Irish-born submarine inventor John Phillip Holland honoured by descendant’s sculpture

Industrial designer Shane Holland created Submarinocurraplane, featuring recycled parts from a Boeing 707 aircraft, as tribute to 1870s inventor of modern submarine

A descendant of the Irish-born inventor of the modern-day submarine has created a sculpture in his honour that is 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.

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

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,” Mr Holland said.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the Art Source show from November 10th and 12th. The fair will feature 200 of the best in contemporary Irish and international artists and galleries. – PA