McMahon’s monologue featured in “Talking Statues Dublin” initiative

During a semester abroad in Ireland at University College Cork, Michaela McMahon ’19 – a double major in English literature and cultural and historic preservation – wrote a monologue that won an open competition to tell the story behind one of Dublin’s most popular statues, that of folk hero Molly Malone.

Now, when visitors stand on Suffolk Street before Dublin’s most photographed statue and scan a barcode with their phones, they will receive a call from “Molly,” who tells listeners a little about herself. The words they hear, which are read from McMahon’s winning script, are narrated by Irish actress and singer Maria Doyle Kennedy – who has appeared in “Downton Abbey,” “The Tudors” and “Outlander.”

Dublin now has 10 such statues armed with the “gift of gab,” made possible by a collaborative project between Failte Ireland, Audible, Sing London and the Abbey Theatre as part of the larger Talking Statues Dublin initiative. The Talking Statues project is an attempt to get people to pay more attention to the city’s statues. Contributors to the project – in addition to McMahon – include actors Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson, and writers such as John Banville (Oscar Wilde), Arthur Matthews (George Bernard Shaw) and Rachel Kilfeather (Meeting Place).

“Most of the other statues in the project had a wealth of background information that could act as a guide,” McMahon said. “Molly, on the other hand, has very little information available for such a well-known figure, because, as far as we can tell, she was never a ‘real’ person, though there were definitely thousands of women like her. At some point, I realized that I could throw out the rulebook and write my own.”

Born in the mid-1800s Irish ballad that has become the unofficial city anthem that bears her name (“In Dublin’s fair city … Where the girls are so pretty … I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone …”), Malone’s legend has become Dublin’s most iconic. The song has been sung by generations of Irish around the world and has been recorded by musicians including U2, Sinead O’Connor and the Dubliners.

McMahon credits lessons from her Salve professors as part of the reason for her success. “In our cultural and historic preservation program, part of what we study is heritage management and how we can make cultural resources interesting to the public – which can be difficult,” she said. “Additionally, and perhaps more obviously, literature and creative writing have played important roles too, because you are influenced by the authors you learn about while developing your own writing style, academically and creatively. I would not have been able to write the monologue the way I did without the unique outlook that my studies have afforded me.”

McMahon and her mom were invited back to Dublin for the launch of her winning monologue in mid-August. During the event, she gave interviews for national news outfits such as RTE and TV3 News, and was featured in newspapers such as the Irish Independent, the London Times Ireland Edition and the Irish Times.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring, who attended the launch, said, “Molly Malone is part of the fabric of the city and one of our most iconic historical figures. Her struggles, hardships and endurance are world-renowned and now, for the first time in over 300 years, Dubliners and visitors alike will once again hear her voice ring through the streets of Dublin.”

McMahon’s monologue, along with those of the other statues in the project, can be heard by scanning a QR code at the base of each statue with a smartphone. Alternatively, Molly can be heard by typing speak2.co/molly into a smartphone’s web browser. Other branches of the Talking Statues project can be found in cities worldwide, including New York City, London and Chicago.

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