One of the best known and most visited monuments in Britain, if not the world, is Nelson’s column in the centre of Trafalgar Square, carved by E.H. Bailey, of 1840. But Dublin had its own, smaller, column 30 years earlier in the middle of O’Connell Street.
Irish Nationalists tried to blow it up in 1938 and in 1966 another attempt succeeded. “Operation Humpty Dumpty” left the pillar 50 ft shorter, and the remains were demolished 2 days later. Nelson was put in a Dublin Corporation lockup on Clanbrassil Street. His head was liberated by students at the National College of Art and Design during Rag week, though they graciously sent a few pounds to pay for damage, then took it on a 6 month tour to pay off their Student debts.
It was photographed on Killeney beach as part of a fashion shot for the ‘Evening Press’, appeared on stage in London with The Dubliners, then antiques dealer paid the students £200 a month to display it in his shop widow. Finally it returned to Dublin when Grey arrived on O’Connell St with the head. He asked the crowd if anyone would accept it on behalf of the Corporation, and an official eventually agreed. Nobody seemed to want it to it is now in Dublin City Library.
They wouldn’t have pulled such a stunt with Irish born Duke of Wellington. Or would they?