Croppies lie back

An Irishman’s Diary: The strange fate of Anna Livia

‘Pleasant as the Croppies Memorial Park is, the Anna Livia sculpture has been cutting a sad figure of late. A plaque nearby claims she was “unveiled” there in 2011 by the then Lord Mayor. But “unfrocked” would be closer. Because although she was nude to start with, and remains so, she looks much more naked these days, without her former stone-block surrounds.’

‘Pleasant as the Croppies Memorial Park is, the Anna Livia sculpture has been cutting a sad figure of late. A plaque nearby claims she was “unveiled” there in 2011 by the then Lord Mayor. But “unfrocked” would be closer. Because although she was nude to start with, and remains so, she looks much more naked these days, without her former stone-block surrounds.’

Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 00:01

I wouldn’t go as far as Brendan Lynch (Letters, June 4th) in calling for the Anna Livia sculpture to be reinstated on its original site in Dublin’s O’Connell Street. But I do think her current position – in a pond at the Croppies Memorial Park, near Heuston Station – is no way to treat a lady.

On the plus side, she is again sitting in a water feature – an improvement on the years she spent in dry dock at a Dublin City Council storage depot.

And although the water is unsuitably still, this at least spares her the indignity of having her nether regions washed with Fairy Liquid and other detergents (an interesting concept that, by the way – something that deters gents), which was a regular occurrence at her former address.

As for her demotion from the city’s main thoroughfare, well, her fate has been kinder than that of other previous residents there, including Nelson.

In fact she has avoided the paradoxically similar yet contrasting fates of either the “Tomb of the Unknown Gurrier”, which started out on O’Connell Bridge before getting thrown into the river, or the Milliennium Clock, which was a failure under the bridge and was thrown back to land.

Even so, and pleasant as the Croppies Memorial Park is, the sculpture has been cutting a sad figure of late. A plaque nearby claims she was “unveiled” there in 2011 by the then Lord Mayor. But “unfrocked” would be closer. Because although she was nude to start with, and remains so, she looks much more naked these days, without her former stone-block surrounds.

Deprived of any back support, indeed, she now reclines in mid-air, at an unfeasible angle. Pilates students will identify the posture as a C-curve. And, yes, it’s very good for the abdominal muscles. Still, it looks uncomfortable, even for a bronze monument.

I have previously proposed in this column a possible home for the sculpture: in a National Museum of Failures. A kind-of “History of Ireland in 100 Rejects”, this would include all the aforementioned exhibits and many others besides: a sample Westlink toll booth, for example; a De Lorean car; one of those Parisian-style book kiosks from Grattan Bridge; the Galway Tent, etc.

But ironically, the chances of funding such a museum have probably been doomed for a generation by our crowning failure: national insolvency. And in fact, in her current mortar-free nakedness, Anna Livia herself looks like a victim of the construction crash.

So maybe the best thing for the foreseeable future would be to leave her where she is, but at least give her something to fall back on. If there are any e-voting machines left, it would be a nice touch to recycle them into some kind of prop. Failing that, the city council must have a few spare bricks somewhere – maybe the ones earmarked for the Clontarf sea wall.

In the meantime, I suppose, the sculpture’s location is not inapt. The Croppies Memorial Park is named for the revolutionaries of 1798, many of whom are buried in nearby Croppies Acre. And the Croppies were of course so-called for their severe hairstyles, adopted in homage to the Parisian “Sans-Culottes”.

Anna Livia doesn’t have short hair – quite the contrary. But what she lacks in rebel sympathies there she more than makes up for her by her lack of culottes, or of any clothing, aristocratic or otherwise. Furthermore, minus her brickwork, she definitely looks cropped, albeit from the wrong end. So, who knows, perhaps her plight might be raised at the 2013 Byrne-Perry Summer School, which opens in Gorey, Co Wexford, on June 28th.

The Byrne and Perry commemorated by the school were both Croppies, at least by association. In fact, Anthony Perry had the misfortune to suffer a punishment invented for Croppies, “pitch-capping”, whereby a cone-shaped mould of hot tar was forced onto a victim’s head and left to cool.

Incredibly, he survived that and other tortures to take part in the 1798 uprising, before being hanged. Miles Byrne was somewhat luckier, living to see another attempted rebellion – Robert Emmet’s – and ending his days, after a successful career with the French army, in Paris.

Despite happening in Wexford, this year’s Byrne-Perry Summer School will have a Dublin theme: the 1913 Lockout. Among the topics, I see (at byrneperry.org), will be a panel discussion asking: “Whatever Happened to the Irish Citizen Army?” And whatever did happen to it, I suggest, at least the monument to its co-founder Jim Larkin still stands on O’Connell Street, which is more than can be said for some.

fmcnally@irishtimes.com