Sculpture Dublin launches ‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’

A new sculpture by Alan Phelan

For the O’Connell Plinth at Dublin City Hall

Sculpture Dublin is a Dublin City Council initiative set up to raise awareness of sculpture in Dublin and to commission six public sculptures for parks and public spaces city-wide. ‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’ by Alan Phelan is the first commission to be launched.

Alan Phelan was awarded the O’Connell Plinth commission in December 2020 and invited to create a temporary sculpture for a historical plinth that has remained empty in the centre of Dublin for over 150 years. The plinth was originally constructed to support a monumental, marble statue of Daniel O’Connell, a key figure in Irish history who played an important role in securing Catholic emancipation in 1829. The removal of the statue in the 1860s dispossessed the plinth of its intended purpose, which Sculpture Dublin has sought to restore with a contemporary artwork.

‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’ is an exuberant sculpture that brings together a wealth of references. As a free standing 5.5metre-high, eco-plastic and paper covered sculpture, the work challenges the materiality of monuments, more typically made in stone or bronze. Building from the Pop Art enlargements of Claes Oldenburg, and Duchamp’s ideas around the readymade, a small-scale model was created at home during lockdown and then 3D scanned and printed to scale before assembly, papering and finish.

A recognisable visual starting point for the work is the stucco plasterwork that adorns the interiors of many iconic Georgian buildings in Dublin. Phelan however, wanted the sconce, or wall mounted candle holder, to sidestep restrained Georgian repetition and symmetry. Instead, the work uses Baroque and Rococo styles, which were more rebellious, theatrical and illogical. The original source for the work was an anonymous French 18th century design for a sconce.

While markedly different to the monumental and traditional sculpture supported by the plinth previously, this new work still draws its context from the surrounding buildings and nearby recent histories. Phelan was inspired by the different forms of emancipation that have occurred in the area, moving through Irish independence, EU Presidencies, tribunals of inquiry, and important civic events related to marriage equality and reproductive choice.

The subtitle of the work ‘Hold Your Nose’ refers to a collection of ‘sanitary songs’ that was published during the 1884 Dublin Castle Scandal, located in the adjacent building complex which was the site of the British colonial administration. Irish Nationalists revealed homosexual activities of high-ranking British civil servants, using this as proof of corrupt and immoral British rule. The poetry pamphlet instructs ‘decent men’ to ‘hold their noses’ so not to breath in the perceived debauchery of the castle. Reclaiming this little-known history and subverting this olfactory phrase into the visual realm, builds in a self-critique where flamboyance and failure are united to reveal different narratives about the past.


Notes to Editor

Media contacts

Q4 Public Relations – Sabrina D’Angelo +353 86 0323397

About Sculpture Dublin

‘Sculpture Dublin’ is a Dublin City Council initiative. Launched in July 2020, it is leading the commissioning of a series of new works and rolling out several initiatives to raise public awareness of sculpture in the city, encouraging people to rediscover Dublin through sculpture, imagine new possibilities for art in the public realm, and engage in shared processes of learning and making. Sculpture Dublin is spearheading the investment of €600,000 in the commissioning of six new sculptures for parks and public spaces across Dublin. The full details of the new commissions are available at

About the other Sculpture Dublin sites

The location of O’Connell Plinth outside City Hall on Dame Street for the temporary sculpture was chosen following initial consultation and a survey of sites conducted in 2019. Locations for the new commissions were identified in each of the 5 Dublin City Council Local Administrative Areas. Sculptures will be created by Breda Marron for Ballyfermot People’s Park, Ballyfermot; Corban Walker for Bushy Park, Terenure; Alan Butler for Smithfield Square Lower, Sara Cunningham-Bell for Kildonan Park in West Finglas and TBA for St Anne’s Park, Raheny.

About Artist Alan Phelan

Alan Phelan studied at Dublin City University and Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. His practice involves the production of objects, participatory projects, as well as curating and writing. Selected exhibitions include: Void, Derry; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; RHA, Dublin; The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon; The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery, IMMA, The LAB, Dublin; LCGA, EVA International, Limerick; Solstice, Navan; Chapter, Cardiff; Bonn Kunstmuseum; Detroit Stockholm; Treignac Projet, France; Bozar, Brussels: ŠKUC, Ljubljana; SKC Gallery, Belgrade; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Public works include Kevin Street Library; Fr Collins Park, IMMA formal gardens and Void Offsites Derry.



Words & Things James Merrigan 6 October 2021

Alan Phelan likes words. The artist uses words both precisely and perversely to complicate his things. He is one of our best writers on art in the playfully critical Wayne Koestenbaum vein. The words that inhabit his work – energetically abbreviated and pointed, but promiscuously flirtatious with meanings – hone in on the handsy materiality of his objects, which collapse and conjoin in an amorphous play between thoughts and things while never settling on either (i.e., Once Phelan titled a series of works “Cabbages and Things” influenced by – among many, many other things – The Thing from The Fantastic Four).

There’s a particular handsiness and craftiness (in words and material) to Phelan’s sculpture – something I have personally missed in his detour and détournement into the photographic and filmic of recent years. When thinking of his work, past and present, I cannot shake his earlier papier-mâché sculptures and a specific reference to Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, the changeling who couldn’t shape-shift properly. (*Side note: Odo’s purest form was simple liquid but his failed endeavour to mimic the human form was his desire. Like Plato claimed, the poets (artists and I suppose Odo) were bad imitators of reality.)

Like Plato’s poets or Star Trek’s Odo, Alan Phelan is a bad imitator of reality. His things stick out from reality to align with Aristotle’s notion of art as being not how reality is but how it ought to be. His latest work, a giant, colourful and again handsy candle holder with Play-Doh precision displayed on a plinth flanked by slender and black lolly-pop head street-lights outside Dublin City Hall in the surrounding splendour of Georgian architecture continues this meeting and marriage between things and thoughts in the odd title of the work “RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose,” a title that brings some RGB light to some marvellous hidden histories from colonial Dublin.

In this new sculpture, strayed from the gallery and spawned in the most public of spheres – City Hall and that yellow latticed junction of bus and passerby, Phelan’s “RGB” reference is transposed from a body of work the artist has been working on (and exhibited) for several years (and in several spaces) via his committed revival of an obsolete method of photography, The Joly Screen Process, invented in Ireland in the 1890s by John Joly. Phelan writes somewhere that every colour can be mixed from red, green and blue (RGB). Obviously Phelan is referring to light not pigment, hence the candle holder, or “sconce” (a typical Phelan word), to denote a decorative and bracketed tool for light in times and places when there was none. Today there is no escape from light so Phelan’s candle holder becomes a metaphor for other things, such as emancipation, transparency, liberty and hope. That said, the artist’s candle holder performs thingfully as pigment but thoughtfully as light, and so double binds become double entendres in a doubling up between what we see and what we imagine, what we can touch and what we desire, what is symbolic and what is allegory.

The word “sconce” has more to it than meets the eye or the mind too. From old French, esconse can be translated as “lantern, hiding place.” Whereas abscondre – “to hide” originates from the Latin abscondere “to hide, conceal, put out of sight.” It’s very complicated (but fun if you are into this type of thing) in terms of the words that denote the things in Phelan’s art. This hyperlinked etymology is counter-intuitive to what a candle holder does in the world, show the way, especially “sconce”: a bracketed candle holder attached to a wall for a torch or candle. Obviously, “hiding place” or to “put out of sight” also plays into the subtitle of the work which, if you do your homework (in the artist’s words) “refers to a collection of ‘sanitary songs’ that was published during the 1884 Dublin Castle Scandal, located in the adjacent building complex which was the site of the British colonial administration. Irish Nationalists revealed homosexual activities of high-ranking British civil servants, using this as proof of corrupt and immoral British rule. The poetry pamphlet instructs ‘decent men’ to ‘hold their noses’ so not to breath in the perceived debauchery of the castle.”

Now… if you are one of those New Critics or Object Orientated Ontologists who believe art or objects exist in and of themselves, autonomous from the world in which they inhabit in the appreciation, interpretation and experience of them in the world, then Phelan’s candle holder, sconce or whatever you want to call it, will rise up out of the grey city as a colourful, somewhat gaudy and kitsch sculpture to inflame or douse you as you pass by. Without words or context you may pick up on the RGB and foliage that snakes up the arms of this thing. Stall your bike or stride you might notice the form of the sculpture has a tactile appearance like that of hand-raised pastry. From across the road you might even pick up on the contrasting classical and straight architecture that helps to project this kindergarten splat forward from its grey institutional perch directly beneath and opposite the Georgian buildings’ plasterwork and marvelous hidden histories that inspired it. You might even speculate towards some reference to light or liberty in the upward thrust of its historical purpose and form. But contemporary art comes with passengers and baggage, and they are called context, history, and us.

Can we desire Phelan’s new play thing outside City Hall? Surely not! Is it a matter of taste? No! The sculpture does that thing that Andy Warhol did so well by vying taste against desire, so we are left unstuck. The threesome of red, green and blue work as light, or with light, but not pigment. The RGB of Phelan’s John Joly screens is lovely because it disguises the monster with three backs, a ménage à hulk, devil, smurf. Here RGB wrestles rather than blends in Baroque drama and Rococo frivolity. It’s like modern art has once again become a victim of a nutcase’s bucket of paint (three in this instance); the artist anticipates offence before it can be performed.

Alan Phelan’s sculpture at City Hall is not a symbol, like Lady Liberty, but a free-floating allegory drenched in signification. It’s cloaked in ideas of emancipation from the back alleyways of history and the sensible redescription of those histories in unlikely and unwieldy forms that can melt the heart but will invariably melt the mind. What RGB Sconce uncovers is the silhouette of history, a candle that shines a light upon itself to demystify and liberate itself from symbolism, from one meaning or message, from us tasting and desiring machines. This is not a healthy classical sculpture – like the grey civic building that looms behind it with a bad taste in its mouth – but an unhealthy baroque one. It disrobes its pluralism in plain sight, a sad clown wearing a flasher’s rain-mack underneath red, green and blue makeup with a knowing smile. Layers.

—James Merrigan










Published at the Office of the ” WEEKLY NEWS,”












No. 1.  




On a somewhat recent evening 

Hearing angry shouts and shrill, 

I, being curious, like my neighbours, 

With them hastened to Cork-hill, 

There were many urchins yelling 

Like a rookery of crows. 

When I queried, “What’s the trouble?” 

Cried an arab, “Hold your nose! 

Decent man, that’s Dublin Castle, 

Where they live ‘beneath the rose’; 

If you’ve got a grain of wisdom 

When you pass it hold your nose.” 



Holding hard my facial handle, 

Much amazed, I asked again: 

“What’s the cause of all this racket, 

Please to tell me, slowly then?” 

And with great deliberation 

He made answer: “Now, suppose 

You would take some friendly counsel, 

Go your way and hold your nose. 

I have said that’s Dublin Castle 

Where they live ‘beneath the rose’; 

But if you’ve a grain of wisdom 

Be advised and hold your nose.” 



I was ambling slowly onwards,  

My bewilderment complete, 

When ’midst sabres, guns, and bayonets, 

Foxy Jack pranced up the street, 

Cymbals, drums, and bugles playing 

“This is how the money goes”; 

“Right you are,” I muttered inly, 

Meanwhile holding tight my nose. 

“Sure enough,” I grumbled crossly, 

“That’s the way the money goes”; 

Don’t be rash,” replied that urchin, 

“Pass along and hold your nose.” 



Pah! the air was foul and reeky; 

I was growing faint and ill—  

Tortured fancy never painted 

Half the horrors of Cork-hill. 

French and Bolton—pause and ponder, 

Loyal folks—your gods be those! 

Wirrasthrue! Tel homme, tel maitre. 

Blur an agurs, hould your nose. 

This is gentle Earl Spencer, 

And his firm supporters those; 

Aptly said, “Like man, like master.” 

Friendly counsel, “Hold your nose.” 



Though dark clouds still dim the sunlight, 

We have fallen on brighter days— 

Praise to those who dared the danger 

Hid in filthy, devious ways! 

Oh! a debt beyond repaying 

Ireland to O’Brien owes; 

Still when passing Cornwall Castle 

‘Twere as well to hold your nose. 

Cornwall Castle! Cornwall Castle! 

Where they live “beneath the rose,” 

Much I fear your days are numbered— 

There goes Spencer! Hold your nose! 



No. 2.  




There is a spot in Dublin—perhaps you know it well—  

‘Tis opposite the Castle gate, but, oh! it has a smell; 

A foul one, too, och wirrasthru! for Erin pure and mild—  

For Erin of the saintly sons and maidens undefiled. 



But hold your nose, and use your toes,  

And like an arrow fly;  

Take care, don’t wait outside the gate 

Whene’er you pass it by. 



Worse than the odour of the tree that spreads destruction round,  

Worse than the stench of charnel house its fetid fumes are found;  

Worse than the wind in torrid climes that desolates the plain 

Is the odour at the Castle gate that stupefies the brain. 



But hold your nose, and use your toes, 

And like an arrow fly; 

Take care, don’t wait outside the gate 

Whene’er you pass it by. 



They say that lime is very good to cleanse the foulest air, 

And acids, too, that doctors use, are good beyond compare; 

Then whitewash all inside the wall, and use your acids well— 

Don’t let them out without a coat, for, phew! they have a smell. 



But hold your nose, and use your toes, 

And like an arrow fly; 

Take care, don’t wait outside the gate 

Whene’er you pass it by. 



No. 3. 





There’s a stronghold of the Saxon on Cork-hill— 

Hold your nose! 

Its foul odours all the Christian virtues kill— 

Hold your nose! 

Our fair city’s darkest blot, 

Scene of many a fiendish plot, 

As you near the noisome spot 

Hold your nose! 



In a naseous moral cesspool near the gate— 

Hold your nose! 

Countless filth-engendered vipers congregate— 

Hold your nose! 

And pollute our Irish air: 

Shun it as the hydra’s lair, 

But should business take you there 

Hold your nose! 



Forget not ’tis the spawning ground of sin— 

Hold your nose! 

Remember all are lost who enter in— 

Hold your nose! 

Do not lightly venture nigh, 

From its baneful shadow fly; 

As you pass it swiftly by 

Hold your nose. 



Were its grimy, blackened walls with tongues endowed— 

Hold your nose! 

Every cranny, every stone would cry aloud, 

“Hold your nose!” 

There opiates strong and deep 

Truth and justice lull to sleep, 

Through the gates hell’s vapours creep— 

Hold your nose! 



Lowest parasites and panderers’ resort— 

Hold your nose!  

Where the “firm and gentle Spencer” keeps his court— 

Hold your nose! 

There, by corruption’s flood, 

Upas plants unnumbered bud, 

And the floors are stained with blood— 

Hold your nose! 



Moral reprobates and lepers throng his hall— 

Hold your nose! 

And prone before the shrine of Mammon fall— 

Hold your nose! 

Skilled in every knavish art, 

Base of mind and black of heart, 

Oh! their souls are in the mart— 

Hold your nose! 



‘The Castle, with its tenants, stands confessed—  

Hold your nose! 

A hideous cancer on our country’s breast— 

Hold your nose! 

There the vilest wins the prize, 

While its strangled victims’ cries 

Ascend and pierce the skies— 

Hold your nose! 



Since O’Brien with a spirit strong and keen— 

Hold your nose!  

Has placed the odious den in quarantine— 

Hold your nose! 

Evil things with hell allied 

In its dark recesses hide: 

Till ’tis cleansed and purified, 

Hold your nose!  



No. 4. 




The smell of Dublin Castle 

Defiles the passing air, 

So great is the corruption 

That grows and lingers there, 

Den of abomination, 

Source of unnumbered woes, 

When passing it, good people, 

Be sure to hold your nose! 



Alas! the grimy Castle 

Grows dirtier with time, 

Still adding to its record 

Of base and filthy crime. 

Each day’s new revelation 

Fresh light upon it throws— 

When passing it, good people, 

Be sure to hold your nose! 



The ghosts of dead men wander 

Within its hateful walls; 

Hear cry is, “Murder! Murder!” 

Each voice for vengeance calls; 

The smell of Sodom rises 

Upon each wind that blows— 

When passing it, good people, 

Be sure to hold your nose! 



Let Spencer and Trevelyan 

Enjoy the frightful place— 

What shocks the rest of Europe 

To them is no disgrace. 

But while from Dublin Castle 

The vile pollution flows, 

When passing it, good people, 

Be sure to hold your nose! 



No. 5. 





There’s a tainted spot in Dublin quite convenient to Cork-hill, 

It was foul and rotten years ago, “tis foul and rotten still, 

From poisoned gases rising there a public peril grows, 

So if Fate should set you near it you had better hold your nose. 

When you pass it raise your elbow, and your fingers tightly close 

On that dainty nasal organ which is briefly called your nose. 



In the backwoods of Columbia thrives the inoffensive skunk, 

But if you were asked to touch him, well I calculate you’d funk, 

And you’d think of flowery regions where the mignonette and rose 

Load the breezes with those perfumes rare that fascinate the nose; 

But the skunk is clean and wholesome, as upon his way he goes 

To the offal in the Castle that makes each man hold his nose. 



People say malignant vapours lie upon the Poddle’s breast, 

And that darling Anna Liffey carries on her wave the pest.  

True, perhaps; but sweet and fragrant seems each river, as it flows, 

To the mind when ’mid the odours which on Cork-hill greet the nose. 

And while Poyntz presides within it, arch-dis-Spencer of our woes, 

Not a child should pass the Castle without holding its small nose. 



The Chinese with their stink-pots are in battle very bold, 

And with these unsavory weapons they slay myriads untold, 

But they’d vanquish all creation, quickly rout their bravest foes,  

Were they armed with those vile vapours against which we hold fast the nose. 

Oh! the science of the chemist nought more horrid can disclose 

Than these fumes from Dublin Castle which now make us hold the nose.  



If brave Erin’s noble rivers were all waters of Cologne, 

If the scented streams of Araby were ours, and ours alone, 

And they washed the Castle’s basement till the century would close, 

Still, if George and John were reigning there, you’d have to hold your nose. 

Oh! until the mass of rubbish lying there to decompose 

Shall be carted off, whoe’er goes by will have to hold his nose.  



No. 6.  





Pray, honest folk, be mindful 

Of the alien’s social pest 

Which now defiles our city— 

I mean the “Felon’s Nest.” 

Should business bring you nigh it, 

While the wind unkindly blows, 

You’d better hurry by it 

And firmly hold your nose! 

The smell from it is trying, 

All laws of health defying, 

For disinfection crying, 

So you’d better hold your nose! 



Within its slimy chambers 

What loathsome spectres dwell! 

Corruption, falsehood, bribery, 

And crime as foul as hell; 

While in its secret dungeons 

Poor victims decompose— 

Each decent man that passes 

Must surely hold his nose.  

Now let us agitate it, 

And rightly fumigate if, 

Until we all abate it— 

But meanwhile hold your nose! 



Methinks how must poor “Foxy” 

Contrive to eat and drink 

With George, the “English gentleman,” 

‘Mid such a moral stink; 

But usage and the salary 

Which yearly from it grows 

May make it aromatic 

To the autocratic nose. 

But we shall not be stifled  

That our pockets may be rifled; 

Too long with it we’ve trifled, 

So now for manly blows! 




No. 7. 





Passing round by Dublin Castle 

I on yester evening saw 

At the gate a bobby sitting 

With his baton in his paw. 

I went o’er and said, “Poor fellow, 

Have you corns upon your toes?” 

But the Blue gave back for answer, 

Hurry by and hold your nose! 



Hurry by and hold your nose! 

Hurry by and hold your nose! 

Master Nick is in the Castle— 

Hurry by and hold your nose!” 



“Friend,” he said, “in yonder palace 

There’s distemper, fatal, dread— 

Binns Trevelyan is in trouble, 

Foxy Jack is sick in bed; 

And I know of something rotten 

Hidden there by Erin’s foes— 

Oh! the stench is diabolic, 

Hurry by, and hold your nose, 



Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

There are lepers in the Castle— 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



I upraised my nasal organ, 

And I felt a horrid smell 

Coming from that den Satanic 

Where the foes of freedom dwell! 

Such an odour surely never 

From the deep, black pit arose; 

‘Twas no wonder bobby told me 

Hurry by and-hold your nose! 



Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

There’s a plague-spot in the Castle— 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



Soon I fled away in terror: 

From that nasty, evil place, 

Where base men are plotting ever 

To destroy the Celtic race; 

And while rushing on I vowed me 

That till life’s career would close 

I’d remember well the warning, 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Where the Cork-hill rats are prowling 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



Now, to each true son of Erin, 

Who will read my simple lay, 

My advice is, in conclusion, 

To remember what I say: 

When you meet a swell official, 

Dressed in gaudy Castle clothes, 

To escape contamination 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 

Oh! when passing Brimstone Castle 

Hurry by, and hold your nose! 



No. 8. 





I’ve been up in Dublin lately 

On a visit to a friend, 

And I’ve seen its buildings stately 

And its streets from end to end. 

Need I say I was delighted 

At the scenes that round me rose?— 

When my friend, somewhat excited, 

Cried out quickly, “Hold your nose!” 



“Friend, (in accents reprehensive), 

‘You’re,” said I, “on joking bent; 

Surely there is nought offensive 

To a nose of keenest scent? 

In this place so grand and splendid 

Everything in order flows,” 

But my friend abruptly ended 

My remarks with “Hold your nose!” 



“You on hoaxing me are bent, sir,” 

I replied He answered back,  

“Don’t you know ’tis Earl Spencer— 

Lately known as Foxy Jack— 

Dwells herein; but wait a minute: 

Mark that crowd as on it goes.” 

As I live there’s something in it— 

Each one sings out, “Hold your nose”! 



“What means this?” I cried in wonder; 

“Nought unclean could live, I’m sure, 

In that noble castle yonder, 

And the fields look fresh and pure.” 

Quoth my friend, “You’re simple, very; 

Stolid as the cawing crows 

Down there ’midst the hills of Kerry, 

Else like us you’d “hold your nose.” 



‘Know you not famed Dublin Castle— 

Den of infamy and sin, 

Scene of shame and crime and wassail, 

‘Fair without and foul within,’ 

Hotbed where each bitter evil 

For our land luxuriant grows, 

Haunt of ghost and ghoul and devil?— 

Now, my friend, just ‘hold your nose.’ 



“Here “tis said that Georgie Bolton 

And his master, Johnny Poyntz, 

Sights have seen so dread, revolting, 

As to shiver all their joints; 

Poor Myles Joyce, by Marwood strangling 

His avenging spirit shows, 

In mid air before them dangling— 

Ha! I see you ‘hold your nose.’ 



“But some chaps are undertaking 

All the Castle’s crew to rout— 

See its walls already shaking; 

Soon we’ll see them all cleared out. 

Good, O’Brien! Bravo, Healy! 

Break upon their dark repose! 

Use your lingual weapons freely, 

But remember— ‘Hold your nose!’ 



“What a blessing for our nation 

When the day all-glorious comes 

That shall see the degradation 

Of Red Spencer and his bums— 

That shall see her rise victorious 

O’er her mean, intriguing foes, 

And her flag wave proudly o’er us: 

Then we need not ‘hold our nose!’” 



No. 9. 





You tourists so gay who day after day 

Pass through our fair city some pleasure to find, 

Beware lest you chance, in escaping from France, 

To meet a worse plague than you’re leaving behind, 

There’s a house on Cork-hill where our rulers distil 

A poison that blights, wheresoever it goes; 

Should you pass by the gate, either early or late, 

Don’t neglect the precaution of holding your nose. 



Keep a hold of your nose—keep fast hold of your nose 

When you pass by that grim, gloomy chamber of woes; 

For the air all around is the worst to be found— 

So don’t offer to loosen the grip on your nose. 



You peasants who come from your Western home 

To escape for a week all the toils that perplex, 

Should you happen to be a bit curious to see 

The place where the nooses are made for your necks, 

If you speak of Myles Joyce you must lower your voice 

Or else in Kilmainham your visit will close; 

So when passing that way, in the night or the day, 

Just keep one of your hands tightly pressed to your nose. 


Chorus — 

Keep a hold of your nose—keep fast hold of your nose 

Upon every road where the “foxy one” goes; 

For when he is out there’s contagion about, 

And you should be careful to muffle your nose, 



You citizens all, from King’s-bridge to North-wall, 

Who always are loyal, determined, and true— 

Who cherish a strong recollection of wrong 

Which recent occurrences serve to renew— 

Keep away from that spot where each murderous plot 

To strangle the nation is hatched by her foes; 

It’s neighbourhood shun, or else pass in a run, 

And still keep your handkerchief up to your nose. 



Keep a hold of your nose—keep fast hold of your nose— 

For the ghosts of its victims are standing in rows, 

Pointing each fleshless hand at a foul, filthy band, 

 And the other hand rigidly grasping the nose. 



You broad-shouldered “B’s” and you crime-sniffing “G’s” 

Who pass every day through those portals of sin, 

So stately erect, did you ever “detect” 

The cauldron of villainy seething within? 

Though for a long time overflowing with crime, 

Its odour increases as older it grows, 

So be sure ere you pass to let down a stiff glass, 

And keep two of your digits at least to your nose, 



Keep a hold of your nose—keep fast hold of your nose— 

Imagine it’s one of the empire’s worst foes; 

Hold it tight to your lip with inflexible grip, 

For when searching for pantries you’ll want all your nose. 



No. 10. 





In the grimy den upon Cork-hill 

The English lepers lie; 

They hear in deep, sepulchral tones 

Their murdered victims cry. 

They see within the ghost of Joyce, 

And watch his dying throes; 

They hear without the people’s shout, 

“Pass by and hold your nose.” 



Upon the sights they witness there 

They look with bated breath; 

They see brave men in dungeons bound 

And others “done to death.” 

They vainly close their weary eyes, 

They vainly seek repose; 

For still they hear the mocking cry, 

“Pass by and hold your nose.” 



They smoke havannahs, sip their wine, 

To drive away their care; 

But still their victims, pale and grim, 

Surround them everywhere. 

And still the memory of the past 

 Keeps piling on the woes; 

Stentorian voices still call out, | 

“Pass by and hold your nose.” 



No. 11. 





Oh! sure it is a blessed thing 

To live in darling Dublin city: 

At least it was in days gone by, 

But ’tis not now, and more’s the pity. 

The Castle—called the seat of “law 

And order”—now the fact discloses, 

Is but a sink of vice and sin, 

And to all evil predisposes. 

Oh! purest, sweetest Erin dear, 

Thy virtue’s light its crime exposes: 

Its moral atmosphere’s so foul 

That men in passing “hold their noses.” 



‘Tis said Augeus, king, of old, 

Had stables famed in mythic story: 

With thousands three of beasts ’twas stored— 

Its dirty state he deemed his glory! 

Till Hercules in one short day 

Cleared out the reeking, rank enclosure 

From all the filth which in it lay 

For thirty years in soft composure! 

That horrid Castle, mother dear, 

Thy virtues’ light its crime exposes; 

Yea, e’en the dogs while running by 

Put up their paws against their noses! 



Sure ’tis a charnel fetid, dark, 

Its ancient rival far outvying, 

To our pure land a very curse, 

Its hateful scenes to Heav’n outcrying! 

Ah! we’ve a Hercules as strong 

As he who cleansed the Augean stable— 

One worthy of a nation’s love— 

And heroes great as those in fable: 

They’ll cleanse that stable, mother dear, 

From every stain Heaven’s light discloses. 

No wonder when they’re walking near 

Thy sons look pained and hold their noses. 



Now, brothers all, both great and small, 

Give ear unto my humble ditty, 

And listen to the warning cry 

That’s running through your noble city: 

Whene’er you’re bound to pass Cork-hill 

Just turn your faces to the Liffey, 

And, sisters dear, don’t stop anear, 

But shun the Castle in a jiffy: 

Rush by as from an open drain 

Which every sort of stench discloses, 

And raise meanwhile the bold refrain 

Of “Hold your noses! hold your noses!” 




No. 12. 





Come, all ye sons of Granuaile, I hope ye will draw near, 

And listen to the simple lines I’ll lay before you here, 

Concarnin’ of the Castle crew—the cause of all our woes: 

Oh! when ye pass that festerin’ mass be sure to hold your nose! 



“Tis many a day since o’er the say they came to Erin’s isle 

To crush us with their cursed laws and lure us with their wile; 

They wrecked and racked, they hewed and hacked, as well poor Granue knows, 

And now her name they drag in shame, and make min hold their nose. 



No friends they made who’d give them aid since first they landed here, 

But scoundrels base that shame our race, from Antrim to Cape Clear; 

And now, indeed, their dirty breed in deeper evil grows, 

Till every hand throughout the land is lifted to the nose. 



In times gone by snakes had to fly when bould Saint Patrick spoke, 

On Clontarf’s plain Brian crushed the Dane and broke the tyrant yoke, 

And, oh! were they alive to day, ’tis bravely they’d expose 

These sarpents vile who rule our isle and makes us hold our nose. 



So now, my frinds, my verses inds; if I could have my way, 

It’s quick and true this filthy crew we’d hunt across the say. 

But this I say, God sind this day the curse of all the crows 

On Foxy Jack and all his pack who make us hold our nose!  



No. 13. 





They’re talking of the Liffey’s smell, 

Of “dwellings” moaning sadly; 

But sure each “cit” can plainly tell 

Where cleansing’s wanted badly. 

Just walk towards the Castle Yard, 

Where “Jack” betimes reposes; 

But when you’re there be on your guard, 

And tightly hold your noses. 



If Jack should go abroad again 

To take a small vacation, 

Petition him, and ask him then 

For better sanitation. 

And if with phrases bland and sweet 

Before a crowd he poses, 

You’ll quickly get him to retreat 

By holding tight your noses. 



The other day at the hotel 

Of cleanness he was telling; 

Before his speech it had been well 

If he had cleansed his dwelling. 

So if you pass that hateful spot — 

Be sure to take some roses; 

And if perchance you have them not, 

Walk fast and hold your noses. 



No. 14. 


BY “TD” 



Ye that visit or are citizens of Dublin city fair, 

Of a castle foul and dangerous I’d have you to beware; 

‘Tis the plague-spot of our country, and the smell that from it flows 

Is so vile that when you’re near it you had better hold your nose. 



This pestilential castle has its place upon Cork-hill; 

Grim monsters throng its chambers and its vaults and cellars fill; 

They lap our country’s life-blood, and they fatten on our woes— 

But you need not fear the creatures if you only hold your nose. 



A hateful breed of sable rats that came from England’s shores

Have taken up their lodgings on the Castle’s slimy floors, 

A nation’s curse lies over it, dishonour in if grows— 

If you’d shun its foul miasma when you’re near it hold your nose. 



It has been the grand promoter of our country’s woe and strife; 

lts bribe of gold oft whetted the assassin’s ready knife; 

Long has it been the rendezvous of Erin’s crafty foes 

And no one e’er should pass it without holding fast his nose. 



Oh! never, dear old Ireland, can your sons know peace or rest 

Till this plague-producing Castle has been swept from off your breast: 

If the rats and all would leave us when their foxy keeper goes, 

Then need Dublin ring no longer with the cry of “Hold your nose!” 



No. 15. 





Go, get your cats; we’ll hunt the rats 

In alleys, lanes, and corners, 

Not Irish bred, but Irish fed, 

Black, brown, and foxy foreigners. 


My brave young men, you’ll know the den 

Where this vile brood reposes; 

I need not tell, you’ll get the smell— 

So mind you hold your noses. 



The Red Buck first, he is the worst, 

A famous one for tearing; 

The next to Bolt in wild revolt, 

Has caused a lot of swearing. 

The next is French, but mind the stench— 

It’s aught but oil of roses; 

You seem to smell the brimstone cell, 

So mind you hold your noses. 



We’ll soon see fall the Corn(er)wall— 

We’ve seen the Pillars tumble; 

Then left and right the rats take flight, 

With many a squeak and grumble. 

Hurroo! they go! there’s tallyho! 

Not one behind reposes. 

Go, run them down through all the town, 

But mind you hold your noses. 



No. 16. 





There’s something rotten in the Castle- 

What the mischief must it be, 

When a neighbour or a stranger 

Cannot pass its gateways free 

From a loathsome kind of feeling 

Caused by gusts of noxious air 

Spreading from the gloomy casements 

O’er the public thoroughfare? 



Hold your nose and press it tightly 

When you near the Castle gates; 

Bide your time and watch it rightly, 

Give the wink to all your mates. 



There’s something rotten in the Castle; 

Poisonous vapours gather there; 

Noxious odours fast are spreading 

From each chamber, hall, and stair. 

Lest this new and strange contagion 

Should unconscious mortals meet, 

Haste to pass some words of warning 

To your friends in every street. 



Hold your nose and press it tightly 

Whene’er you near the Castle gates; 

Bide your time and watch it rightly, 

Give the wink to all your mates. 



No. 17. 





Now “Hold your nose” is all the rage 

When passing by Cork-hill, 

For there a fetid spot is seen 

That makes one sorely ill. 

If travelling nigh that sodden ground, 

‘Neath which the Poddle flows— 

Where nameless crime pollutes the air— 

I’d have you “hold your nose.” 

Let each one this a warning take, 

As on through life he goes: 

When Dublin Castle meets your view 

Just grin and “hold your nose.” 



Pandora’s box of bitter pills, 

That vex us on life’s road, 

Could not afford such frightful ills 

As that corrupt abode. 

Then stigmatise, both one and all, 

The spot from whence there rose 

Such tainted, foul, mephitic airs 

As made you hold your nose.” 

Let each one this a warning take, 

As on through life he goes: 

When Dublin Castle meets your view 

Just grin and ‘hold your nose.” 







Oh! the scenery is fair 

That delights us every where 

As this isle of ours we Views 

Famed for worth, and beauty too. 

But there 1s to taint its air 

Still one pestilential lair: 

When from thence the zephyr blows, 

Hold your nose, boys—hold your nose! 



Dublin Castle foul and fell, 

Tile to sight and rank of smell, 

How each virtuous sire and son 

Strives thy tainted air to shun!  

Traveller, make no delay 

If by the Castle lies your way: 

Through its gates what foulness goes — 

Hold your nose, boys—hold your nose. 



Phoenix Park or Stephen’s-green 

How delightful is the scene! 

Dublin with its noble stream, 

Silvered by the bright sun’s beam, 

With its monuments and spires 

How each patriot heart it fires 

But the Castle comes in view; 

Mark the stench— what shall we do 

Why, till out of sight it goes, 

Hold your nose, boys—hold your nose! 



No. 19. 





I’m a simple country gossoon who has lately come to town 

To see your public buildings of world-wide renown; 

And as Parliament’s not working I hoped to see the foes 

Of that horrible old nuisance which made me hold my nose. 



The other day, while gazing on the House in College-green, 

And thinking of poor Erin and the glorious days she’d seen, 

I saw great crowds pass by me—’tis the truth I tell, dear knows— 

They had just passed by the Castle, and each man  held his nose. 



For some time I had been wondering why Henry Grattan stood 

With his back towards Dublin Castle—which l thought was very rude; 

I wondered now no longer, for the smell that from it rose  

Made even bronze King Billy put his hand up to his nose! 



I had seen your great museum and old Trinity as well; 

I then went towards the Castle, but I could not stand the smell: 

For ‘twas here that John and Georgie—at least so the story goes—  

Tried to hide that nameless horror which made me hold my nose.  



With pity for the bobbies who loitered round the gate, 

I rushed away like lightning, before ‘twould be too late;  

To a druggist’s shop I hurried, for I shivered to the toes, 

And found relief in smelling-salts for my offended nose. 



I very soon recovered, and was just upon my feet 

When Foxy Jack came prancing with his soldiers through the street. 

For “hats off” he looked around him, but the cause of all our woes 

Got his proper salutation—every Paddy held his nose. 



Now, all you country gossoons, I’ll give you some advice: 

If you should come to Dublin, and would still keep spruce and nice, 

Don’t go near to Dublin Castle, for the smell would spoil your clothes, 

And should you meet the Red Man put your fingers to your nose.  



No. 20. 




We daily hear, 

With growing, fear, 

Of telegrams apprising 

The plague’s advance 

Through Spain and France, 

The sons of men chastising; 

But, friends, a plague 

Much worse, more vague, 

The fruit of pagan wassail, 

Quite near us lurks 

And havoc works— 

Its hotbed is the Castle. 

So hold your noses; 

Remember, health imposes 

On all who will 

Not shun Cork-hill, 

To tightly hold their noses. 



The dread simmoom 

‘Mid fearful gloom 

Sweeps o’er the desert, sowing 

The seeds of death 

Unless the breath 

Be held while it is blowing.  

More baneful still, 

More sure to kill, 

Ts that dire exhalation 

Which hangs around  

The Castle ground— 

Cork-hill’s abomination. 

Then hold your noses 

The scent of all the roses 

That ever grew 

Were vain for you, 

So therefore hold your noses. 



Take my advice— 

Let nought entice 

You o’er the infected border.  

Though those within  

For ever din 

The cry of “law and order,” 

Yet all the time 

Inhuman crime: 

Finds there full many a vassal: 

Therefore beware, 

Don’t breathe the air 

Round French and Cornwall’s castle. 

Hold your noses; 

A horror there reposes 

Of which a sniff 

Would leave you stiff, 

So mind and hold your noses. 



No. 21. 





Whene’er you roam by old Cork-hill 

To hold your nose take care, 

Or else you surely will inhale 

The smell that rises there. 

Oh! filthy rats and reptiles vile 

Upon that hill repose; 

So when you pass it on your way 

Take care to hold your nose!  



Though you might roam from day to day 

This weary world around, 

Not one such vile or filthy place 

Could anywhere be found. 

The balmy breeze becometh foul 

When o’er Cork-hill it blows— 

So when you pass the Castle gates 

Take care to hold your nose! 



How strange that in our lovely isle 

So foul a den could be: 

Sure, Innisfail was ever famed 

For lore and sanctity: 

She knew no filthy Castle rats 

Till came our Saxon foes— 

Now when you pass that horrid den 

Take care to hold your nose! 



But soon the light of liberty 

Shall shine upon our isle: 

Then from the Castle shall depart 

All creatures foul and vile. 

The gentle breeze shall then be pure 

When past Cork-hill it blows; 

But till that time, when passing by, 

Take care to hold your nose! 



No. 22.



As I sat one evening musing, 

With my elbow on my knee, 

Methought I heard a whisper, 

And a warning came to me 

To beware of Dublin Castle 

And the things that dwell therein, 

For there’s nothing decent near it— 

Naught but vice and crime and sin. 

Just then there came a murmur, 

And these solemn words arose: 

When you’re passing the Castle 

Be you sure to hold your nose. 



Being curious, out I sallied,  

And towards the Castle went, 

And I observed some hundred others 

In the same direction bent. 

Just then I saw the Castle, 

And the atmosphere was thick— 

Its effect was so unpleasant 

That I soon was feeling sick. 

I essayed to pass the building, 

But the odour that arose 

Set me very soon retreating 

With my hand upon my nose, 



I returned then to my chamber 

A sadder, wiser man, 

And I now would say to others 

Take a warning when you can  

For if I my own [ … ] 

I would ne’er [ … ] 

Which unto t [ … ] 

Leaves me [ … ] 

Still, [ … ] 

T [ … ] 

T [ … ] 






[ … ] loss on original document 



Lord Mayor Unveils First Work of the Sculpture Dublin Programme at Dublin City Hall

Alan Phelan’s ‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’ offers itself as a symbol of hope for all of Dublin

For immediate release: September 29th, 2021: The Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland today formally unveiled ‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’ by artist, Alan Phelan. This is the first of six new sculptures as a part of the Sculpture Dublin initiative.

Following a competitive commissioning process, Alan Phelan was awarded the commission in December 2020 for the temporary sculpture on The O’Connell Plinth which was unanimously agreed by the judging panel as the most appropriate for the site.

The brief asked artists to respond to the historical plinth that has stood empty outside of City Hall in the centre of Dublin for over 150 years. The plinth was originally constructed to support the monumental statue of Daniel O’Connell, ‘The Liberator’ by John Hogan, that is now located inside the building. The removal of the statue in the 1860s dispossessed the plinth of its intended purpose that Sculpture Dublin sought to restore.

The newly unveiled sculpture stands over 5 metres tall and brings together a wealth of historic and contemporary references to celebrate emancipation and hope. This is a temporary artwork will be on view outside City Hall for one year.

The New Sculpture ‘RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose’

Alan Phelan’s work frequently questions traditional historical narratives or perceived truths. He looks at small and, sometimes, forgotten details and cross connects and expands them to bring about new understandings and stories.

Emphatically different to the monumental and traditional sculpture that stood on the plinth previously, this new work still draws its context from the surrounding buildings and nearby histories. Alan was inspired by the celebration of different forms of emancipation that have occurred in the area, moving through Irish independence, EU Presidencies, tribunals of inquiry, and important civic events related to marriage equality and reproductive choice. City Hall itself contains many histories and stories from commerce through to civic council chambers, to active participation in a new Ireland. Alan wanted to emphasise the symbolic power of the location.

The strongest historical reference in the proposed work is stucco plasterwork, which all Dubliners know as the familiar and iconic Georgian architecture that is all over the city. However, Alan wanted the sconce or wall mounted candle holder to sidestep the restrained, decorative aspect of Georgian architecture and to play off its roots in the Baroque and Rococo art style, which was more rebellious, theatrical and illogical. As a free standing 5m high 3D printed plastic and paper covered sconce, the sculpture challenges the materiality of monuments normally made in stone or bronze.  The work also builds from the Pop Art enlargements of Claes Oldenburg, and Duchamp’s ideas around the readymade that is a foundation of contemporary art practice.

The subtitle of the work ‘Hold Your Nose’ points to an historic reference that is a reminder that history is often difficult and problematic. The title comes from a poetry pamphlet that was published during the 1884 Dublin Castle Scandal, when Irish Nationalists revealed homosexual activities of high ranking British civil servants, using this as proof of corrupt and immoral British rule. The poem instructs ‘decent men’ to ‘hold their noses’ so not to breath in the perceived debauchery of the castle. Reclaiming this little known history and subverting this term to show how much Ireland has changed was of significant importance to Alan.

The bright red, green, and blue colours of the sculpture are used a lot in Alan’s recent work. Photographic references point to every colour coming from the mixture of red, green, and blue- signifying the diversity of modern Dublin. The candle flames can also be seen as torches. These are often associated with ideas of the enlightenment, as the torch of knowledge, but also ideas around commemoration. Ultimately the work remains open to interpretation.

Speaking today at the unveiling, Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said, “It brings me great pride to unveil this important inaugural piece for the Sculpture Dublin Programme today. Sculpture has played such a vital role in Dublin life, now and historically, and the various stories and perspectives reflected in the artwork strive for a shared sense of place. The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for the entire world and the people of Dublin are no exception. As we move together and begin to slowly emerge from the pandemic, I welcome this glowing symbol of hope in the centre of the city. I encourage Dubliners to go out and engage with not just this newest sculpture, but all the fantastic pieces throughout the city. I want to congratulate Dublin City Council for continuing this ambitious programme throughout the pandemic and I wish them all the best in future unveilings.”

Commissioned artist, Alan Phelan, said: “I am honoured to have been selected to create this very special work for the city. Sculpture Dublin is an incredibly important initiative to bring contemporary sculpture into the public awareness. I would like to thank all the team for their wonderful work and support over the past year in reaching this point. I have always been very interested in presenting alterative and inclusive readings of our shared history and the location of City Hall is the perfect emblem to express these interpretations. I wanted to make a sculpture that looked familiar yet was rooted in a tangle of historical references that bring different contexts and content to the work. I hope Dubliners will enjoy this new sculpture and create their own multiple interpretations and personal meanings from it.”

Programme Director of Sculpture Dublin, Karen Downey, said; “The O’Connell Plinth has stood empty in the centre of Dublin for over 150 years; a plinth without a purpose. Alan’s sculpture has brought it back to life in a really exciting way that reflects the historic, contemporary and diverse city of Dublin and its inhabitants. This unveiling is the culmination of over a year of hard work and collaboration and I am looking forward to the rest of the programme’s unveilings.”