When crossing O’Connell Bridge, it might be easy to miss the small memorial plaque embedded in the stonework on the west side. The plaque is innocent enough, and many passers by (thousands a day) don’t even give it a second look.
After all, how many such memorial plaques stand in every major city? How many are dedicated to figures of minor historical importance but no real relevance today? How many like this have each of us strolled by in our own lifetimes? Impossible to know, because we don’t even notice them.
What makes this plaque significant is the (wonderfully cheeky) fact that it was placed here illegally and is dedicated to a fictitious person. Since its mysterious appearance, the story of this plaque has been told with local controversy, angry politicians, and a true testament to the tricky Irish spirit.
The plaque was placed in the depression left by the control box for a millennium countdown clock that once projected a green digital clock display on the river. During the good auld days of the Celtic Tiger—when Ireland had more money than it could smartly spend—this probably didn’t seem as silly an idea as it does today.
This green alarm clock projected on the River Liffey would count down to midnight of January 1, 2000 from March of 1996. (Dublin had a strange fascination with the millennium, dedicating a new bridge, commissioning the Spire, and installing this baffling clock in its honor.) The clock was unofficially dubbed, according to local sarcastic rhyming custom, “The Time in the Slime.”
What was to happen when the clock rolled over to 2000? We’ll never actually know, as the clock was removed in December of 1996, less than a year after installation. It had been plagued by technical and visibility problems since its installation—not surprising given its sensitive electronics and the wet Irish weather—and was scrapped.
When the malfunctioning clock was removed from the bridge rail, a tempting rectangular gap was left, begging to be filled. One mysterious night in 2004, a gang(?) of miscreants(?) installed this perfectly-fit plaque into the empty control box impression.
This plaque commemorates
Fr. Pat Noise
Advisor to Peadar Clancey.
He died under suspicious circumstances when his carriage plunged in the Liffey on August 10th 1919.
So says the inscription, but no such person as Father Pat Noise exists anywhere on record. Peadar Clancey was a real Irish freedom fighter who died in 1920, but there was no known Fr. Noise in his entourage.
Dublin City Council, when they were finally made aware of its existence, demanded the plaque removed and destroyed, as it was unauthorized and undermined their authority over the city. As they always have, the local “Dubs” stood in support of this subtle jab at authority (and mild protest over irresponsible spending on silly projects), and people gathered to demonstrate their love of the plaque and the hooligans who had installed it. Locals picketed the bridge with messages like “Canonize Noisy.”
The Council, after this very loud public demand, publicly decided to keep the dedication to Fr. Noise in place, as he had become a local fictional folk hero, like the famously well-endowed Molly Malone.
The plot thickens in 2007, when the plague is removed and “lost” during some restoration work on the bridge. Accusations are hurled, fingers are pointed, shoulders are shrugged, and protests are again organized—business as usual in dealings between Dublin officials and the public.
With the plaque “lost,” the impression was again empty…but not for long. A new, identical plaque showed up mysteriously one night, whether by the same HSTI gang or by dedicated copycats, it is unknown.
Since the reappearance of the plaque, the controversy continues. Some councilors demand the plaque’s removal, while others (echoing popular opinion) support the plaque as another quirky chapter in the lore of Dublin. The future of Father Noise is as murky as his past; no one knows when the next bridge renovations will again “misplace” the plaque, or if the City Council will once and for all demand its removal in the face of political backlash.
So on your next visit to Dublin, take a walk across the west rail of O’Connell Bridge and stop by to honor “Noisy,” one of Dublin’s proudest fallen heroes.