I was looking through some old postcards of O’Connell Street and came across this one. It’s obviously depicting Dublin pre Easter rebellion, as I’ve circled the Dublin Bread Company on the right of the photo. The tower of the Dublin Bread Company was used by rebels during the rebellion to return fire to snipers from Trinity College Dublin, but it was never reconstructed following the rebellion.
Who is the statue circled in red? It’s William Smith O’Brien. I never knew he was positioned at the corner of D’olier Street and Westmoreland Street for a period. The statue, by Thomas Farrell,was unveiled in 1870.
William Smith O’Brien now stands proudly on O’Connell Street, across the River Liffey and among giants of Irish history.
O’Brien made the journey across the Liffey in 1929. A great article in the Independent at the time commented on the statue, noting it was “..about twice life-size” and “..is composed of Caravazzia marble”. The statue had first been unveiled on the southside of Dublin on Stephens’ Day 1870, before a large assembly. The Times in London remarked at the time “Why gibbet such a failure in monumental marble?”
In 1900, the statue saw the name “O’Brien” removed from its pedestal by Dublin Corporation, substituted for the current bi-lingual inscription. As noted in the Independent: “This was the outcome of an agitation aroused to remove the doubt that somehow got abroad that the statue was that of William O’Brien, the Irish Nationalist M.P, whose name was so much before the public at the time, and not that of the ’48 rebel.”
Will he be left in peace? Well, no. William Smith O’Brien is due to be moved again, though only temporarily. Collins Barracks is the location. The reason for his latest move is of course the Metro North project.