It was the many 18th and 19th century tragedies of ships wrecked in Tramore Bay that led to the construction of Tramore’s most famous landmark. This is the monument of the Metal Man which stands on a pillar 18.5 meters tall on the cliffs of Tramore at Newtown Head.
The Metal Man was built as a navigational marking to distinguish Tramore Bay from Waterford Harbour. At an exhibition in London in 1817 a sculpture by Thomas Kirk was unveiled and described in the catalogue as “the figure of a British Tar, a sketch design for a colossal statue to stand on a dangerous rock in the sea near the harbour of Sligo as a beacon”. Two years later the Ballast Board commissioned John Clarke to cast a metal man from Kirk’s design.
The Metal Man of Tramore was one of four commissioned. A second Metal Man stands at Rosses Point in Sligo but the whereabouts of the others is unknown. In 1821 the pillars which completed the warning system directing ships not to enter Tramore bay were erected with two at Brownstown Head and three at Newtown Head. In 1823 the Metal Man was hoisted upon the middle of the three pillars at Newtown Head, and since this time not only is the figure associated with maritime safety with also with romantic promise.
The cry of the Metal Man remains “keep off, good ship, keep off from me, for I am the rock of misery”. A local legend which attracted tourists in great numbers in the nineteenth and twentieth century no longer applies. The legend promised marriage to ‘eligible maidens’ within a year for those who hopped around the base of the Metal Man’s tower.