Alan Simpson: Statues can be fun – we should appreciate them more

WE are all guilty of walking past them without giving them a second look and wondering who the hell is on top of the plinths.

Statues are all over the UK, honoring the good, the great and the downright shocking.

Most of them, of course, were paid by the recipient or their families in honor of the good works they are supposed to have done.

Some deserve to be immortalized, others probably not, but most of us don’t really think about them, even if they can provoke quite extreme reactions, mainly from historical revisionists.

But now the first-ever online catalog of UK statues has been unveiled.

Yes, someone has come out and counted them and almost certainly deserves a statue at all. After a good lie of course. Charity ArtUK created the photo database of 13,500 pieces of public art and the results are fairly predictable, although it did reveal some quirky facts.

Unsurprisingly, Queen Victoria is the most honored person with 175 works dedicated to her.

Proof if it were needed that wealthy Victorians had more money than common sense. The data also shows that 77% of the people depicted are male, 17% female, and the rest a mix of genders.

But the catalog, now available online, also reveals more than 20 statues of dogs and cats. Some are even quite heroic too. There are also over 100 generals and over 50 admirals. Lord Nelson has 12 statues, Gladstone six.

But much has been done in recent years to try to improve gender disparity.

A recent installation is Mary Anning, the Fossil Hunter, in Lyme Regis.

Artist Denise Dutton’s work is just the latest in a string of women she has recently portrayed, including the suffragist, Annie Kenney of Oldham and a memorial to the Women’s Land Army.

“There’s just been a push over the past two years to show what women have been doing,” she says. “I wanted to show that she was a determined woman. I wanted her to go. She was quite determined.”

One problem in capturing a likeness is how often women were overlooked in their day and not given official portraits. There is only a painting and a pastel of Mary Anning to work from.

When protesters in Bristol tore down the statue of Edward Colston over its links to slavery, it made headlines.

But the catalog reveals that there are still a few memorials left to people closely linked to the slave trade.

This number may increase as biographical details are added to entries.

In Edinburgh there is the Melville Monument, a large column in St Andrew Square, which is a memorial to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.

For some, he is the man who delayed the abolition of slavery in the UK and he should be fired. But others argue that Dundas actually paved the way for the abolition of slavery when in 1776 Dundas acted as an adviser to Joseph Knight, who had been bought off. as a slave in Jamaica and was later taken to Scotland.

As a young man, Knight tried to escape from his owner, and when that failed, he launched a legal battle for his freedom.

Dundas helped him win his case and that started the decision to abolish the trade.

Sure, both sides are technically correct, but does that mean he should be removed from his great position?

Of course not. And in reality anyway, the column is so high that NASA would have to launch a probe to remove it.

In 1906 a statue of a small brown terrier was erected in Battersea and caused public outrage. It was a memorial to a dog that had been dissected during a medical demonstration.

The statue led to years of protests, riots and eventually the original brown dog was removed in the middle of the night in 1910. A replacement statue was not erected until 1985.

In Linlithgow, a statue of Dudley the cat is a memorial to its owner, Liz Burrows, who lived near the Union Canal.

She was a figurehead of Burgh Beautiful, a program to improve the area.

When Liz passed away in 2012, the sculpture of her beloved rescue cat, Dudley, was erected in her honor.

Statues can be heartwarming and controversial and maybe we should all appreciate them a little more and find out the meaning behind them.

Rather than howling for those we think we don’t like being deleted, we should all think about the stories and let the story be the judge instead.