Friday 23 August 2019

The oddballs and oddities who became synonymous with city

OUTSIDERS: Rory Campbell’s illustrations of Mary Dunne dancing on O’Connell Street
OUTSIDERS: Rory Campbell’s illustrations of Mary Dunne dancing on O’Connell Street
OUTSIDERS: Rory Campbell’s illustration of the man who cleaned the parking meters

Willy Brennan

'Artists and writers have always included conspicuous 'outsiders' in their work, from paintings by Breughel and Goya to Beckett's Godot and Jane Austen's 'trampers'," writes Rory Campbell in his beautifully produced new volume Walking-Class Heroes? Dublin's Remarkable Street-Personalities, 1955-2015.

Illustrated with Campbell's unique and stylish drawings, and some hitherto unseen photos of Dublin from the 1970s by Gerard Brady, the book is an homage to those 'unusual personalities' who tramped the streets of Dublin and who have fascinated Campbell since his teenage years in the city. We are introduced to oddball characters such as Toffee, Christy, Noah and Sadhu, brought to life in Campbell's striking colourful illustrations.

Many will remember characters such as Mary Dunne, who danced her personal ballet for Jesus in the middle of O'Connell Street for over 25 years, or the 'Patriotic Cleanser': a portly red-haired man sporting a tricolour hat who went around the city cleaning the traffic lights and parking meters. One of my favourite illustrations in the book depicts Masahiso Matubara, or 'Japanese Man in TCD', who haunted the squares of Trinity College for years.

And of course there was Bang Bang, who used his key as an imaginary pistol to enact Wild West shoot outs with young children. Although Campbell can be quite candid in some of his descriptions of despair and sadness, the beauty of the human spirit always shines through in his portrayal of the characters.

The lavish volume also includes a preface by Hilary Pyle and an essay by artist Patrick Pye and is guaranteed to bring a smile of recognition to anyone who has ever walked the city's streets.

'Walking-Class Heroes? Dublin's Remarkable Street-Personalities, 1955-2015' by Rory Campbell is published by Killiney Hill Press

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top