So just who tried to blow up the 'Maid of Erin'?


So just who tried to blow up the 'Maid of Erin'?

When writing the answer to the question about the erection the '98 Monument at the Courthouse Square known as the 'Maid of Erin', I recall that something which I had written in these notes about a feature of it was not correct!

It was about damage that had been caused to one of the provincial shields around the base. If you examine the monument closely, you will see that a large piece of stone behind the Ulster crest has been knocked off. When I was a child, I recall that crest was missing entirely and that there was a piece of metal sticking out where it had been attached. I had written that my mother, who had a greater interest in Irish history than many women of her day, had once told me that this crest had been knocked off by Anti-Partionists some time after the Border was established. Maybe she did say that, or maybe I just imagined it, but it just could not have been true! You see that bit of stone was missing long before the Border with the Six Counties was established.

When the present Ulster shield was replaced I am not sure but it could have had something to do with the celebration of An Tostal in the 1950s or with the 1966 celebrations of the 1916 Rising. The date of the replacement does not really matter but what surprised me was the that it was missing in an old picture of the Sinn Fein demonstration around the monument in May 1912 at the Proclamation of George V as King of Ireland! I have seen several photographs of this event but this was one which was published recently which includes a small black dog standing with one of the protesters.

The truth of this defilement of the 'Maid' was further clarified when I re-read something in Victor Whitmarsh’s pictorial album 'Old Dundalk', in which he wrote 'Someone tried to blow up the monument in 1901'. Also included by him is a photograph of the Square, devoid of trees, which he says was taken 'in about 1904' and showing the Ulster crest missing.

Now why would anyone try to blow up the '98 monument in 1901 when I had believed that Dundalk was a fairly quiet place to live? It has occurred to me that it might have been the work of Loyalists who were, even then, agitating against the Home Rule Bill going through Westminster. There was an Anti-Home Rule meeting held by Loyalists in the Market House which was greatly objected to by the Editor of the Dundalk Democrat, but that, I think, occurred in about 1914.

Or could it have been the action of somebody protesting against the accession of King Edward V11 in that year? You see a lot of local people were very annoyed by his taking a Coronation Oath which described the Catholic religion as 'idolatrous' which caused big protest demonstration in Dundalk. If so, why take it out on the 'Maid'?

Anyway the 'Maid' survived all the troubles and is now Dundalk's most loved monument! Maybe some of my readers, with a better knowledge of local history than I, will be able inform us about what exactly was going on!

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