Saturday 16 December 2017

Iconic landmarks get much-needed refurbishment as Luas tracks are laid

Statue of Father Matthew needs new fingers.
Statue of Father Matthew needs new fingers.
Statue of Thomas Moore being removed from College Green.
Engraved Stone blocks from Father Matthew statue, which are in storage near Tallaght. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
A skeleton discovered at College Green, Dublin.
Bones and artefacts found during construction.
Bones discovered during the construction of Luas Crosscity.
An artefact found during construction.
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Some of Dublin's most iconic landmarks are getting a much-needed refurbishment after being taken off the streets while new Luas tracks are laid.

Statues, fountains, lamps and historic paving stones are being stored in a secure facility in south Dublin.

Each piece was labelled and carefully removed and is now being refurbished before it is put back in place when the track-laying is completed.

Some city engineers will be relying on their Lego skills when it come to reinstating the street furniture.

More than three kilometres of granite paving and kerbstones from around Trinity College and surrounding streets must go back in the same spots from where they were lifted.

Heavy and bulky items - such as fountains - that had to be removed will also have to be put back stone by stone.

"People may have noticed that the heritage items are gone, but they're perfectly safe and will return to the streetscape as the works progress," said Luas Cross City communications director Grainne Mackin.

"A massive amount of care and attention has gone into carefully preserving the items in a huge and complex logistical operation."

The sorry-looking marble figure of Capuchin priest and temperance advocate Fr Theobald Mathew, which has been on O'Connell Street since 1893, is encased in timber and is awaiting "surgery" on its hands. The two-and-a-half-tonne statue is missing several fingers, and it has yet to be decided how best to replace them before it is placed back on its plinth which is stored in pieces on pallets.

"We don't know how he lost his fingers. Some say they were shot off during the Rising, but nobody really knows," said Kieran Costello, senior civil engineer with KN Networks Services, which has been hired to oversee the project.

Beside Fr Mathew is the polished bronze statue of Thomas Moore, the Bard of Ireland, which has been a feature of College Green since 1857 and stands more than six metres tall on a granite plinth.

Lying behind the statues are the ornate lamp standards that light the entrance to St Stephen's Green at the top of Grafton Street in front of the Fusiliers' Arch.

Nearby are the many pieces that make up the polished granite Lady Grattan fountain and two horse troughs that were first placed on St Stephen's Green in 1880, donated by Lady Laura Grattan at a time when running water was supplied to only a small number of homes in the capital. Outside the warehouse, in a secure yard, are countless rows of racking that contain more than 3km of granite paving and kerbstones from the 19th century that had to be lifted from footpaths around Trinity College and Nassau Street.

"We've identified every single piece with a unique number, and each piece will go back into place exactly where it was before," said Donncha O Dulaing, Luas Cross City's contracts manager for heritage works.

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