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Was the 'Toucher' Doyle the man who inspired Mr Spock?

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Undated handout picture of A Bird Never Flew on One Wing, which hung in O'Brien's Pub on Upper Leeson Street for more than 30 years,

Undated handout picture of A Bird Never Flew on One Wing, which hung in O'Brien's Pub on Upper Leeson Street for more than 30 years,

Mr Spock, The Simpsons version

Mr Spock, The Simpsons version

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Undated handout picture of A Bird Never Flew on One Wing, which hung in O'Brien's Pub on Upper Leeson Street for more than 30 years,

The death of actor Leonard Nimoy (83), the star of the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, brings to mind the strange tale of a painting that hung on the walls of an old Dublin pub for decades and may have been the inspiration for the Mr Spock character.

Harry Kernoff's famous oil painting 'A Bird Never Flew on One Wing' was commissioned in late 1930s and depicts a crimson-faced drinking man replete with bowler hat tipped to the Kildare side.

But it is his shifty looking ne'er-do-well companion in the portrait who bears a striking resemblance to Mr Spock - pointy ears and all.

The story was revealed by Liam Collins in the Sunday Independent some years ago.

He quoted Ted Morrison, a former Hollywood set designer and prop maker, who was convinced that the painting, which reached €180,000 when sold at auction seven years ago, inspired the Star Trek character.

"A story doing the backlots of the studios in Culver City outside LA in the 1960s was that Leonard Nimoy's character - Mr Spock - was inspired by a painting which hung in a Dublin bar. It is a great story - and having seen the painting myself, the resemblance is astonishing.

"Mr Spock was a truly iconic image. Before Spock, aliens were either depicted as killer blobs from outer space or slithery-eyed monsters with six arms. Whereas Mr Spock in contrast was cool and sophisticated with a hint of irony," Ted Morrisson said.

Created by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek retains a legion of fans worldwide.

Whatever about the Mr Spock connection, art historians have argued for decades about the real identify of the men painted by Harry Kernoff in rather unflattering and mocking terms.

Liam Collins reported that many believe that the character in the bowler hat was the former Lord Mayor of Dublin, the garrulous Alfie Byrne. His bar room buddy is thought to be 'The Toucher' Doyle, a well-known Dublin character who spent many hours holding court in one or other of the capital's pubs, cajoling pints of porter from whoever was in funds.

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The painting was completed in the late 1930s and it hung in O'Brien's Pub on Leeson Street for decades.

Harry Kernoff was born in London to a Russian father and Spanish mother, but moved to Dublin when he was 14.

Kernoff chronicled Dublin's street life in all its capriciousness and whimsy.

At one exhibition many years ago fellow painter John Ryan paid tribute and said Dublin owed Kernoff a debt of gratitude for his "depiction of its lanes and highways and its citizens, famous and notorious ... in all their plumage... he is our Boswell in paint."

Harry Kernoff died in Dublin on Christmas Day 1974.

US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy saying: "Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his time and talents.

"And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the centre of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future."


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