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«Commissioned by Dublin City Council Λrchive Consultants Contents Page Introduction 3 O’Connell Monument 5 William Smith O’Brien 9 Sir John Gray ...»

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O’Connell Street


Commissioned by Dublin City Council



Contents Page

Introduction 3

O’Connell Monument 5

William Smith O’Brien 9

Sir John Gray 13

Father Theobald Mathew 15 Charles Stewart Parnell 17 James Larkin 22 The Spire of Dublin 26 James Joyce 27 Padraig Sheahan 29 Bibliography 32 Acknowledgements 33 Notes 34 Appendices Map Conservation Schedule Archive Consultants O’Connell Street Monument Report – Nov 2003 2 Λrchive Consultants Introduction This report was commissioned by the Archaeology and Heritage Office of Dublin City Council, in November 2003, as part of the overall conservation plan for the O’Connell Street Area. The report traces the history of nine monuments in the area, identifying their national significance and concludes with a summary of their current condition. At the time of writing the report, the O’Connell Street area was undergoing major re-construction of paving and street surface as well as preparation for the LUAS tram system. Therefore, some of the monuments were inaccessible.

Methodology The main sources for this report were City Archives, Irish Builder, Freeman’s Journal and published material. Interviews were also carried out with staff of S.I.P.T.U., D.C.C.B.A., Garda Archives and Dr. Marjorie FitzGibbon. A concise approach has been taken to ensure brevity. More detailed discussions on each monument may be found in the bibliography listed. Photographs were taken using a digital Canon IXUS 400 and a Canon EOS 30. The document software is Word XP. Information is stored on a CD Rom and also issued in hard copy.

Consultation Process The parties involved in the consultation process include Dublin City Council, OPW and Archive Consultants. Implementation of a conservation plan will require further consultation with specialist stone and sculpture conservators.

Co-financing the conservation programme will also involve consultation with the Office of Public Works, S.I.P.T.U. and the Retired Garda Association.

Archive Consultants O’Connell Street Monument Report – Nov 2003 3 Background The monuments which are the subject of this report are a group of tangible artefacts. The story they tell is not just that of one individual’s struggle and achievements celebrated in enduring form and matter, but a story which spans a nation’s epic and indefatigable struggle to regain autonomy, a story which conveys the single-minded pursuit of civic, urban and social evolution, justice and personal courage. The memorial to these achievements varies according to the time in which the commission was made, leading from the expressly figurative embellished with unashamed national symbolism to the representational and global aspirational.

Historical Context Sackville Street was redeveloped in the 1740’s by Luke Gardiner. One of its finest aspects was a tree-planted walk, 48 feet wide which occupied the centre of Sackville Street and which set the scale for what is now central Dublin. 1 The street was later extended by the Wide Streets Commissioners in the 1780s when Lower Sackville Street was created and Carlisle Bridge was constructed.

Over the following decades, the iconography embodied in its monuments continued to evolve parallel with the political and cultural context of the nineteenth-century city. For the display of prominent monuments the area from College Green on to Carlisle Bridge and down the main thoroughfare of Sackville Street was the inevitable axis. It is this area which forms the focus of the report.

Rationale The Integrated Development Plan for O’Connell Street has as its principal goal the restoration of O’Connell Street as the main street of Ireland – a ‘welcoming, safe and quality maintained street environment of which Dublin and Ireland can be consistently proud.’ An integral part of the revitalisation and enhancement of the new street plan will be the cleaning and conservation of the monuments.

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Commission Dublin Corporation The decision to commemorate Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) with a monument in Sackville Street was an important move away from commemorating only members of the Castle administration or the British royal family. Although, at around the same time a monument to Prince Albert was also planned and the Dublin City committee, chaired by the lord mayor, had been recognised by Queen Victoria as the official committee. By April 1862, five months before John Gray inaugurated the appeal for subscriptions of the O’Connell monument, over £2,000 had been collected for the Albert monument in Dublin alone. 2 The origins of the O’Connell monument project date back to 1847 when, after his funeral, a fund was promoted by several newspapers and the Hierarchy authorised church door collections 3. The O’Connell Monument Committee was established following a public meeting in the Prince of Wales Hotel on Sackville Street 4. The committee adopted the resolution that, ‘the monument would be to O’Connell in his whole character and career, from the cradle to the grave so as to embrace the whole nation.’ 5 With £8,362 already banked, the two-ton Dalkey granite foundation stone was laid on 8 August 1864 by Lord Mayor Peter Paul McSwiney. The ceremony to lay the foundation stone marked the first stage in what was to become a dominant landmark and an overt political statement, the occasion brought thousands on to the streets of the capital. 6 The procession moved through the streets from Merrion Square to Sackville Street, led by the committee member, Sir John Gray, and were addressed by

the Lord Mayor, Peter Paul MacSwiney, who observed that:

“The people of Ireland meet today to honour the man whose matchless genius won Emancipation, and whose fearless hand struck off the fetters whereby six millions of his country men were held in bondage in their own land…. Casting off the hopelessness of despair, the Irish people today rise above their afflictions, and by their chosen representatives their delegated deputies, and their myriad hosts, assemble in this metropolis and signalise their return to the active duties of national existence, by rendering homage to the dead and by pledging themselves

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With the foundation stone in place, a competition for the design of the sculpture was initiated by Dublin Corporation, who had now taken over responsibility for the monument. However, Sir John Gray was also requested to consult the sculptor John Henry Foley whose Irish-born but non-resident status stirred up many debates led by the Irish builder, ‘we most emphatically

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The competition went ahead along with the negotiations with Foley and the closing date was set for 1 January 1865, by which time sixty designs were received and were described in the Irish Builder and exhibited in the City Hall.

All were rejected by the committee and after a further competition they were still unable to recommend any design for adoption. Foley was again consulted and a concession was made to popular opinion by requesting that a resident Irish sculptor would assist him in designing subsidiary figures, a request to which he did not agree but conceded in having an Irish architect submit designs which he may incorporate into his project 9. None of the three submitted were considered suitable and Foley went ahead on his own protracted project 10.

In August 1871 Foley presented a progress report to the Corporation and explained that owing to illness and pressure of work, the progress of the monument had been delayed and he envisaged completion by the centenary in 1875. Foley died in 1874 so the monument was not ready in time. His assistant, Thomas Brock, was formally commissioned in June 1878 to complete the monument.

The sculptural composition formed three sections, a statue of O’Connell at the top, a frieze in the middle – at the centre of which was represented the Archive Consultants O’Connell Street Monument Report – Nov 2003 7 ‘Maid of Erin’, her right hand raised pointing to O’Connell, her liberator, and in her left hand the 1829 Act of Catholic Emancipation.

Nearly thirty more figures symbolise the Church, the professions, the arts, the trades and the peasantry.

At the base are four winged victories, each of which represented the virtues attributed to O’Connell – patriotism, courage, eloquence and fidelity. There is evidence of bullet holes in two of the victories, a legacy of 1916-1922. The overall height of the monument is 40 feet, the bronze statue of O’Connell wrapped in his cloak is 12 feet high.

The figure of O’Connell was ready for unveiling at the head of Sackville Street on 15 August 1882, which was also the centenary of the Volunteer Movement and the occasion of the Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition in the Rotunda Gardens, bringing thousands from the provinces. The monument was unveiled at one o’clock to a ‘mighty roar…..from ten thousand throats when the veil fell at the Lord Mayor’s signal’. The committee delivered the statue over to the care of the corporation which the Lord Mayor accepted with a few brief remarks, and ‘with a quick touch withdrew the covering from the Herculean figure of O’Connell. At that instant the sun suddenly opened its beams through he drenching rain and gloriously lighted up the Monument and the crowded platform.’ 11

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While the foundation stone for the O’Connell monument was laid in 1864 and not completed until 1882, the intervening period saw a number of other luminaries commemorated in prominent locations. The statues to Oliver Goldsmith in 1864 and Edmund Burke in 1868, both placed on the front lawn of Trinity College, were politically neutral and unanimously praised as great works of art by John Henry Foley.

However, the statue dedicated to William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864) a leader of the doomed rebellion of 1848, was the first monument erected in Dublin to commemorate an individual who had stood for armed resistance to British rule.

O’Brien was also a descendant of the Protestant nobility who traced his lineage back to Brian Boru.

The date chosen for the unveiling of his monument was 26 December 1870.

As he had been a revolutionary nationalist, the statue of Smith O’Brien broke the sculptural mould in the capital. The occasion was a significant one for it


“the first time for 70 years that a monument had been erected in a public place in Dublin to hour an Irishman whose title to that honour was

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countries it is such men only that received the honour of a public monument, but in this city there were statues to the men who had served and loved England, and did not care for Ireland. As to this country, it had been held that it was treason to love her, and death to defend her. The monuments which had been erected till now have been rather monuments of this haughty mastery of the English people and our servility and helplessness. A favourable change took place recently.

Ireland had ventured to erect statues to Moore, Goldsmith and Burke, whose genius was Irish and whose sympathies also were mainly Irish.

Though these men loved Ireland, and their memories were thus commemorated, none of them ever exposed themselves to the danger of imprisonment or transportation for life for Ireland. There stood the statue of a man who 22 years ago, was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for his love of Ireland. (Cheers)”. 12 O’Brien had been sentenced to death for high treason resulting from his part in the insurrection of 1848. After his death in 1868 a committee was formed to gather subscriptions and organise the erection of a monument in his honour and, “To this undertaking men widely differing in their political and religious sentiments have subscribed, desiring to testify their respect for the noble and honourable character of our distinguished country man, whose unselfish devotion to, and sacrifices for, Ireland had never been questioned even by the sternest critics or severest censors.” 13

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had been caught up in the radical politics of the mid-nineteenth century and shared O’Brien’s belief in physical force. Dublin Corporation granted permission for the site at the junction of Sackville Street and D’Olier Street in

1867. The committee commissioned one of the most prominent sculptors of the day, Thomas Farrell RHA of Lower Gloucester Street, to sculpt the figure of O’Brien. 14 He sculpted the figure in marble in an ‘ordinary frock coat, high buttoned waistcoat and pantaloons, all of which are treated with the most commendable taste and skill. There is not the slightest approach to stiffness in the pose which is most easy and natural.’ 15 O’Brien is depicted in a resolute stance, arms folded, weight borne on one leg in a manner of a man at ease with his leadership. The statue was unveiled on 27 December 1870 with this inscription:

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Processions were prohibited by the authorities, because of O’Brien’s politics. It did not deter the masses from assembling and from bands taking up their positions and playing through the proceedings. These displays of nationalism signalled a change in the sculptural composition of the city which would be

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By 1929 traffic congestion on O’Connell Bridge was such that it was recommended by the Streets Section of Dublin Corporation that the O’Brien statue be removed from its location to a site near the centre of O’Connell Street approximately twenty feet south of the junction with Lower Abbey Street. 16 O’Brien statue under protective cover during construction Archive photograph of O’Brien statue of LUAS (tram) lines in October 2003

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The broadly nationalist display at the unveiling of the William Smith O’Brien monument was further reinforced by the unveiling of a statue dedicated to the nationalist MP, Sir John Gray (1815-1875) in 1879.

Gray died in 1875 and little time was spared in establishing a committee to erect a statue to the man who, as chairman of the Dublin Corporation waterworks committee from 1863 until his death, played a key role in the introduction of a water supply to Dublin from the Vartry Works in County Wicklow in 1868.

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