Getting shut of statues is not new – Nelson lost his head!

Taking down statues that offend you is all the rage now but Irish Republicans were ahead of the pack when in 1966 (the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising) they blew up Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street.

The monument had been the subject of controversy for decades and despite several attempts to negotiate its removal seemed like a fixture. Then on the 8th March 1966 the upper section of the pillar was ‘removed’ in an explosion. At the time it was thought the IRA were responsible although the IRA had ‘dumped arms’ at that time and was pursuing a political campaign following the end of the ‘Border Campaign’ (Operation Harvest) and before the commencement of the troubles following the Civil Rights campaign in the North.

Irish Police never detained anyone at the time and it was not until 2000 that a definite account was given which showed a number of an IRA splinter group had acted on their own initiative.

The stump of the pillar was demolished a few days later (14th March) by the Irish Army despite attempts to halt the demolition. The removal of the pillar was met with general approval by members of the public and the ‘Go Lucky Four’ made a song about it and it stayed in the Irish charts for eight weeks.

As for Nelson his ‘head’ is in the Dublin City Museum – I popped in to see him many years ago and he looked decidedly forlorn

Here’s the ‘Go Lucky Four:

(The Dubliners also do a song ‘Nelson’s Farewell’)

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson%27s_Pillar#Destruction

Image: The pillar after the initial blast and prior to demolition – Inset; Nelsons Head in the Dublin City Museum looking a bit the worse for wear!

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (11th June 2020)

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