Dublin has given birth to many characters over the years be they political, fictional, literary, or just those who could turn a good phrase so it was inevitable that the town’s statuary would be plentiful. The locals often give the statues rude but humorous nicknames. On my first trip to my ancestral homeland this summer, I found that the statues are also a useful tool for drunken navigation on the way home from the Temple Bar district. So here I present my top five, complete with the local nicknames.
Oscar Wilde by Danny Osborne (1997) in Merrion Square Park
I came across ‘The Fag on the Crag’ while lost on my way to meet friends at ‘The Tart with the Cart’ (see below). It turns out that Oscar’s childhood home was 1 Merrion Square so here he is, on the corner near the house. The great aesthete reclines louchely in coloured stone with a bemused smirk crossing his lips (well they did place a naked female statue in his line of vision), rendering everyone who looks at him very unintelligent and inarticulate.
Michael Collins by Dick Joynt (1990) in Merrion Square Park
We found this sculpture at the other end of the park while sheltering from one of the frequent Dublin downpours. Michael Collins doesn’t get a witty nickname, perhaps because he was politically important to the country (he was the first President of the Irish Republic) but probably because he was assassinated. You forget how young he was (just 31 and engaged to be married) and this bust makes ‘The Big Fella’ look years older. He obviously packed a lot into those years because so many pubs are named after him; in fact I first met my husband in one of those pubs so fate led us here to pay our respects.
Molly Malone by Jeanne Rynhart (1988) on Grafton Street
Obviously two things stand out about Molly – the attention to period detail and the beggar who ‘haunts’ her, charging tourists to pose…no I can’t lie, it’s the breasts. Rynhart insists that Molly’s low-cut top is in line with the fashion of the times which enabled easy breast-feeding but ‘Cockles and Mussels’ infers that Molly is a fish monger by day and prostitute by night, hence her local nickname ‘The Tart with the Cart’/ ‘The Bitch with the Hitch.’ In the song Molly dies of a fever and Dubliners regard the song as an unofficial anthem even though there is no historical certainty that she even existed. But for all the tragedy and enigma surrounding Molly, the breasts were all that mattered to the male members of our group – “Yeah we’ll meet you at that boob statue.”
Phil Lynott by Paul Daly (2005) on Harry Street
‘The Ace with the Bass’ is situated near the Bruxelles pub, once a renowned rock venue, now something of a generic après-work bar. Sometimes the statue is lost among the Saturday market carts which is a shame. Phil was the man who came up with the quip: ‘Any girls here got a little Irish in them? Any girls want some?’ He died of a drug overdose in 1986 and since then his memory as a talented bassist and frontman has been somewhat lost amongst bad cover versions of ‘Old Town’ (will The Corrs never leave it alone?) until 2005 when Paul Daly made sure this Boy Is Back In Town. Being a shameless Thin Lizzy fan, I was very excited to see Phillo and the statue reflects his flamboyant sense of style. While reading up on the public opinion of this piece, I found this gem: “Why can’t there be more statues with afros?” Why indeed.
Jesus of the Taxi Drivers on Upper O’Connell Street
Not strictly a statue, more of a shrine. I had no idea that taxi driving was such a dangerous business – this makes O’Connell Street look like Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet but ultimately is more Father Ted. Lynne Truss would have a heart attack at the grammatical errors on the dedicatory plaque.
O’Connell Street is officially the most random street on Earth.