Summer 2023

Sun’s Out, Gees Out

The Gees enjoyed a moment in the sun when we met in Dublin for a secret project this month. We can’t tell you about the project but let’s just say our day involved Sheela na Gigs, sunshine and serendipity. 

Over the years, the Gees have been collecting Sheela merch. We have plaques, we have art, we have jewellery and we’re not afraid to wear it. Clad in Sheela neck chains and brooches as we strolled through Smithfield, a woman shouted ‘Sheela!’. We turned round and she pointed to our jewellery, clarifying ‘Sheela na Gig!’. As we chatted, it turned out that she had just completed her PhD on Sheela na Gigs in contemporary feminist art. We were on our way to the Grangegorman Sheela, herself a creation of a feminist art project, so we invited Teresa (soon to be Dr) Mason and her family to come with us and chat. 

a small figure of a Sheela na Gig on a wall outside Grangegorman, placed there as part of a feminist art project

The Grangegorman Sheela is on the wall of a former institution for women. Teresa tells us that Limerick School of Art, where she studied, used to be a Magdalene Laundry. As always, we asked what Teresa’s own Sheela theory was. She responded that for centuries the Sheela na Gig had no voice and contemporary feminist artists adopting her as a symbol of female sexuality means “the silent woman is having her say”. We kinda love that and hope to interview Teresa once she has had her viva. We’ll also be taking her up on her offer of a tour of the lesser-known Tipperary Sheelas.

New Sheela theory: “the silent women having her say”

After our TOP SECRET BUSINESS with our secret friends in a secret location, we wandered in the Dublin sunshine. A recent tweet about Hanna Sheehy Skeffington with a photo we’d taken while there was construction going on above her plaque, had prompted an enquiry about its current state. So we meandered to Dublin Castle and there it was, all cleaned up and looking fine in the sunshine. See before and after photos below. The plaque commemorates suffragette Hanna smashing windows there on 13 June 1912. Of all the mná iontach we’ve come across in our Wild Gees travels, Hanna is one of our absolute favs. Her plaque makes us smile every time we see “a rinne smidiríní de na fuinneoga seo”. Tweeting the new photo prompted Áine Uí Fhoghlú to share her poem commemorating the occasion, appropriately called Smidiríní / Smithereens (from the collection Mná dár mhair).

“a rinne smidiríní de na fuinneoga seo”

We wandered through the castle gardens, which is a gorgeous place to visit on a sunny day with their stunningly sensory flower plantings and sculptures. We came across Veronica Guerin’s memorial, a bronze bust by sculptor John Coll, on a stand with the inscription “Be Not Afraid”. We took a few moments to remember Veronica’s bravery in calling out Ireland’s criminal gangs and the lurching shock at the news of her murder on 26 July 1996. 

Bronze sculpture commemorating journalist Veronica Guerin, who was murdered in 1996

Teresa had mentioned an artwork on display in the Arts Block of Trinity College, so we made our way there to see it. On the way we passed a cheesily beautiful stained glass effect on a pub window, featuring the musical Patron Saints of Ireland – Dolores O’Riordan, Sinéad O’Connor, Luke Kelly, Rory Gallagher and of course St Philo. Wonder how Sinéad feels about being the only living saint commemorated here. Nearby street art featured the recently deceased legend, Tina Turner,. 

We also passed the relocated Molly Malone, surrounded by tourists, some of whom couldn’t help but molest her. Poor Molly, a hard life and an early death, now sentenced to an eternity of groping. Molly may be a mythical or ‘immortal’ rather than historical figure. If we discount these, there are only five statues of real women in Dublin and three of them are Countess Markievicz!

Rita Duffy’s artwork is a response to the Covid crisis and its lingering impact. Anatomy of Hope features a pair of lungs branching out, with items hung at the end of each branch like a traditional rag or fairy tree. One of these is a Sheela figure with hands between her legs, wearing a surgical mask that became ubiquitous during the pandemic (in the lower right of the photo).

Anatomy of Hope by Rita Duffy

A summer’s day in Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a pint in the sun, so we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside Bruxelles reminiscing about the teenage Wild Gees years. Sláinte!

On the first of many journeys that took us home, we spotted this fabulous Luas poster for Pride and our hearts sang. It was the day of the Women’s Mini Marathon and we were surrounded by a sea of pink-clad and sweaty-faced ladies, many of whom took a photo of the poster too. Wild Gees feminism is trans-inclusive and we think that most cis women are too (it’s just the GC voices are often louder). Happy Pride ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🤎🖤

Poster at a Luas stop in Dublin for Pride month featuring two women kissing in the background with the words she/her he/him they/them US

All photos (and we take full responsibility regardless of the quality) are by The Wild Gees CC-BY-SA