There has been a lot of talk recently about the 50th anniversary of the blowing up of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin and our colleagues in The Kilkenny People newspaper have solved the mystery of the monument’s long-lost plinth stones.
Contrary to persistent rumours, the plinth stones were not lost in the commotion that followed the explosion and they are safe and accounted for in the garden of Butler House in Kilkenny for all to see.
According to former Kilkenny Castle head guide, Frank Kavanagh, the stones found their way to Kilkenny because of the late William Walsh, inaugural manager of the Kilkenny Design Workshops, and the late Jim Gibbons who was then Minister for Agriculture in a Fianna Fáil government.
John Keane writes that the first mention of the plinth stones coming to Kilkenny was in the late 1960s when a notice of motion appeared on the agenda for a Kilkenny Corporation meeting. The local authority was asked to take the stones otherwise they would be dumped.
N22S1PicBoth men wanted the stones placed at Kilkenny Castle and this formed part of the negotiations by the State to buy the castle from the Duke of Ormonde.
However, the Duke declined the offer and then Mr Walsh suggested the stones be placed on The Parade in the city centre but Mr Gibbons felt the time was not right because of a strong Republican tradition in the area.
A solution was eventually found when the late Dr Harry Roche, who was renting Butler House at that time, agreed to accommodate the stones in his elaborate back garden where they remain to this day. Incidentally, the ‘head’ of Nelson is now displayed at Pearse Street Library in Dublin.