In 2004 a plaque commemorating Father Pat Noise was installed on a bridge in Dublin, Ireland. Pat Noise never existed.
I’m a fan of harmless hoaxes – they make the world a more interesting place, imparting some charm and mystery on the otherwise prosaic and pedestrian. And I am also a fan of guerrilla art – it reminds us that public spaces belong to the public, and likewise adds some colour and character to the world around us. The Father Pat Noise plaque is an example of both.
In 1996 the city of Dublin in Ireland installed an underwater digital clock. It was supposed to count down to the Year 2000 one second at a time, part of the country’s celebration of the upcoming millennium. You could see the seconds tick over from the nearby O’Connell Bridge. At least, you could for a little while. Mud and mechanical failures meant that the clock was removed five months after it was installed.
The control panel for the countdown clock was on the bridge itself. When the clock was removed the control panel was removed as well, and that left a little hole in the bridge. In 2004, a commemorative plaque was installed in that hole. It honoured a Catholic priest named Pat Noise, who “died under suspicious circumstances” in 1919. Pat Noise, of course, did not exist.
The plaque was installed in 2004. It took two years for people to notice and ask awkward questions about it. When the city council resolved to remove the hoax plaque, the hoax was defended by city councillor named Dermot Lacey:
Grinning, Cllr Lacey suggested that the plaque should remain in place because it was “a bit of madness, a bit of colour” and that the Council should just admit that they’d been bested and leave it in place. Well, that’s one argument anyway.
There were a couple of half-hearted objections, from Cllr Mary Freeman (who didn’t mind it remaining, as long as it didn’t set some kind of precedent). Another councillor made inarticulate noises about vandalism and defacing our heritage, till it was pointed out to him (by Cllr Kevin Humphreys) that the ‘hole’ the plaque was inserted into was already there. […] Thankfully, Dermot Lacey’s motion was carried.
The plaque was actually removed while the bridge was being cleaned in 2007, but was then reinstalled (presumably by the same guerrilla artists) the same year. And as far as I can tell it’s still there today.
I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.