News from Nelson: Dublin First and Always
The year was 1809 and I stood patiently - enclosed in a block of Portland Stone, waiting to be released by the noted Cork sculptor, Thomas Kirk. At last my mouth was completed and I opened it and spoke to him: ‘How do, Tom Kirk!’ and he replied ‘Tolerably well, Nelson – my work on you is almost done.’ But I was curious about something, and asked: ‘I presume that as I am the first monument to myself, I am destined for London?’ I was dismayed when he said: ‘No, I am under commission to Dublin.’ Dublin! I had never been there and though I knew of its fame as ‘The Second City of the Empire’ I also knew that it had lost its Irish Parliament with the Act of Union and that poverty was looming. And then I thought about it: in spite of its economic difficulties, Dublin had cherished me enough to be the first to raise a Pillar to my goodself. I would be glad to go there.
While Kirk was finishing my hair, I had fair opportunity to think more about the Irish capital. It had been transformed into an elegant Georgian city during the second half of the 18th century and some of this work remained to be done - most notably, the General Post Office in Sackville Street. This was designed by Francis Johnston, who also designed my Pillar. Taken together, the GPO and I were to become a beloved streetscape in my adopted city.
Image: O'Connell Street showing GPO and Nelson's Pillar (Source Wikipedia)
While he was taking a breather, Sculptor Kirk read out to me the following notice from the Evening Correspondent on 16 February 1808:
‘Yesterday his Grace the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Richmond, proceeded to lay the first stone of a monument of gratitude to the memory of the illustrious Nelson. The vast assemblage of persons of every description bore sufficient testimony to how sincerely the Irish hearts beat in unison with those feelings of grateful admiration which the Monument is intended to record.’ Dublin was waiting and I was eager to be there!
About Nelson's Head
The Head from Nelson’s Pillar is on display in the Reading Room of Dublin City Library & Archive. As Admiral Nelson is a valued member of staff, we have invited him to write his own monthly blog.
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