Friday, April 4, 2014

Father Pat Noise Memorial Plaque

In Memory of "Noisy"

Hands-down our clear new Dublin landmark favorite. 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 passers-by (hundreds or thousands a day) probably 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.

Plaque on O'Connell Bridge to Father Pat Noise Dublin
Father Pat Noise

What makes this plaque significant is the (wonderfully cheeky) fact that it was placed here illegally and is dedicated to a fictitious person. That the plaque has been a source of local controversy, angry politicians, and a true testament to the tricky Irish spirit goes without saying.

Slimy Origins

True, the plaque was placed here without the sanction of any government official, but it wasn't immediately noticed because it was sized perfectly to fit in the depression left by- and I am not making this up- the control box for a Millenium Countdown clock that once projected a green digital clock display on the river. The idea was that this green alarm clock projected on the River Liffey would count down to midnight of January 1, 2000 from March of 1996. This strange idea was dubbed, according to local sarcastic rhyming custom, "The Time in the Slime."

What was to happen at midnight of 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, and was scrapped.

Well? It was the nineties, and Ireland was so flush with cash no one knew what to do with it. I think the immortal words of Lyle Lanley apply very appropriately for this situation...

"Ya know, a [country] with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!"

Father Pat?

Yes, so the clock was scrapped, and the control box removed. One mysterious night in 2004, a gang(?) of miscreant(s?) installed this perfectly-fit plaque into the control box impression. In case the photo is difficult to read, here is the inscription:


So, those are the facts. But- no such person as Father Pat Noise exists anywhere on record. Peadar Clancey is a real Irish freedom fighter who died in 1920, but there was no Fr. Noise in his entourage. This plaque is nothing but a sneaky, harmless, clever and hilarious joke.

Of course, the City Council immediately wanted the plaque removed and destroyed, as it was unauthorized and undermined their authority over the city. Just as in older days, the Irish people stood in support of these subtle jabs at authority, and people gathered and demonstrated around the plaque in support. Signs with messages like, Canonize 'Noisy' sprang up around the plaque. 

The Council, after this very loud public demand, decided to keep the dedication to Fr. Noise in place, as he had become a local fictional folk hero. Like the well-endowed Molly Malone, Fr. Noise could stand as a Dublin tribute to the old line,

"Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story!"

But That's Not All!

The plot indeed thickens in 2007, when the plague is removed and "lost" during some restoration work on the bridge. Stories like this are incredibly entertaining to follow, as the fog of mystery, innuendo, and rumor inspires so much more entertaining material than the truth. 

With the plaque "lost" during restorations, the impression was again empty... but not for long. A new, identical plaque showed up mysteriously one night, to someone's delight and someone else's fury, I'm sure.

Since the reappearance of the plaque, the controversy continues. Some Councillors demand the plaque be removed, while others (echoing popular opinion) support the plaque as another quirky addition to the lore and fable of Dublin.

I, for one, am in favor of keeping the dedication to the fictional Father, but I love that it has inspired so much attention and controversy from the local authorities. I imagine secret Gardai (police) investigations, committee meetings, and much political hand-wringing involved. Even if that sounds romantic, I can still imagine it, right? That's what these stories do, they appeal to our sense of mystery and fantasy.

...And let us not forget the neverending appeal of the pranksters who get the best of those pesky authorities.

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