Up Went Nelson’s Pillar

Up Went Nelson’s Pillar

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Dublin, O'Connell Street Dublin




c. 15/03/66


03min 27sec




Betacam SP

black and white


Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, UTV Archive

Rights Holder


It is illegal to download, copy, print or otherwise utilise in any other form this material, without written consent from the copyright holder.


Views of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin after the bombing and after the reduction of the pillar to plinth in a controlled explosion. This excerpt includes various views of O’Connell and Moore Street, bulldozers removing the rubble and views of shops in the area damaged by the explosion.

The bombing of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin took place on the 8th of March 1966. It had been towering over Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) since 1809, to pay tribute to the admiral following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar but who is also known for vigorously defending slavery and using his position of influence to perpetuate tyranny and exploitation. 

"He was the wrong man, in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Liam Sutcliffe, the man who made perhaps the most radical alteration to Dublin's skyline. At 1.30 am, a huge blast sent Nelson and tonnes of rubble on to the street below, damaging a taxi - the only casualty of the night apart from Lord Nelson. Éamon de Valera, was said to have phoned the Irish Press that morning with a suggested headline for the story: “British Admiral Leaves Dublin by Air.” The Irish Army was sent in to finish the job with a controlled explosion and on the 15th March 1966, huge crowds gathered in Dublin city centre for this event, with a carnival atmosphere as thousands were kept behind Garda cordons. This blast caused a lot more damage than Sutcliffe's bomb, blowing out shop fronts along one of Ireland's busiest streets which led some to joke that explosives should be left in the hands of the professionals. 


At the same time, Nelson's granite head began a peculiar journey. Immediately after Sutcliffe's attack it was picked up off the street and taken to a municipal storage yard. But 10 days later it was stolen by students from the National College of Art and Design, looking for a way of paying off a Student Union debt. The head appeared on stage with The Dubliners, in TV and magazine ads - including one for women's tights - and people would pay for it to be displayed at parties. It was eventually returned and now resides quietly in the Gilbert Library on Pearse Street, Dublin. In Nelson's place today stands the tallest structure in Dublin, the Spire, erected in 2003 and more than three times the height of the pillar.


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