Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Hags with the Bags, Liffey Street Lower

Visual Artists Ireland and the sculptors' union should be paying me an honorary stipend by now. You see, in each 'Moss Reid' mystery I manage to slip in a mention of at least a couple of statues at a critical point in the book.

In Black Marigolds it's a 1988 pair of brass figures by Jackie McKenna called "Meeting Place", at the corner of Ormond Quay and Lower Liffey Street near the Ha'penny Bridge.

But nobody in Dublin calls them that. Like many statues in the city these two have a more naughty nickname: "The Hags With The Bags".

Here's how the section in Black Marigolds begins...

She was standing next to the brass statues of two shoppers outside the old Blarney Woollen Mills. Or “The Hags With The Bags” Stephen would have called them if he’d been with her here this morning. Two lifesize statues, a pair of women shoppers sitting close together on a stone plinth rather than a wooden bench, looking almost as cold and tired as she felt. Their heavy bags were on the ground, on either side of their sensible shoes, surrounded by dozens of fag butts. 
Unlike all those lofty statues that honour great heroes, past conquerors or smarmy rich old men (and it's almost invariably men isn't it?) this one celebrates everyday life and ordinary women with sensible shoes. They don't look like smoker types though.

The Tart With The Cart

Yet for most tourists in Dublin, the most popular statue in the city - the one to be snapped beside - is another one from 1988, of another ordinary and probably fictitious woman: the Molloy Malone figure that used to be at the bottom of Grafton Street.

For many locals, including yours truly, this statue is awful kitsch - one of those statues you grow to love to hate. It has numerous nicknames including  "The Trollop With The Scallops", "The Dolly With The Trolley", and above all "The Tart With The Cart".

So it was with great relief that I heard that the The Tart and Her Cart was being dug up and put into storage to make way for the new Luas tram tracks. Good riddance.

The bad news is that they plan to put it outside the Fáilte Ireland tourism office on St Andrew's Street in 2015.

The even worse news is that the Railway Procurement Agency will be wheeling her wheelbarrow back to as close to her original position as possible, once the new tram route is complete.

Right, time for a smart video by Storymap...

Moss Reid's statues

Forget Molly Malone. I guess Moss Reid would have a much different taste in statues.

Maybe not the Hags With The Bags, but perhaps something more along the lines of the Jim Larkin one in O'Connell Street, or the James Joyce ("The Prick with the Stick") on North Earl Street.

Or going southside, the Phil Lynott in Harry Street, or the almost psychedelic Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square.

Or "Mr Screen", the comicbooky cinema usher on Hawkins Street; or the "Stone Man", a life-size statue of a lone drinker propped against the stone bar in Whelan's pub on Wexford Street.

Or knowing Mossie, he'd probably give his number one vote to Patrick Kavanagh sitting on his bench by the Grand Canal.

Or he'd tell you that this one isn't the original Patrick Kavanagh bench at all at all - there is in fact an older stone bench on the canal bank.

To find it, simply "stand in the doorway of the Mespil Hotel on Mespil Road , walk straight across the road (mind the traffic) and you can’t miss it."