Bronze statue of Viscount Gough on horseback. Gough is depicted in the uniform of Colonel of the Guards reviewing his regiment, field-marshal's baton in right hand. The gun metal from which the statue is cast weighs fifteen tons.(1) It now stands on private land but within sight of the road.
The statue has had a troubled history. At the time of his death in 1869, Gough's friends felt that since he was born in Co. Limmerick and, when not on military service, had always lived in his native land, a statue on a prominent site in Dublin was appropriate, at either Carlisle Bridge, Foster Place or Westmoreland Road. However, the Dublin Corporation was reluctant to commemorate a servant of the empire who had gained the nickname the 'Hammer of the Sikhs', and vetoed each of these suggestions.
A commission for a commemorative statue was subsequently given to the Irish-born J. H. Foley who was keen to take it on, declaring 'I need scarcely repeat how gratifying the task would be to me, and how willing I am to forgo all consideration of profit in my desire to engage myself upon it. I feel that the time has arrived for our native country to add to the memorials of her illustrious dead an Equestrian Statue, and that Lord Gough at once presents a worthy subject for such a memorial.'(2) Unfortunately, however, Foley died in 1874 before the work had been completed and it was finished by his leading pupil, Thomas Brock, as an inscription on the base apparently once noted. The latter ensured that he received due credit for his work by exhibiting a study for the head at the Royal Academy in 1878.(3) In addition, a shortage of funds meant that the horse had to be made from a cast which Foley had used for another work, his renowned statue of Viscount Hardinge in Calcutta (1858; private collection, Kent). Hardinge's horse, it should be noted, had been especially admired when first exhibited in 1859: so much so indeed that as the Art Journal commented at the time, 'Arab horse-dealers, with whom the love of the horse is a passion, and knowledge of their points of excellence a universal acquirement, are daily to be seen gazing at it.'(4)
Once finished the statue's problems continued. A site was found for it in Phoenix Park, Dublin, but at the time of the inauguration there was a strong feeling that it would have been more suitably erected in London. This was reinforced by the inauguration ceremony at which so many soldiers were present that the Duke of Malborough, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was prompted to remark that the Park looked like the 'Champs de Mars of Dublin'.(5)
Once in place, because it was subsequently seen as a celebration of empire, the statue was physically attacked on a number of occasions. On Christmas Eve 1944 the rider was beheaded and his sword removed. In November 1956 the right hind leg of the horse was blown off and then finally, at 12.45am on Monday 3rd July 1957, the whole statue was hurled from its base by a huge explosion, the work of experts in plastic bombing brought in from France by the I.R.A.(6)
Following this, for the next 29 years, the base remained in place in Phoenix Park while the statue itself was kept in storage by the Office of Public Works at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. (Photographs exist of Gough's severed head sitting in a cupboard.)
Eventually, in August 1986, the statue was sold to Robert Guinness of Straffan, Co. Kildare for a sum believed to be £1000 or less, on the condition, according to the Irish Times, that it left Ireland. In 1988, it came into the possession of its present owner, a distant relative of Gough, who had it painstakingly restored by the Newcastle blacksmiths, J. S. Lunn and Sons and re-erected at his newly acquired home, Chillingham Castle, in 1990.(7) The statue is now once again complete except for the 18cm high base of the pedestal.
Field Marshall Viscount Gough (1779-1869) is said to have commanded in more general actions than any other British officer of his time apart from Wellington. In the Peninsula War he distinguished himself by his bravery and dash and was knighted in 1815. For services in China in 1814 he was created a baronet and made commander-in-chief in India. After a pyrrhic victory over the Sikhs at Chillanwallah in 1849 his star went temporarily into decline. However, victory at Goojerat in the same year quickly restored his reputation and he died a viscount.
Raised Roman letters on east face of pedestal: (..) OUGH
Raised Roman letters, painted gold, on west face of pedestal: IN HONOUR OF / FIELD MARSHALL HUGH VISCOUNT GOUGH, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I. / AN ILLUSTRIOUS IRISHMAN, / WHOSE ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE PENINSULAR WAR, IN CHINA, AND IN INDIA, HAVE ADDED LUSTRE / TO THE MILITARY GLORY OF HIS COUNTRY, WHICH HE FAITHFULLY SERVED FOR SEVENTY FIVE YEARS. / THIS STATUE [ CAST FROM CANNON TAKEN BY TROOPS UNDER HIS COMMAND / AND GRANTED BY PARLIAMENT FOR THE PURPOSE] / IS ERECTED BY FRIENDS AND COMRADES.
PMSA recording information