“There should be more statues with big hair”. That was my first thought upon seeing the Phil Lynott memorial (located just off Grafton Street — one of Dublin’s most-walked thoroughfares — and sculpted by Paul Daly). But as that thought sank in, it was followed by a somewhat less silly one… “I think this is the first statue of a black person that I’ve ever seen… big hair or not”.
I have no doubt that there are statues of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King… maybe even Malcolm X? But I’ve never seen them. I lived in London for a while and pretty much all the statues there are of military conquerors. My favourite of those… statues not conquerors… is the one of Clive of India surveying St. James’ Park. It encapsulates all of the ridiculous pomposity of the British establishment as well as the astonishing arrogance of Empire. Plus it has an inscription on the side which reads… “Clive in the mango tope on the Eve of Plassey” which — for reasons lost in the mists of time and a haze of smoke — was one of the funniest things I’d ever read when I first noticed it.
Anyways, most of London’s statues are memorials to white men who spent their time subjugating brown, black or yellow people. The same is true of most of Europe’s colonial nations… so perhaps in one sense it’s no surprise that the first statue (I think) I’ve seen with an afro should be in a nation that itself spent most of history as a colony. Of course, in another sense it is a surprise. After all, until very recently (the past fifteen years) Ireland was — racially speaking — about as homogeneous a nation as existed. This wasn’t because of any strict immigration policy… merely because no bugger in their right mind would have wanted to come here. For the past few hundred years people have been leaving this island in their droves, and arrivals were few and far between.
All the same, at some point Phil’s ancestors arrived on these shores and the stage was set for Thin Lizzy. I should point out that I’m not a big fan of the band (they had a guitar sound that was always a bit… ummm… widdly for me). Nonetheless, despite the widdliness, I’ll always have a spot in my heart for the classic The Boys Are Back In Town which takes me back to a very special time and place.