Alas, Poor Horatio, We Hardly Knew Ye*

Fifty years ago today, 8 March 1966, Nelson’s Pillar—the 121-foot-high column in the center of O’Connell Street in Dublin that sported a statue of Horatio Nelson atop it—was blown up by Irish Republicans.

A half-demolished Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, Dublin. From the front page of the Irish Times on Tuesday, 8 March 1966: “The top of Nelson Pillar, in O’Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o’clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time.” Date: Tuesday, 8 March 1966 Source: The National Library of Ireland/Flickr

A half-demolished Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, Dublin.
From the front page of the Irish Times on Tuesday, 8 March 1966: “The top of Nelson Pillar, in O’Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o’clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time.
Date: Tuesday, 8 March 1966
Source: The National Library of Ireland/Flickr

Erected to commemorate the life of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson—and particularly his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where he was killed at age 47—the statue was completed in 1809. As Lord Nelson was much celebrated, the Dublin pillar “was among the first and grandest monuments erected in memory of Nelson in the then United Kingdom,” according to Wikipedia, though we are also reminded that

The Irish Monthly, a contemporary nationalist newspaper, joked at the time the statue of Horatio Nelson on top of the Pillar was unveiled that “we never remember an exhibition that has excited less notice, or was marked with more indifference on the part of the Irish public, or at least that part that pay the taxes and enjoy none of the plunder”.

In this same article a few myths are laid to rest, including the notion that the pillar was blown up by the IRA.

The pillar has since been replaced by the Spire of Dublin, which was erected in 2003.

* Yes, it’s a deliberate misquote. 🙂

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