Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Lost Lighthouse of Sackville Street


Nelson's Pillar looking out over a strangely deserted Sackville Street in 1811 (Wikicommons)

From its inception in Dublin's main thoroughfare in 1809, Nelson's Pillar received criticism from the city's inhabitants, criticism that slowly increased as the mood of nationalism and anti-empiricism grew over the next 150 years. To be fair, much of the displeasure centred on the top and bottom of the edifice. The top was decorated by the 13ft (4m) figure of an admiral of the British Navy, sculptured by Alexander Kirk, and the bottom commemorated four naval battles he won - Trafalgar, Copenhagen, St. Helena and the Nile. Tourists could climb the 166 steps for a small fee and gaze from the figure on top to gaze upon the symbol of anti-British resistance - the GPO - a few yards away. And other buildings, of course.
Generally, though, the bit between the top and the bottom, received little criticism. Built of black limestone and Wicklow granite, the 120 ft (37m) doric column, largely escaped the ire of the population, except maybe for an anonymous versifier (it could well have been John Swan Sloane!) writing in the Irish Builder of 15th June 1876: -

It is well-known in Irish history that a combination of the IRA and the Irish Army blew up the offending monument in 1966. It has since been replaced by a the decidedly non-pharological Millennium Spire.

Of course, Nelson's Pillar was never a lighthouse, nor indeed any kind of navigational marker. I mean, the mere idea of placing a British naval officer on top of a large column as a way of warning ships from a rocky coast, is quite ridiculous.

The Metal Man, Tramore, county Waterford, featuring a petty officer of the Royal Navy, sculpted by Alexander Kirk. 

1 comment:

  1. I was checking the date there Pete, thought twas April 1st when I logged on 😆