Irish-born submarine inventor John Phillip Holland honoured by descendant’s sculpture

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A spectacular sculpture made from recycled Boeing 707 parts and honouring the Irish inventor of the modern submarine will form the centrepiece of Ireland’s premier art fair Art Source at the RDS this week.

A call from the local recycling business about dumped aviation parts gave acclaimed industrial designer Shane Holland the inspiration for the aero-marine sculpture to honour his ancestor John Phillip Holland.

Now the 3.5m long sculpture made of aluminium, titanium and recycled glass, which is a celebration of aviation, marine engineering and heritage craft will be on display at Art Source.

Over 15,000 people are expected to attend the year’s biggest and most exciting art show from November 10-12, which will feature 200 of the best in contemporary Irish and international artists and galleries.

The ‘Submarinocurraplane’ is a nod to Irish inventor John Phillip Holland who developed the first modern submarine, which was formally commissioned by the US Navy.

“I first discovered I was distantly related to John Phillip Holland when another relative I’d never met, arrived at my workshop in Duleek, Co Meath before Covid-19 to tell me about the links,” said Shane.

“I have the same initials of JP Holland too.  I was named John after my dad but my mam changed it immediately to the Irish derivative of Shane to avoid confusion in the house.

“I work closely with the staff at the recycling business near my workshop, and one day they gave me a call to tell me to get down there because they were expecting a truckload of aviation stuff that they knew I’d be interested in.

“There were great pieces from Boeing 707 planes and when I assembled them, they looked almost like a submarine so I decided there and then to make a sculpture to acknowledge this huge maritime invention by my ancestor

“I am captain of the currach team in Skerries and a boat builder so I used currach making techniques to finish off the sculpture form, as Holland would’ve used currachs in both his native Co. Clare and along the Boyne.

“He also taught Maths and Music in Drogheda, Co. Louth, and would have tested the early submersible designs with his students up the River Boyne, near me so there are a lot of parallels between us.”

Shane is also an environmental activist and has used his currach to make over 100 visits to the islands off Skerries where he and his crews have cleaned over 17,500 pieces of dumped plastic from the water.

“Plastic bottles, gloves, life jackets, surfboards and fishing tackle are what we have gathered from the sea during our trips and about 30 pairs of shoes which I’ve also turned into a Soles of the Sea exhibit

“I think what John Holland achieved was huge, yet he died in poverty.  But I think if I met him at Art Source, I’d say you were some fella to keep going until you realised your dream.  I’d like to think I’m like him in that way too!

Irish art lovers will have the unique chance to get their hands on 100 pieces of original artwork for €100 each on a first-come, first-served basis on the opening morning of the show on Friday, November 10.

Art Source runs in Dublin’s RDS from November 10-12. For more information and tickets visit

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