We approach the 40th anniversary of the blowing up of Nelson's Pillar in March 1966. I was 11 years old when that event occured and I must be one of the youngest today who can tell a tale of being up the famous pillar. My little story is also a reminder of an era of exceptional respect for the clergy.....
One of my pals had an aunt who was a nun. In 1965 she took my pal and I along with a few of his siblings into O'Connell Street, Dublin to see the movie Mary Poppins. This movie seemed to be running endlessly for up to a year in the Metropole Cinema (the cinema is long gone - it was beside Eason's bookshop).
Coming out of the cinema after the matinee the towering Nelson's Pillar dominated the street. This wonderful nun said she would take us up to the top of the pillar as a further treat. We joined the end of the very long queue leading to the pillar. In her penguin robes the nun was instantly noticed by the ticket men. Within seconds we were being ushered past the hundreds of waiting people to the pillar entrance. My initial reaction was one of utter shock to be jumping a big queue. In school or elsewhere I would be a dead man walking! I looked nervously at the faces in the queue as we walked briskly past. Everyone was looking at us. However there was not one word of anger, no scowling faces. Quite the opposite in fact - I recall many warm smiles and even a few pleasant salutations to the nun as we passed. My shock melted into a wonderful sense of privilege and the nun grew hugely in my respect for her powers. We were like royalty, this was red carpet treatment!
We wound our way gingerly up the poorly lit narrow spiral stone steps inside the pillar. On eventually reaching the top we looked down at O'Connell Street far below and triumphantly noted the size of the queue still stretching up the street. To me the shaft of the pillar below us really seemed too narrow and fragile to support us all on our high viewing platform. We were even looking down at the roof on the huge GPO nearby. I also had a close look at the statue of Admiral Nelson himself on his pedestal just above us.
It was a great and memorable day. I enjoyed Mary Poppins, the excitement of Nelson's Pillar and I learned (alas temporarily!) that it was good practice to have a nun with you in a long queue!
PS - I wonder if that nun is still alive, I don't even recall her name, she was a kind person indeed.