The Auld Bitch

The controversial statue of Queen Victoria outside the Queen Victoria Building, in Sydney, was created by Irish sculptor, John Hughes, in 1904. The statue was unveiled by King Edward VII on the Kildare front of Leinster House (which was at the time the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society), in Ireland. When Leinster House became the official seat of Oireachtas Eireann (the parliament of the Irish Free State) the statue became the focus of extreme scrutiny and criticism. Surprisingly, she escaped being blown up (but I guess, only just). Many were horrified that a statue of Queen Victoria could still be standing outside the front of the parliament of the Irish Free State. By 1947 they had had enough and she was unceremoniously removed and thrown into the main courtyard (along with some disused State carriages) at The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. There she sat year after year, with nobody quite knowing what to do with her. During a Parliament sitting held on 28 May 1974 in Dublin the speaker (Mr Lemass) was quoted as saying ” I think we all agree it is one of the most ugly statues of that royal lady.” She was put on the “Public Art” market, but not a soul was interested in the “Auld Bitch”. Luckily, Australia came to the rescue, in 1983, when the Sydney City Council began a worldwide search for an “unwanted” statue of Queen Victoria (what were the chances?), to be erected outside of the Queen Victoria Building. Imagine the luck of the Irish when they got wind of this. A quick search located the rather neglected queen in the small town of Daingean (don’t ask me how it ended up there). The Republic of Ireland were so happy to off load the statue, they decided to give it to the people of Sydney in the spirit of “goodwill”. In the late 1980’s she left Ireland for good and arrived for a fresh start in Australia, to mark Sydney’s 200th anniversary, in 1987. So now she sits high on her throne, looking down on the people of Sydney, being relatively ignored, as if she was still in Ireland.

 

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