Arthur John Dooley was a Hiberno-English sculptor and artist who was born in Liverpool 17th January 1929, and died there also, 7th January 1994.
After leaving school at 14, Dooley worked as a deckhand on the Mersey tugboats, before joining the Irish Guards as a boy soldier. During his nine years’ army service he was trained as a bagpiper and rose to the rank of sergeant, his six-foot-two frame an imposing – and doubtless intimidating – sight at the head of the kilted pipe-band, often seen changing the guard outside Buckingham Palace.
He served in Palestine and Egypt, but deserted the British Army to join the military forces of Palestine where he reached the rank of colonel, but was eventually caught and returned to the army to serve a year in prison on charges of desertion.
He lived a colourful life, and was a man of action with the fiery nature typical of the Irish Scouser (his great grandfather came from Belfast). Whilst in prison, he entertained himself by modelling sand and chipping away at lumps of rock. It was only when working as a welder in the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, where he helped to build the Ark Royal, that Dooley began to experiment in metal sculpture. ‘The shipyard was really my art school,’ he stated.
To commemorate the 1967 centenary of the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien, the Manchester Connolly Association commissioned Dooley to produce a memorial sculpture to stand on the site of New Bailey prison in Salford, where the martyrs had been hanged.
There was opposition to the proposal, and it seems that the sculpture was never made. Dooley did however produce a foot-high maquette (a preliminary model) which now forms part of the collection of the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Manchester. The maquette suggests that the memorial was to consist of a granite base with three standing steel pillars with attached Celtic shields each bearing a martyr’s name as well as some detail of the event’s significance.
In 1974, Dooley was commissioned by the International Brigade Association of Scotland to create a monument commemorating the British volunteers of the International Brigade, ordinary men and women who joined the republican forces in the Spanish Civil War in their fight against the vile forces of the fascist dictator, Franco. The monument’s inscription is dedicated to the volunteers who died in the conflict, 65 of them from Glasgow, which is where the monument is situated.
Dolores Ibárruri served as inspiration to Dooley in creating the sculpture.
(Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (9 December 1895 – 12 November 1989) – known as “La Pasionaria“ (English: “the Passionflower”) – was a Spanish Republican heroine of the Civil War, and was a communist politician of Basque origin, known for her famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! (“They shall not pass”) during the Battle for Madrid in November 1936.)
Dooley also produced a tribute to the Beatles, situated in Mathew Street, in Liverpool.
Given that Arthur was a descendant of a poor Irish immigrant to Britain, and appreciating the fact that Dooley himself received little formal education, we can see how talented he really was. His many sculptures will remain long after the demise of all those who Dooley opposed.
Arthur Dooley, like many other Scousers before, and since, got fully involved in life. He left a mark, and perhaps can be said to have made the world that little bit better than it was when he arrived. Not a bad legacy for a working class boy from Liverpool.