From top: James Connolly, Anna Livia Plurabelle, Phil Lynott, Patrick Kavanagh, Oscar Wilde with Constance Wilde (top inset) and the torso of a young Dionysus (inset below) and ‘Best Night Ever’ in the Botanic Gardens
Harry Warren writes:
If you are having a stroll around Dublin you are bound to pass some wonderful sculptures. Many are worth a visit and it is a good opportunity to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. If you are lucky to be abled bodied, Dublin is a lovely city to explore on foot, being relatively flat and with plenty of sculptures within walking distance to enjoy.
Most European cities have statues of their kings and queens and politicians but in Dublin along with our political figures, we also give pride of place to our cultural heroes our poets, dramatists and even some mythical creatures.
In no particular order here are some of my favourite statues and I am sure Broadsheet readers may be kind enough to share their favourites in the reply section below.
Anna Livia Plurabelle, the lady of the river, as she is portrayed in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake as a personification of the River Liffey. Some years ago, in a bout of religious fervour many people all over Ireland genuinely believed that they witnessed statues of the Virgin Mary move and that is another story, but this statue really did move!
The sculptor Éamonn O’Doherty was commissioned by Michael Smurfit to create the statue that would celebrate Dublin’s Millennium. It was originally sited in a fast-flowing fountain in Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Unfortunately, it became a target for litter louts along with the occasional box of washing up powder being dumped in resulting in the street being covered in foam. To Dublin City councils shame they removed the statue in 2001 and hid it away for ten years in a crate in St Anne’s Park in Raheny.
Eventually, in consultation with Éamonn O’Doherty who wanted her to be located near the Liffey in water, in February 2011, Anna Livia was finally relocated to the Croppies Acre Memorial Park, Wolfe Tone Quay. Her journey to the park was very appropriately by boat. The Ringsend Boat Club proudly floated her down the River Liffey to a purpose-built pond when she reclines very elegantly today.
Patrick Kavanagh, a superb poet and whose poem “Raglan Road” was immortalised in song by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners. After leaving what was then Parson’s bookshop on Baggot Street Bridge, Patrick often sat along the Grand Canal contemplating the water deep in whatever thoughts a poet may have.
The sculptor John Coll took his inspiration from the Kavanagh poem, “Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal”. He created a superb life-sized sculpture of Kavanagh sitting on a bench that you can view at the Baggot St end of the canal. A plaque quotes “Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal Pouring redemption for me”.
James Connolly, Socialist and Commandant of the Dublin Brigade in the Easter Rising, his statue is on Beresford Place. Sculpted in 1996 by the Éamonn O’Doherty, it is a fine bronze life-like statue of Connolly proudly standing in front of a curved wall with a sculpted plough and the stars replete with one of his best-known quotations, “The Cause of Labour is the Cause of Ireland / The Cause of Ireland is the Cause of Labour”.
Connolly was born into poverty in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Irish parents and for his part in The Rising, was sentenced to death. If the mortally wounded Connolly first tied to a chair and then strapped to a stretcher to enable his execution, wasn’t so cowardly executed by a British firing squad, I often wonder how different modern Irelands politics would have been if a true socialist had been elected to government during the formation of the state.
Phil Lynott, Phil was best known as the lead singer and bass player for the Rock band Thin Lizzy. He was an excellent frontman and lyricist. “When I’m in England I say I’m from Ireland, when I’m in Ireland I say I’m from Dublin, when I’m in Dublin I say I’m from Crumlin, when I’m in Crumlin I say I’m from Leighlin road, when I’m in Leighlin road I say I’m a Lynott”.
Paul Daly‘s superb bronze sculpture of Phil Lynott is outside of Bruxelles Pub on Harry St reet just off Grafton Street. You may have to wait a moment to view the statue as so many fans commandeer it to take selfies. Daly managed to capture the swaggering essence of Phil whose life ended tragically far too early in 1986.
Unfortunately, like many of the cut throat deals that permeate the rock business Paul struggled to receive any royalties for the hundreds of miniatures of his work that have been subsequently sold. Today Daly is continuing to create new art and is selling it on his website , including wonderfully detailed miniatures of Lynott, Freddie Mercury and Rory Gallagher.
Dublin’s Botanic Gardens has several statues but I love the statue of two women by local sculptor Bob Quinn, located near to the entrance in front of one of the wonderful Victorian glass houses. It is titled ‘Best Night Ever’. The two women are sculpted walking arm in arm on what I like to imagine, a girl’s nights out, looking blissfully happy in each other’s company, one carrying her hand bag, the other her shoes. There is a joyful animation to it that almost makes the sculpture appear to be moving.
Oscar Wilde’s sculpture in Merrion Square park, A three-part masterpiece by sculptor Danny Osborne, sited across the road from 1 Merrion Square, Wilde’s childhood home. Today Wilde is one of Irelands most popular and loved writers. Echoing his life, if you look at Oscar’s face notice that the left side of his face has a sardonic grin, while the right side is sad.
His sculpture is accompanied on two separate columns by his pregnant wife Constance, and on the other, a torso of a young Dionysus. The two columns are covered in quotations of Wilde’s witticisms and writings. The quotes are personal favourites by a mixture of poets, politicians and various artists, people like Christy Moore, Seamus Heaney, Michael D Higgins and Robert Ballagh. All are well worth a read.
So, as you ramble across Dublin ponder a while and enjoy the statues, they all have a tale to tell.
All pics by Harry Warren