Submarine inventor honoured with sculpture made from recycled plane parts

Submarinocurraplane by Shane Holland will be featured at Art Source in Dublin (Fintan Clarke Photography/PA)
Submarinocurraplane by Shane Holland will be featured at Art Source in Dublin (Fintan Clarke Photography/PA)

A descendant of the Irish-born inventor of the modern-day submarine has created a sculpture in his honour, made from recycled airliner parts.

John Phillip Holland, who grew up in Co Clare before emigrating to the United States, developed the first modern submarine in the 1870s – a design that was formally commissioned by the US Navy.

The aero marine engineer also worked on early flying machine designs.

Shane Holland is a descendant of submarine inventor John Phillip Holland (Fintan Clarke Photography/PA) (Fintan Clarke)

One of the inventor’s descendants is acclaimed Irish industrial designer Shane Holland.

He has now made a huge 3.5m (11ft 6in) sculpture from aluminium, titanium and recycled glass in tribute to his famous ancestor.

Recycled parts from a Boeing 707 are incorporated into the piece, which is called Submarinocurraplane.

Mr Holland’s celebration of aviation, marine engineering and heritage craft will be on display at the Art Source fair at the RDS in Dublin later this month.

More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the art show from November 10-12.

Art Source features 200 of the best in contemporary Irish and international artists and galleries.

Mr Holland said: “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.

“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.”

Mr Holland is also an environmental activist and has used his currach to make more than 100 visits to the islands off Skerries, where he and his crews have cleared around 17,500 pieces of dumped plastic from the water.

Shane Holland is also an environmental activist (Fintan Clarke Photography/PA) (Fintan Clarke)

The designer added: “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.”

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

For more information visit