We’ve a bit of an aul obsession with statues here in Dublin, the nature of which has changed a bit over the centuries, years and months.
First it was commissioning them, and boy did we commission them like they were going out of fashion, commemorating and solidifying in bronze the likenesses and memories of all the great political, cultural, fictional and notional heroes of our times.
Then, for a short period there in the mid 80s, the 1980s that is, inspired by a reported 30 sightings up and down the country of statues of the Virgin Mary moving, we saw people, whether they went to mass or not, gathering at grottos outside churches all over the capital and its suburbs wanting to see if Mary would give us a wink.
they’re upping sticks altogether and moving themselves to different parts of the city
Now there’s a new phenomenon in town, by which I do actually mean “town”. And it happens to revolve around moving statues again; only they’re not just moving an eyebrow, they’re upping sticks altogether and moving themselves to different parts of the city.
First it was Anna Livia. Ah, remember her? The Floozie in the Jacuzzi, as she was christened by Dubliners (which happens to be another obsession we have here, renaming our statues with rhyming nicknames, not all of them safe to say out loud in your grandmother’s) set up shop on O’Connell Street in 1988 to commemorate the Millennium, but she was moved on in 2001 to make way for The Spire of Dublin. The personification of the River Liffey (Abhainn na Life) she now resides much closer to the water in Croppies Acre Memorial Park across from Heuston Station. Stopping to grab a snap of her laying back in the water on a mild enough February morning, it was funny how many people I asked about her either didn’t remember her from her old haunt on O’Connell street or just didn’t realise she was the same statue.
With the Luas works in the city, other famous characters have found themselves moving on to pastures new, or at least just around the corner or across the bridge.
I thought his torch was a rolled-up newspaper he used to guide the buses into their parking spaces
Mr. Screen, he of the cobblestones outside the former Screen Cinema on Hawkins Street, seemingly vanished early last year only to show up again safe and well in the foyer of the Savoy where he now guides cinemagoers to the theatre. I only copped he was a cinema usher recently. My only exposure to this character in the past had been as a boy scout, waiting for the bus on a Sunday morning to take us up to Enniskerry, which led me to believe, for obvious reasons, that he was a CIE ticket inspector. I thought his torch was a rolled-up newspaper he used to guide the buses into their parking spaces(!)
Then, finally, of course, perhaps most famously of all, there’s the Tart with the Cart, old Molly Malone herself, peddling her cockles and mussels outside the Tourist Information Office on Suffolk Street since 2014, not 2 minutes from her old spot on Grafton Street across the road from Trinity College, where there’s a whole lot more passing trade, it has to be said. Most Dubliners I chatted with, just like me, see her current location as a temporary one, and are hoping that once the Luas works are done, she’ll be moving right back.
Wherever she lays her wheelbarrow for good, though, one thing’s for sure, the streets broad and narrow of Dublin’s fair city just would not be the same without her or her bronze brethren.