Dublin’s most famous street trader will be back to work in the coming weeks following an intensive two-month rehabilitation programme.
The Molly Malone statue was removed from the bottom of Grafton Street at the end of April to clear the way for work on the Luas Cross City line, which will link the existing Red and Green Luas lines through Dublin city centre.
The statue, erected more than 25 years ago to celebrate the city's millennium, has become a significant tourist attraction and has suffered structurally from the attentions of visitors, Donncha Ó Dúlaing, heritage manager with the Railway Procurement Agency, said.
“Her condition was quite poor. Unlike other statues in the city she is at person height and so get s a huge amount of attention, which leads to ongoing wear and tear.”
The statue has two main sections, the figure and her barrow, but was cast in more than 30 pieces which were then welded together in situ when it was installed in 1998. Significant cracks have developed between the bronze pieces, with the fingers of one hand now in a particularly precarious state.
When lifted, it also emerged that there was a series of hairline cracks on the underside of the statue. Bubbles which can occur when bronze is being cast have also caused small holes in the statue.
The repairs being carried out by Bushy Park Ironworks involve welding of the cracks and filling up bubble holes with a hard wax. Several coats of micro-crystalline wax are also being applied over the whole statute to protect it from water damage. The statue will be given a new Irish granite platform because of damage to the stone work on which it stood.
The cost of removal, repair and reinstatement of the statue is expected to be up to €50,000, but visitors should notice little change in her when she appears back in town at her new temporary location outside the tourist office in the former St Andrew's Church on nearby Suffolk Street later this month. "We are carrying out some patination, to bring her back to her original dark brown colour, but we are leaving the areas where she's been rubbed over the years, so she will look as people remember her, but she'll be a lot stronger," Edward Bisgood of Bushy Park Ironworks said.
The statue will remain on Suffolk Street pending the end of the Luas works in 2017 when it will be relocated to Grafton Street, slightly north of its original location.