Morning Star, Scotland Place c.1900
Patrick Byrne Fountain before removal, 1971
Patrick Byrne Fountain after removal to Pownall Square, 1973
In my last post, I bemoaned the apparent loss of the aluminium statue that once graced the Palais de Luxe in Lime Street. It might not have been a masterpiece but its disappearance is in keeping with the loss of a number of statues and ornaments that could have been saved with a more respectful approach. The single greatest loss is the sculpture by Charles Cockerell that once filled the tympanum on St George’s Hall. In their lack of wisdom, the Council decided it was unsafe and had it removed and, scandalously turned into hardcore. Another loss was the fine basalt pillar that once graced the entry to the Mersey Tunnel. Fortunately, the pillar at Birkenhead survives.
The fountain to Patrick Byrne does survive in a very much reduced form in the graveyard of St Anthony’s Church in Scotland Road. The base was rescued and turned into a memorial, although the handsome pillars were lost in the 1970s. Dandy Pat deserves much better – and his story is an essential part of Liverpool’s Irish heritage. His relatively short life (1845-1890) was full on achievement. Arriving penniless in Liverpool from County Wexford at the age of 17, he found work on the docks. Saving any spare money, he bought his way into the licensed trade, soon owning the lavish Morning Star public house in Scotland Place. His sobriquet, Dandy Pat, was in recognition of his smart and somewhat ostentatious dress sense.
A shrewd businessman, he was also a strong figurehead for his community, becoming an Irish Nationalist councillor for one of the two Scotland wards in Liverpool. He was a constant fighter against injustice and a benefactor to many Catholic charities. The fountain was erected from public donations and it is a sad reflection of the lack of care for his contribution to Liverpool that this important monument was treated with such a lack of respect. There is precious little to show of that great wave of Irish immigration that changed the character of Liverpool so fundamentally. I worked on an Irish Heritage trail some years ago – but it was eventually abandoned because so much of it had been destroyed, such as the birthplace of James Larkin, a revered figure in contemporary Irish history), or the original wash-house built for Kitty Wilkinson in Upper Frederick Street.
It’s all too late now but what a draw an Irish heritage trail would have been as part of the tourist mix. There really is a lack of imagination in the corridors of power.