, chairman of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, place copper from the mine in the central ornament before it is placed on the roof. (Photo: Anne-Marie Cronin)

“We are delighted to introduce one of them to our neighbors as it signifies the integration of the community here in Dzogchen Beara into the wider community of Beara Peninsula and Allihies,” Tadhg said.

Initially, when Peter and Harriett Cornish opened the retreat center in the 1970s, Tadhg said it was considered a bit “out of the ordinary”.

“But gradually, over the years, because of the ethos of this place – the openness and welcoming approach it has towards everyone – it has integrated into the community.”

“Now,” he added, “it’s a key part of not only the Allihies community, but the Beara Peninsula as well.

Maella and Isha Wootton who did the gilding on each of the 15 temple roof ornaments.
Tara Hanley, Manager of the Copper Café, Tadhg O’Sullivan, President of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, and Anne O’Shea, Trustee of the Copper Mine Museum, who presented the copper ingot for the ceremony.

Describing the cliff-top site in Garranes as “spectacular”, Tadhg said when the temple is completed it will be “doubly spectacular”.

Malcom MacClancy, the center’s director, said the temple project began seven years ago and could still take another year.

“We see the copper roof as the crown of the temple,” he said, “and you could say that by putting on the ornaments, we are putting on the crown jewels.

“We call them ornaments but they are not foreign decorations,” he added, “each has powerful symbolic value from the perspective of Buddhist tradition.”

Malcolm described the offering of the bullion as “powerfully symbolic” saying, “It resonates with the connection that Dzogchen Beara has with the Beara Peninsula and the local community.”

“It was,” he added, “deeply moving for all of us.”