of the Empire' is a one-hour documentary about the life and
works of John Henry Foley, creator of some of the most famous
and controversial public works of the late 18th and 19th century.
A native of Ireland, Foley found fame whilst still a student
with the RAA where his first exhibits caught the attention
of none other than the Prince Consort.
As a darling of the Royal Family, Foley was commissioned to
create some of the most prestigious and symbolic commemorative
pieces in the British Empire and beyond. Works include, the
Albert Memorial in London, Daniel O'Connell in Dublin, Outram
in Calcutta, and Stonewall Jackson in America. To keep up
with the demand for his work Foley built an enormous studio
in Islington where he oversaw the creation of works mainly
celebrating the lives of distinguished politicians, military
heroes, and artists.
The real drama behind this story occurs a century later, when
the Empire began to crumble in both India and his native Ireland.
Sculptures like his famed 'Outram' and 'Hardinge' had to be
removed from the gaze of the citizens of the new India and
joined other colonial works in abandoned sculptural graveyards.
In Ireland the works suffered more extreme humiliation where
the IRA was the principle thorn in the destruction of his
work. Lord Dunkillen was removed from his pedestal and thrown
into Galway Bay. Lord Gough, after several attempted bombings
and having his head removed, was spirited out of Ireland to
Nottingham under secret instructions of the Free State Government.
The ones that survive in Ireland are those that are acceptable
to the new Republic like, Daniel O Connell, the Catholic Liberator,
and Henry Grattan, the Home Ruler. Unionist ideology has ensured
that Foley's work like…in Belfast is held in high esteem.
Interestingly the Indian Government is planning to reinstate
some of Foley's work on the basis of their merit as works
Ghost of the Empire is the story of how nations deal with
the baggage of their past and move onto a more mature understanding
of the origin of the symbols imposed upon them.