Visitors to Dublin in Ireland may be amused by the strange comic nicknames given by the populace to some of the city’s statues and other monuments. They might also be struck by controversies that have arisen over some statues in Dublin and the disappearance of some of the city’s most prominent monuments.
Dublin’s most prominent monument, Nelson’s Pillar, which stood near the General Post Office (GPO) in the centre of O’Connell Street, was blown up by the IRA in 1966, as their way of commemorating the Easter Rising. The IRA only demolished the top of the pillar, what remained was known as the stump, until it too was blown up by the Army bomb squad for safety reasons. Ironically, this controlled explosion actually caused more damage than the original bombing.
Other monuments still surviving on O’Connell Street include statues honouring Charles Stewart Parnell at the north end of the street; at the southern end stands a statue of Daniel O’Connell. Other statues on the street include one of trade union leader James Larkin.
Nearby, outside St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral stand the Dublin Martyrs, Mayor Francis Taylor and his grandmother-in-law Mayoress Margaret Ball. Blessed Francis Taylor is probably the only ‘blessed’ politician. (If we define politician as one who attained elected office).
On the site of the Pillar, a new monument was erected in January 2003. Officially named the Spire of Dublin, this tall needle-like structure has already received a number of nicknames including The Spike, The Binge Syringe, The Stiletto in the Ghetto, The Nail in the Pale (see the Pale), The Pin in the Bin, The Stiffy at the Liffey, and The Erection in the Intersection.
To erect the new monument, a notorious 1980s monument to the personified river Liffey, Anna Livia, was removed from nearby on O’Connell St. The river was represented by a woman sitting on a slope with water running down past her, bubbling. It rapidly came to be nicknamed the Floozie in the Jacuzzi, the Bitch in the Ditch, the Hoor in the Sewer (‘hoor’ is a dialectal Irish version of ‘whore’, and in a “working class” Dublin accent, rhymes with sewer.), Bidet Mulligan (play on the song Biddy Mulligan) and Viagra Falls
North Earl Street runs right onto the base of the Spire. At this junction is a statue of James Joyce, the world-famous Irish writer, walking with a cane in his hand. It is known to the Dublin populace as the Prick with the Stick.
Just by the Ha’penny Bridge is a statue of two women sitting on a bench engaged in conversation with their shopping bags at their feet – they are known famously as the Hags with the Bags
A short distance away from O’Connell Street by the banks of the Liffey lies the site of an ill-fated millennium clock, erected in the mid-1990s to count down the hours, minutes and seconds to the year 2000. The clock, with a green-illuminated digital face, was placed underneath the surface of the river by the bank so that the time shone up through the water. A postcard booth was placed on the bridge above the clock that printed postcards for £1, each bearing the exact amount of time left at that moment until the dawn of the new millennium. However, the clock entered a period of chronic ill health: it had to be temporarily removed to allow a rowing-boat race to pass by and in the months that followed, it had repeated problems with letting in water and failing to display the time correctly. It was removed after a brief period, but not before it had been variously nicknamed the Time in the Slime, and Chime in the Slime by the people of Dublin. Also it received the nickname An Rud in the Mud (a usage of the Gaelic word ‘rud’, meaning ‘thing’ or an object of no actual function – the implication being that the clock was of no practical use, even when it worked). A rectangular hole left in the side of the bridge was later filled with an unauthorised plaque commemorating a fictitious priest, Father Pat Noise.
On College Street, outside Trinity College, the traffic island that a statue to the nineteenth-century lyricist Thomas Moore shares with a public toilet has long been known as The Meeting of the Waters, thus neatly honouring both the civic facility and an eponymous work of the writer.
Another statue to earn a dubious but comical nickname is a monument at the bottom of Grafton Street representing Molly Malone, a fictitious fishmonger featured in Dublin’s anthem, Molly Malone, who is shown, with ample cleavage, wheeling a cart. The statue was erected to celebrate Dublin’s millennium in 1988 (although Dublin was more than 1,000 years old at the time, see History of Dublin), and is generally known in Dublin as the Tart with the Cart, the Dolly with the Trolley, the Trollop with the Scollops, the Dish with the Fish or the Flirt in the Skirt.
On the north-east corner of St. Stephen’s Green, a semi-circle of rough stone pillars commemorating the Irish Famine and surrounding a statue of Wolfe Tone, is sometimes called Tone-henge (after Stonehenge). In Merrion Square, inside the north west corner gateway, there’s a statue of Oscar Wilde composed of different coloured stone, sitting on a large granite boulder. This has been called at least once The Queer with the Leer, The Fag on the Crag or The Quare in the Square (“quare” being a dialectal Irish pronunciation of queer).[
On Sandymount Strand, close to the Martello Tower, you can find the sore on the shore. Traffic news on Dublin City Anna Livia radio call it the white lady.[
Curiously, given that Ireland has been independent for over eighty years, no statues in Dublin commemorate independent Irish leaders. Statues were never erected to figures like Éamon de Valera, W. T. Cosgrave, Seán Lemass or any of the presidents of Ireland. One of the few elected politicians commemorated with a statue is Henry Grattan, a leading politician of the 1780s in the old Irish Parliament. A nearby statue of patriot Thomas Davis has earned the nickname Frankenstein due to the out of scale hands and odd shaped body given to the nationalist leader in the 1960s work.
Dublin was once famed for its high quality equestrian statues, including the Lord Gough monument in the Phoenix Park, the William of Orange statue in College Green and the King George II statue in St Stephen’s Green. No statues of people on horseback remain today, as they have all since been blown up by the IRA. There is, however, a modern equestrian statue outside the “Break for the Border” nightclub on Stephen Street. The statues consists of an INDIAN mounted on the horse back