I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Monday, 25 July 2011

Dublin's Fair City: Drugs, Tarts, Rebels, Scholars

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot, actually ...


The General Post Office, Dublin - one of the most famous and iconic buildings in Ireland. This was the rebels' HQ during the Easter Rising of 1916. You can still see the bullet marks made by British troops on the columns outside. MacDonagh and MacBride / And Connolly and Pearse / Now and in time to be, / Wherever green is worn, / Are changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born. WB YEATS Easter 1916


Near the junction of North Earl Street and O'Connell Street you'll find a jauntily aloof James Joyce, popularly known - and forgive the vernacular - as 'The Prick with the Stick'.

(There are many literary and political statues in Dublin. The monument to Anna Livia - a personification of the river Liffey - is known as 'The Floozie in the Jacuzzi'. The buxom Molly Malone, who wheels her wheelbarrow at the end of Grafton Street, is variously nicknamed 'The Tart with the Cart', 'The Dolly with the Trolley', 'The Trollop with the Scallop', 'The Dish with the Fish' and 'The Flirt with the Skirt'.  And Oscar Wilde, who sits on a large granite boulder in Merrion Square, has of course become 'The Queer with the Leer' or 'The Fag on the Crag'.)

I think it's good these literary figures have been brought down to earth and humanised in this way. And a very Irish thing, I venture. Here in England we tend to worship our artistic gods and goddesses, putting them on pedestals, talking about them in hushed tones, freezing with awe and admiration whenever they enter the room. But in Ireland it would be expected, and indeed entirely natural, to share the craic with Seamus Heaney or Paul Muldoon or Roddy Doyle or Patrick McCabe if we found ourselves  rubbing shoulders with them at the bar.  




Three views of Trinity College, Dublin.


A Henry Moore sculpture on Front Square, Trinity College, Dublin.


The Ha'penny Bridge over the river Liffey. By now you won't be surprised to learn that a nearby statue of two women gossiping on a bench with their shopping is known as 'The Hags with the Bags'.

And, incidentally, the new, needle-like 'Spire of Dublin' - erected at the hub of the city in 2003 - is not generally called by its official name, 'The Monument of Light'. No, it's known colloquially as 'The Spike', 'The Nail in the Pale', 'The Pin in the Bin', 'The Rod to God', 'The Stiletto in the Ghetto', 'The Stiffy at the Liffey', 'The Erection in the Intersection' and 'The Binge Syringe'. But I didn't need to tell you that, did I?

(By the way, we saw drug dealing going on quite openly in shop doorways in O'Connell Street.)

10 comments:

Timecheck said...

How do you learn all these things? Is it part of the common knowledge, just absorbed as you go about your daily life? Or does the city of Dublin have an Interesting Facts brochure?

The Solitary Walker said...

Neither, Ralph. It's just part of my one-quarter Celtic DNA ;)

Luiza said...

Robert, you had me laughing through this wonderful post. It is very funny and I guess, yes, your Celtic is showing.

The Solitary Walker said...

Well, Luiza, only one quarter is showing, I guess. The rest is my stiff upper lip English persona, no doubt! Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Rule Britannia. Yawn.)

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

lol I loved the Molly Malone statue- felt I had a personal link to it as my grandmother was a Malone- from Cork/Limerick border area. But I had no idea she had all those other names!

The Solitary Walker said...

Kiwi - I've heard from my Camino buddies your reputatation is so impeccably reputable that any apparent family links to those scandalous epithets must be totally spurious! ;)

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

lol but I quite like those scandalous names!!!

The Solitary Walker said...

Me too, sister ..! I guess we're back to the old Camino rhythm and rhyme ...

Sometimes the bawdy and the religious are so, so close. Specially in Catholic countries, that's for sure.

Ruth said...

I love to see these old haunts here. I had a tremendous experience visiting the Post Office several times. Don't you love the long row of telephone booths at the entrance? I had the privilege of sleeping on Trinity's campus many nights, looking out on that quad (and helping students survive too many shots of something strong at the pub). I agree about the literary heroes of Ireland. Yes, they are THE heroes there, but they are also real and of the folk. I've loved your Irish presentations, Robert.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much for that, Ruth.