A statue will be revealed to honour the late Prof. Gerry O’Sullivan on National Cancer Survivors Day.Photo: Conor Healy Photography

Community pay tribute to Prof. Gerry with new statue

A life-sized statue will be revealed next month by a West Cork community to honour the late Prof. Gerry O’Sullivan.

A pioneer in the field of cancer research, he was the founder of Cork Cancer Research Centre and the national charity Breakthrough Cancer Research.

Gerry was a highly acclaimed surgeon, scientist and cancer researcher. His world-renowned clinical expertise was matched by his belief in the power of research to mould a better future for people with cancer.

He was deeply rooted in the West Cork community. He grew up on a farm in Milleenahorna, Caheragh, went to Gurrane National School, and then to St Fachtna's De La Salle High School in Skibbereen. He spent as much of his free time as possible ‘down west’ and religiously attended the Threshing Festival in the community every year until he passed in 2012.

In 2014, the local Caheragh community, who are immensely proud of Gerry and his accomplishments, created a Science Through Nature themed recreational park, which was named in his honour to preserve his memory and inspire future generations.

The Kirby family in Killeenleigh donated the four-acre plot which links the school and churches to the rest of the village, and the development was funded by generous private donations, Cork County Council and other voluntary groups. It is an ongoing project to create a vibrant, creative and educational space for families in the area, with plans for themed gardens denoting significant periods of Prof. Gerry’s life. There will also be a pollinator corner for a hive and honeybees, another passion of Gerry's.

8 years later, the same community have come together again to commission a life size statue of the late professor, which will take centre place in the Professor Gerry O’Sullivan Memorial Park. The statue was created by sculptor Don Cronin.

Orla Dolan, daughter of Gerry, who is continuing his vision as CEO of Breakthrough Cancer Research, said: “My father always had a special place in his heart for West Cork and the people of Caheragh. Whenever we saw him lost in thought, he said he was ‘looking West for inspiration’. I know he would have felt immensely honoured and humbled by this upcoming event. I hope everyone comes out and joins us on the day as we celebrate his life and the lives of cancer survivors.”

Chair of the committee Micheál Kirby, said: “Professor O’Sullivan died at the young age of 65 from cancer, a disease he had spent his whole career saving others from. We are so incredibly proud of his achievements and the man he became and want to encourage young people in our community to follow in his footsteps. Nothing is impossible when you have passion, determination and a kind heart. Gerry never forgot his roots in West Cork and we will always remember him.”

The statue will be officially unveiled in the Professor Gerry O’Sullivan Memorial Park, Caheragh, at 2pm on National Cancer Survivors Day, 5 June, by the Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Gillian Coughlan and Prof. O’Sullivan’s wife Breda and family.

The keynote speaker at the event will be leading immunologist, author and broadcast personality, Prof. Luke O’Neill. In addition to the commemoration ceremony, there will be dancing performances from the local national school, music with the St Fachtna’s Silver Band, face painting and food trucks.