Luke Kelly for Raglan Road?

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John Coll. Photo: Cyril Byrne

Whatever happened to Dublin City Council’s open competition for a statue to be erected in memory of Luke Kelly, the iconic Dubliner? The Corporation gave approval for the statue with funding raised from a fund-raising campaign in November 2004 but scarcely a word about it has been heard ever since. Meanwhile the sculptor John Coll has just completed a bronze sculpture of the much-lamented musician which was privately commissioned and is now being offered free to DCC. So on the assumption that it will be accepted, the question is where the memorial to this celebrated ‘Dubliner’ should be erected?

Of course Raglan Road immediately springs to mind that being the name of one of Kelly’s most famous renditions – the verse written by Patrick Kavanagh and the music based on the old Irish air, Fáinne Geal an Lae (The Dawning of the Day). But leafy Raglan Road close to Ballsbridge is not really Luke Kelly country. He was born on the north side at No 1 Sheriff Street and remained the quintessential Dub until his death in January 1984. At the time of the original DCC proposal, SF Cllr Christy Burke suggested that ‘the statue should be located either in the north inner city or at some point at the docklands where the singer worked.’ A more sensible suggestion is that it should be located somewhere around the Temple Bar area.

John Coll (see article by Gerry Walker in the IAR Summer 2014, p74) is probably best known for his study of Patrick Kavanagh on the canal bank at Mespil Road D2, but he also sculpted Brendan Bracken beside the Royal Canal in D1. Walker talks about the sculptor ‘unmasking the texture of a person’ when describing his working engagement with his subject. ‘What Coll has recognized and manages to capture in his work’, according to Walker, ‘is an immediate expression of necessary form. The magic lies not in the appearance but in the essential.’

The friend of Luke Kelly who commissioned this work was mentioned in The Irish Times as ‘a private individual from Drumcondra.’ Apparently that gentleman is not Bertie Ahern, another distinguished resident of Drumcondra, who did indeed warmly support DCC’s original proposal in 2004 when he was Taoiseach.

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