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Double Take

Double Take: The 70ft statue in Dublin Bay that took 22 years to complete

The soaring statue is famed in Dollymount.

IF EVER YOU’VE enjoyed an ice cream on a sunny day at Dollymount Strand or braved the blistering cold for a walk along Bull Island, you’re likely to know the statue that stands at the end of the North Bull Wall. 

At the end of a 2km walk beginning where The Wooden Bridge meets Clontarf Road, the sculpture of a crowned Our Lady stands on a globe.

Despite being a landmark in its own right, the history of the Our Lady, Star of the Sea statue is relatively unknown. 

Also known as Realt na Mara, the statue was sculpted by Wicklow artist Cecil King and erected in 1972.

Soaring 70ft into the air, the statue faces unusually towards land, while the globe itself rests on three concrete pillars made of white cement and crushed Connemara marble.

Most noticeable when the sun goes down is Our Lady’s halo, which illuminates at night. It is made of 12 stars provided by Waterford Glass and was manufactured by John Paul & Co Ltd free of charge.

The Irish Sea surrounds the wall on which the pillars are mounted, waves crashing against it with gusto.

8689878053_f0c32e8ce4_z Flickr / Tobias Abel Flickr / Tobias Abel / Tobias Abel

Flood lights were installed into the base and at night the illumination of the monument can be seen at multiple vantage points around the bay. 

Bill Nelson, whose grandfather William Nelson was the treasurer for the project, told “The idea of a Memorial to Our Lady was first suggested at a retreat held for dockers and port workers in Dublin 1950. It was intended to be a Marian year (1954) tribute to the Mother of God.”

A committee comprised mainly of Marine Port Union members was elected to discuss the project and to fund raise. While funds grew rapidly at first, the target was not achieved by 1954 and the search for a site in the docks area proved difficult.

Nelson continued: “Due to on-going delays the original committee members were disappearing but William Nelson remained constant and co-opted new members to keep the project alive. He was determined to get the memorial erected so the statue would watch over Dublin port workers and seafarers alike.”

“Despite these setbacks, continued perseverance and funding efforts by William Nelson and his committee meant that the statue was finally erected in September 1972 on the Bull Wall. The funds had reached £17,000, just enough to get the statue sculpted by Cecil King. It was built by William Lacey with the expertise of consulting engineer Bernard Le Casne-Byrne, all of whom were extremely generous with their time.”

The total cost of the statue was £17,500 – £2,500 below the estimated cost of £20,000. Upon completion, it was unveiled to the public on 24 September 1972 by then Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. Six years later, the halo was added.

“The statue stands as a monument to all those who gave of their time so willingly,” finished Nelson. “But most of all it reflects the dedication of William Nelson, my grandfather who worked tirelessly to see the Realt na Mara project to completion.”

To reach the statue, faint-hearted visitors can drive across The Wooden Bridge and park alongside the Bull Wall before finishing their journey to Realt na Mara by foot, while those looking to blow off the cobwebs will join fitness enthusiasts in the walk from Clontarf Road.

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