168 steps were all that kept Dubliners from the viewing platform of the Nelson Pillar, or Nelson’s Pillar as it became known locally.
Francis Johnston’s Doric column, topped with Thomas Kirk’s statue of the famous Admiral, was ever-controversial. Everyone from Saint Patrick to John F. Kennedy was proposed as a suitable replacement for the top of the monument over the years by campaigners shocked by the presence of a British naval hero, and not an Irishman, in the centre of O’Connell Street.
Regardless of who was on top of it, the pillar itself became a part of the Dublin streetscape, and buses and trams made their way for ‘Nelson’s Pillar’ for many years. On the eight of March 1966 a bomb destroyed the core of the monument, and the English Admiral was gone, with pieces of the pillar destined to become a mantelpiece staple in Dublin. Some celebrated his demise, others mourned Horatio. The Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington went as far as to say that “the man who destroyed the pillar made Dublin look more like Birmingham and less like an ancient city on the River Liffey”.
The Little Museum of Dublin have recently added this great model of the monument to their collection. Meticulous in detail, right down to the gates and the inscriptions detailing Nelson’s victories, it is worth a visit for anyone who climbed the 168 steps – or indeed those who never made it. For an idea of scale, see this tweet.