UL Video series: It's time Ireland recognised the artistic and cultural merit of hurley makers like Willie Bulfin

UL Video series: It's time Ireland recognised the artistic and cultural merit of hurley makers like Willie Bulfin

In a small workshop in Bruff, the ancestral birthplace of John F. Kennedy, Willie Bulfin crafts a tool that predates history, the hurley.

The context

For twenty years, Willie and his two sons, Cathal and Shane have handcrafted hurleys that have been used all around Ireland.

The art of hurley making, however, is not an art at all, as decreed by Minister for Finance Pascal Donoghue as he ruled out the craft for tax breaks.

Brought in by Charlie Haughey almost 50 years ago, the artistic tax exemption scheme allows writers, painters, musicians and sculptors to earn up to €50,000 a year tax-free if their work is recognised as having “cultural or artistic merit”.

Mr Donoghue said the craft did not fall into the realm of artistic endeavour.

The 200 odd hurley makers across the country would vehemently reject that notion.

As Willie Bulfin, member of the Irish Guild of Ash Hurley makers explains.

“Oh God I would yeah, definitely yeah. It’s such an individual thing, there are no two hurleys the same.

"Okay, some lads want similar hurls but individuals have something unique about them and you make the hurl to match that. You see mass produced hurleys in lifestyle or elverys or lidl but they’re not really made for the specific individual.”

The legend of the game of hurling has origins over 4,000 years old, with written references to it in Irish history and folklore, mythical exploits of Cú Chullainn.

The video

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