From 'The Floozie' to Father Ted: Dublin's park sculptures in 10 fascinating facts

Did the statue to ‘yer man in Fairview ever get his head glued back on? Where is ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’ these days?… And what on Earth is ‘Nightmare on Duck Street’?

“SPRING IS SPRUNG, the grass is riz,” as the famous poem begins (nobody?).

Anyway — while no-one with the least bit of sense is dusting down the barbecue just yet, it’s definitely safe to attempt a walk to the park without recourse to several layers of rainwear, an umbrella, a scarf, a flask of hot soup, and a spare set of dry clothes.

The folks at Dublin City Council appear to have noticed too. They’ve just released a new guide to the various sculptures dotted around the capital’s green areas — and we’ve been pouring through it for some of the most interesting facts.

Read on… and next time you pass that odd-looking granite gonk gazing out from Clontarf promenade, you’ll be able to impress all your friends by telling them ‘no, it’s actually not a tribute to Paul O’Connell’.

1. Dermot Morgan’s chair

Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Perched atop a rather large boulder at the city end of Merrion Square, and decked out in a green and purple blazer, the statue of Oscar Wilde hogs a great deal of the limelight from this tribute to another floppy-haired hero of Irish comedy.

Unveiled in 2002, four years after his death, the ‘Joker’s Chair’ was erected in memory of the much-loved comedian, satirist and actor Dermot Morgan.

Galway-born artist Catherine Greene was approached by Morgan’s partner to create the memorial. She proceeded, under the condition that it should be an allegorical piece, rather than an image of the comedian himself.

According to the new guide:

Greene saw Dermot as being like the modern day seer who never feared to tell the truth, cleverly, searingly and with verve.

This led her to the idea of the Shakespearean fool, who was always the closest to to the throne and who never feared to tell the truth.

She felt it would be important for the public to engage with the artwork so she created a throne and if one looks just underneath the seat, you will see an eye, which for Greene represents the knowing eye.

And where is it?

Number seven on this map…

2. The Oscar goes to… Siberia?

As we mentioned already, the Oscar Wilde statue’s hardly off the beaten track. It’s probably one of the best known and most-visited memorials in the city — but did you know that, as part of his process, the artist who created it had to take trips to Siberia and Guatemala?

The right kind of jade is difficult to track down, it turns out.

This video — which features an interview with the sculptor, Danny Osborne — is pretty fascinating…

(Youtube: Vulgo Video)

3. The (formerly headless) Séan Russell memorial

/Photocall Ireland /Photocall Ireland

[Nazi graffiti at the Seán Russell statue in 2009]

You might recall hearing something about a statue in Fairview Park being decapitated a few years ago… Well, said head has been firmly back in situ for the last five years.

It’s not the same head, to be absolutely correct.  The original version of the Séan Russell statue was installed in the northside park in 1951, 11 years after the senior IRA leader’s death.

The earlier stone version had often been the subject of vandalism due to Russell’s history (in particular, a controversial trip to Nazi Germany), and the head was removed by vandals on New Year’s Eve in 2004.

It was replaced with the current bronze statue in 2009 — completed by sculptor Willie Malone of the Kilmainham Art Foundry.

The National Graves Association, which commissioned the new version, defended the decision at the time, with chairman Seán Whelan telling The Herald:

He went abroad five times. In 1939 he went to Germany which was then under Nazi control. He went to Russia one of those times as well, and people think he was a communist because of that.

Where is it?

Number one on this map:

4. A hidden treasure

Blessington Street Basin


A couple of off-the-beaten-track sites now…

Even if you know this part of the north inner city pretty well, there’s still a chance you may not have stumbled upon the Blessington Street Basin — an odd little oasis, just around the corner from the Mater Hospital.

Construction of the Basin began around 1803 to provide a reservoir for the city water supply — then, from the 1860s, it was used exclusively to supply distilleries in Bow Street (Jameson) and John’s Lane (Powers).

It was completely revamped in 1994. These quirky bronze sculptures were commissioned from artist Austin McQuinn — a resident of the area at the time…

They’re designed to represent animal and fish-like organisms, vegetation and amoebic life.

Have a gander around if you’re in the area (and bring some bread for the ducks while you’re at it).

Where is it?

[image: Google Maps]



5. The Stardust Memorial

48 young people lost their lives in the horrific Stardust Fire in Artane, on the city’s northside, in 1981.

The Stardust Memorial Park was opened in September 1993 to commemorate their lives.

It includes this memorial, by artist Robin Buick…

The park is located along the Santry River, between Greencastle Road and Adare Road — on a spot that was once a monastic site.

[image: Google Maps]



6. The Tree of Life

Here’s another park you could easily miss on your travels around the city.

The tiny ‘Peace Park’ — across from Christchurch Cathedral — is on a site once occupied by a late medieval ‘Tholsel’ building, which served as a meeting place for the city council.

It’s a relatively new project — completed in 1988 and build as a sunken garden to reduce traffic noise.

So — another nice spot to drop by for a sandwich, should you happen to be in the area.

You’ll find this Leo Higgins creation tucked away in the corner. It’s inspired by the Patrick Kavanagh poem, ‘Peace’:

Where is it?

[image: Google Maps]



7. A low-budget Newgrange

If you’ve always wondered what it was like to witness the Winter Solstice sunrise from the inner chamber of Newgrange, but never quite got around to putting your name on the list to get in — here’s something else you can do on those cold mid-December mornings*.

An Gallán Gréine (the Sun Stone) — actually made up of four different stones — was commissioned by the Dublin History Workshop, who were approached by artist Clíodna Cussen with an idea to make a sun-aligned stone monument.

From the Council’s guide, again — here’s how the solar alignment works:

The largest of the four granite stones is called an Gallán Gréine meaning ‘Sun Stone’ (from ‘gallán’, Irish for standing stone and ‘gréine meaning’ sun).An Clog Gréine is the simple sundial with quartz designs on its sides, which was inspired by Dr Ian Elliott of Dunsink Observatory who helped with the alignment of the stone.

To view the rising sun on 21st December the viewer is to stand at An Clog Gréine and the sun rises behind An Gallán Gréine.

*If you happen to be in the area. No-one’s actually claiming it’s as good as Newgrange, obviously.

[UPDATE: Sunday, 5.26pm: As a few readers noticed, I forgot to give the location for this in the first version of the article. It's just beside Sandymount Promenade, in Séan Moore Park, near the site of the infamous Irish Glass Bottle site. I just drove past it, and it's definitely still there --- Daragh]

8. That Paul O’Connell tribute?

Any resemblance to Irish rugby great is purely coincidental (Clontarf is O’Driscoll’s turf, anyway).

This Maoi sculpture was donated to the Irish State by the Government of Chile in 2004.

Sculpted by artist Alejandro Pakarati, a native of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), The Maoi is carved in the style of one of the thousand-or-so famous Easter Island statues.

Again much like O’Connell, it’s built almost entirely out of volcanic stone…



Here are the older versions…

AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

And where is it? 

Just across the road from the bus garage on Clontarf Promenade, you can’t miss it.

9. The Inverted Oil Rig

Right — here’s an odd one for you…

Completed in 2012 — the concept for this sculpture by Irish artist Alan Phelan is that the rig is theoretically returning oil to the ground.

In fact, three titles for the artwork were chosen, after local schoolchildren were asked for their input: it’s also known as the ‘Dobbyfin Millen Drill’ and ‘Nightmare on Duck Street’ (yes, really).




Where is it?

In Father Collin’s Park, off the Hole in the Wall Road, in Clongriffin…

[image: Google Maps]



10. The Floozie

Take a walk along by a small park on the north bank of the Liffey, up near Hueston Station — and you might have a sudden jarring feeling that something’s a little out-of-place.

The Anna Livia (dubbed — cruelly, but inevitably — as the ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’ by some Dublin wag) was originally installed in the middle of O’Connell Street in 1988 as part of the city’s Millenium celebrations.

[Photocall Ireland]

She was removed in 2001 as part of the street’s redevelopments works — but in 2011 taken out of storage and re-homed upriver in the little-known Croppies Memorial Park (having spent the intervening decade in a crate in Raheny).

Prior to her re-installation, the original artist, Éamonn O’Doherty, made some adjustments so that Anna Livia would be a more reclined position to better suit her new location.

From the Council’s guide:

The location also adheres to the artist’s original wishes for the artwork to be close to the river, in water, with a lateral visual emphasis.

Anna Livia sculptures in new home Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Artist Eamonn O’Doherty alongside the Anna Livia statue in her new home, in 2011. 

Where is it?

Want to know more? Check the official Council guide…

Related: From 1000 AD to Samuel Beckett: Dublin’s bridges in 10 fascinating facts…

Read: Iconic ‘Battle of Clontarf’ painting returns to Dublin 3 … from Hawaii

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