Do you know this man?
By Jim Cooke (1996)
How many CDVEC personnel understand the flag under which they serve? Do you? The CDVEC logo is a winged man facing into the sunrise. The official CDVEC minutes of 19th February 1931 state: "Designs were submitted for an official Seal. The Students' drawingd were considered unsuitable. A design by Mr. W.K. Whelan, art master, was selected and a payment of £10-10-0 was allowed. Mr. W.H. Meghahy, Art teacher, was awarded a sum of £2-2-0 for a design which he submitted."
Nothing else is recorded but it seems certain that the design is based on the Greek myth of Icarus and his father Dedalus. The Cretan myth of Daedalus (as the late Tom Carney, former Principal of Ringsend Technical Institute pointed out, variously pronounced Dee-dalus, Dao-dalus, or Day-dalus depending on whether one was educated at Eton, Harrow, or St. Jarlath's College, Tuam!) and his son Icarus represents the thrust of creative genius in the arts, the sciences, and in craft.
"Daedalus" literally means "cunningly wrought", and according to Greek legend Daedalus was associated with the beginnings of sculpture, architecture and engineering, and he was a great inventor and craftsman, being very skilled in metalwork and carpentry. He invented the axe, the plumb-line, and glue, as well as the yard and mast of boats. He was the first to separate the arms and legs of statues and it is said that his statues were so life-like that they had to be chained to prevent them from running away. He was, however, jealous of his nephew Perdix who had invented the saw and a pair of compasses, and he settled the matter by pushing Perdix off a high tower. To avoid execution in Athens he fled with his son Icarus to the island of Crete and to the protection of King Minos. Here he built the famous labyrinth in which he buried the monster minotaur - half-bull, half-human - which was the Queen's offspring of an illicit liaison.
Falling into disfavour with King Minos, Daedalus and his son Icarus were imprisoned in their own labyrinth (note Joyce's "Stephen Daedalus"). But the Queen released them, and to escape from Crete Daedalus invented wax wings and strapped them onto the shoulders of himself and his son. Icarus however flew too close to the sun, the wings melted and he crashed to his death in the Icarian Sea.
Daedalus reached Sicily safely and from there he went to Naples where he continued to create and construct - a reservoir, a steam-bath, a fortress, and a terrace for the temple of Aphrodite (goddess of desire). The dictionary references to Icarus mundanely state that Icarus is generally a symbol for "grandiose schemes which end in failure" but I feel he also represents something in the human imagination which dares to fly like Icarus into the sun, perhaps to challenge the hold death has over us.
In every generation man goes where no man has gone before, and risks all in the pursuit of knowledge and conquest. As the heavens are ultimately unassailable the challenge of Icarus remains, in art and literature, in science and technology, in industry and commerce (words also emblazoned in the logo) for each new generation.
The divinity and diversity of talent of Daedalus is undoubtedly a suitable symbol for the CDVEC. However, being imprisoned in one's own labyrinth must serve as a cautionary tale for any bureaucratic organisation or educational institution. But Daedalus and Icarus escaped from this predicament and of course so did the CDVEC.
Two other Greek legends with possible educational resonances are, firstly, that of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods to give it to men on earth. For his audacity Prometheus was bound in chains for enlightening and endowing lowly man with the secret of fire. He was however finally released (and perhaps took early retirement).
Secondly the myth of Sisyphus tells us how he was condemned by the gods to repeatedly roll a huge stone up a hill - only to see it always roll down again as soon as he had brought it to the top, when the task began again. I think we all know that feeling!