“Surround your loved ones with stars and happiness for they are in a place of peace.”
Prolific outsider artist Bernadette (Ber) Wall realised her dream of creating a giant billboard of artwork in Dalkey, Co Dublin, dedicated to life-long friend Clive Coady in May. Every day since Clive died in 2013, Ber has created colourful images of him engaged in various activities. As she’s non-verbal, these creations helped her to both communicate and cope with her loss. Ber’s work was supported by St John of God staff member and artist Eithne Griffin.
Born in circa 1959, Ber was placed in an institution for the deaf as a young child for a period. It’s almost impossible to believe now, but back in the 1950s, the vast majority of persons with any kind of intellectual and / or verbal disability were frequently institutionalised, and sometimes abandoned, for the rest of their lives.
Pictured: Best friends Ber Wall and Clive Coady
Not so with Ber and her loving family who transferred her to the residential care services offered by St John of God in Dublin South East. It was here she met Clive and spent many happy years with him until he died from a particularly aggressive form of cancer.
Another of Clive’s life-long friends was journalist Fergus Finlay, who wrote at the time:
“Clive Coady touched the hearts of all who knew him. He won’t be forgotten. I’ll never forget that last half-smile as long as I live … At the end of a long and noble life, his family are bringing him home. And a tiny light has gone out in the hearts of all of us who loved him.”Fergus Finlay
Certainly, the light flickered and dimmed for Ber but it never went out. Hardly a day has passed since 2013 that hasn’t involved her depicting Clive engaged in various activities, such as dancing, running, jumping, and somersaults, more often than not surrounded by stars. Doing so has not only kept the light of his memory alive within Ber’s heart, but also allowed her to cope with and communicate her grief. Every so often, but not too often, Clive is depicted as crying in a picture.
Over time, it became Ber’s firm ambition to create a memorial billboard dedicated to Clive and also show others how grief can be processed in so many different ways. As Ber’s artwork beautifully illustrates, her way is to surround loved ones with stars and happiness knowing they have found a place of peace.
The ‘A Wall to Clive’ billboard was located on Hyde Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin, from 26th May for two weeks. A formal launch and party was held on June 1st.
Pictured: Eithne Green, Ber Wall, Dominic Campbell IHF
Pictured: Rita and Ber Wall
Listen back to Rita Wall’s interview with Ryan Tubridy about Clive’s Wall.
Read Fergus Finlay’s 2013 beautifully touching tribute to Clive Coady in the Irish Examiner.