Oars around Ireland image
Thu 28 Jun

ArtsOars Around Ireland - Talk by artist Donald Nelson

Exhibition runs May 1 to July 2

Donald Nelson will talk about his exhibition 'Oars Around Ireland' on Thursday 28 June. The exhibition will be available to view in the gallery at Portico from Tuesday 1st May until Monday 2nd July. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm and Sundays 1.30-4pm. The exhibition is the culmination of a body of sketches and paintings, mostly made on board the ‘Columcille’, a forty foot traditional Irish Curragh, while circumnavigating Ireland, in 2003. The voyage call ‘Navigating Peace,’ was to show that people of mixed religion, gender, politics, background and race, could work together in a confined and sometimes dangerous situations.

About Donald Nelson

Donald Nelson was born in 1942, son of the Presbyterian Minister in Groomsport. 

Summers were spent messing about in boats. At fifteen Donald started single-handed sailing the west coast of Scotland.

He attended Bangor Grammar School, Belfast College of Art, and on to a post graduate in industrial pottery design in Stoke-on –Trent. There he was whipper-in for the North Staffs Beagle Pack, during that year he met Heather a keen Beagler in Co Down.

Donald worked with Royal Barum in Barnstaple, then Arklow Pottery in Co Wicklow, designing table ware, he then started to search for a Galway Hooker, and found “Fancy” in Connemara. 

He joined Wade Ireland Pottery in Portadown 1968, and soon after married Heather.  He left Wades and started his own pottery employing 15 people, John was born, and 2 years later Peter then Daphne was born after few years.

Then in 1980 came the slump, and Donald became Head of Art and Design at Down College of F. and H. E. 

In 1998 Robin Rudock included Donald in a venture to commemorate St Columba by rowing in a 40 foot Curragh to Iona, and on the return journey Donald was skipper.  In 2003 he was part of the crew rowing round Ireland, along with a Basque Whaler, to show how a mixed group could live and work together.

Donald and Heather now live in Portaferry.


Event Details

Thu 28 Jun
19:30 to 20:30

Free. Not ticketed.


  • The Portaferry Hotel
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Deli-licious
  • Portaferry Hotel
  • Fiddler's Green
  • The Slip Inn

How to get here

Portico is easy to find in Portaferry. You can also get detailed driving directions or check out the ferry timetable for crossing from Strangford.