News from Nelson: Absent Friends

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filming nelsonWhen you reach my age – 209 and counting - you start to think about your old friends and long to meet up with them for a chat.  So I was delighted when Ken Dolan called in to see me the other morning. It was an important occasion – we were both being interviewed by the BBC for ‘The One Show’ which is hugely popular.   Nowadays Ken is a distinguished academic at the National College of Art and Design but in 1966 he was an impecunious student there and like many young men he was eager for the craic.  At that stage I had been blown off my Pillar and was nursing my wounds amid the remnants of my dignity, in a Dublin Corporation storage depot. St. Patrick’s Day arrived and it was cold and wet as usual – when over the wall came seven fit young men.  Acting together, they managed to lift me  – I’m really very heavy – and then they scarpered off, bringing me with them.

Nelson's kidnappers

Five of the seven students (in disguise) who kidnapped Nelson’s Head (Image: Irish

At first I was frightened as I feared they would do me some harm, but when I realized they needed me as they wanted to make some money from me, I began to relax.  Ken and I would have long conversations about the meaning (if any) of modern art and the place of classical art in today’s world.  Another student I talked to a lot was Joe Pilkington.  Even though he was an art student, Joe confided in me that he wanted to become an actor and I was pleased to note years later that he had the part of ‘Eamonn’ in RTÉ’s The Riordans.  God rest him, he has now passed away.  It occurred to me that I was having the best time of my life with the students and this helped me to get over the trauma of losing my Pillar (see The Adventures of Admiral Nelson).

Nelson's kidnappers

The students on Killiney Beach with the kidnapped Head (Image: Póló via

Ken told these stories in his own humorous way and I nodded agreement – strong, silent type me! We then drank a toast to ‘Absent Friends’. The BBC crew then left for The Stag’s Head pub, where they went to meet my biographer Donal Fallon who is currently an Historian-in-Residence for Dublin City Council. My eager fans will want to obtain a copy of Donal’s book: The Pillar: the life and afterlife of the Nelson Pillar which I found to be a great read, and so will you.  

Filming Nelson

I am used to being famous so I took the film crew in my stride although I have to say that they were lovely people and thrilled to see me – who isn’t!  However I really am looking forward to seeing The One Show when it is broadcast – we will send out a notification on Twitter when we know more.


More News from Nelson next month.

About Nelson's Head

Nelson's headThe 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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