Dublin City Centre has never lacked for Street Characters such as Johnny Fortycoats and Bang Bang who used to prowl O’Connell Street in my youth or An Lár as it is nicknamed by Dubliners from the destination boards on city buses. . A later addition was the woefully evangelistic ‘Mad Mary’, a beloved Dublin street character who danced on O’Connell Street from the late 1970s to 2002. She added greatly to the gaiety of the scene whilst peddling her incomprehensible Catholic mantras. Due to a deteriorating eyesight Mary had to hang up her dancing shoes and move back into her family home.
A Facebook page called ‘WHO REMEMBERS THE WOMAN THAT DANCED ON O CONNELL ST BESIDE THE ANNA LIVIA’ has already attracted over 14,000 fans. The growth of the page and the flood of comments wishing her well as ill health took hold has also prompted articles in the Irish Daily Mail and The Star in recent years. Though she might have been known for her conservative catholic views, no one can deny her importance in the social history of the capital. Her real name was Margaret Mary Dunne originally from Kilkenny and the former school teacher was a mother of six, or as Irish Catholics would call it, a small family.
She died recently at the age of 82 and was buried last week leaving an unofficial vacancy for a Dublin City Centre character. Perhaps one of the 450,000 “artists” drawing the dole and working on their first novel will step forward? One thing is certain, Dublin’s centre is a slightly less colourful place now that Dancing Mary has gone to the big céilí in the sky.