Smithfield ‘horse boy’ surprised to see his picture on the wall

‘Horse boy’ has brought a new lease of life to Smithfield’s Stirrup lane. The large mural on the gable end of Vincent O’Donoghue’s semi-detached house, just around the corner from The Cobblestone pub, features a young man on a horse in Smithfield square.

Image: Laura Holmes












The mural came about when local resident Vincent O’Donoghue approached a collective of artists called ‘Subset’ while they were painting the Stormzy mural just around the corner. Mr. Donoghue offered to sponsor a mural on the gable end of his house on Stirrup lane.

Subset took the offer and went about looking for inspiration in the local culture and traditions.

Horse culture has a long history of culture and tradition in the area with Smithfield horse show taking place a stone’s-throw-away in Smithfield square. The lane’s name also has a literal connection, a ‘stirrup’ is the part of a saddle where the rider places their feet.

Subset discovered a portrait picture of a young lad on a horse in Smithfield square taken by James Horan while he worked in Ireland as a news photographer between 2007 and 2011. The photo was part of his photo exhibition called ‘Irish gypsy horse culture’ which featured in the 2014 Sydney Head On photo festival in Australia.

Subset decided this was to be the inspiration for the mural. But the boy in the image never knew a thing about it.

David (Dotsy) O’Donnell is the young lad on the horse in the picture. The picture was taken when he was a young teen, still horse riding. Some of his mates kept up the hobby, but now in his 20s, O’Donnell has had to give it up because he is too busy working to find the time to look after a horse.

As for the mural: “I think it’s great. I was in work and one of the lads in the job was driving past it on his way home and noticed me straight away. He told me about it but I never believed him.

“But then he printed out a copy and brought it into work. It was a big shock. It was even above the clock-out machine for a couple of weeks.”

O’Donnell got into riding horses when he was a young lad growing up in Finglas. “A lot of people from my area are into riding horses. No matter where you went there would always be somebody on a horse. The culture was great.”

He says he never saw the photo of himself on the horse until some years after it was taken. “I saw it on Google Images about six years ago but I never thought it was going to end up on the side of a house.”

O’Donnell likes the photo, but says he’s not happy about it being posted online because he never gave permission for it. “I don’t remember giving James consent or my parents giving him consent to post my photo on Google Images to show the whole world.”

James Horan remembers it differently. The portrait of Dotsy was taken with his permission and respect during the Smithfield horse fair. I was a regular visitor to the horse fair and used to take prints to the people I photographed, if I could find them again.”

O’Donnell’s story is, unsurprisingly, much the same for the mural. “I still have not heard from the artist (Subset) who painted it. I tried to contact them and have not got a reply.”

Subset told the Liberty, “we purposefully altered the original image so as the character would not be identifiable without some level of research.”

There are disagreements between the photographer and artist and Dotsy O’Donnell, but one thing they can all agree on: the mural is a beauty.

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