style swoon: mary margaret dunne

Known to a whole city as Mad Mary, this vivacious lady stood on Dublin's O'Connell St. almost every day for 20 years and just danced.

A Facebook page dedicated to the curious dancing woman currently has over 20,000 fans. More often than not, visitors to the site recall her unfaltering glamour.

style creds: looked effortlessly chic in rain, wind or shine and flaunted an instantly recognisable style, which revolved around clashing colours, printed scarves, mismatched gloves, bangles, scrunchies, rosary beads, clip-on earrings, dancing heels and lashings of curly platinum hair.

Mary told the Irish Star that she danced in honour of the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary, but I like to think she got up, got up and got down just for the thrill of it.

Failing eyesight meant she'd left the street by the time I moved to Dublin so unfortunately our paths never crossed, but there's no arguing with a story like hers. 
Singing, dancing, protesting, preaching - whatever she was doing on that patch of concrete, people loved her for it.

Last year, Mary was interviewed the Irish Daily Mail;

Now 83, Mrs. Dunne is still a handsome woman, her snow-white hair attractively pinned up around her head. She wears a well-cut skirt and jacket with a brightly coloured scarf at her neck. There is one elaborate clip-on earring that dangles almost to her shoulder, the other presumably momentarily misplaced.
"I have stopped for the present," she explained carefully. "But I miss it. And I am not terribly fond of what I am hearing on the radio. There is a lot of bad news. My message has clearly been lost."

One of my favourite stories about Mary suggests that she had a longtime rivalry with the similarly infamous mad ould wan in the beret with the giant wooden crucifix (hey, everyone's got their baby with the one eyebrow). Adorable, yes, but clearly, the woman took no shit. 

I can only imagine the kind of guff she got for standing in the most public spot in the country and acting like a loon for 20 years, but that's probably what I love most about the Mad Mary legacy. No amount of abuse could stop her doing what she wanted or dressing as she pleased.

Now, there's a message worth hanging onto.*

Of course, our darling city has been home to dozens of other street characters over the years, from the lovable to the beastly. Information on these crackpot roamers is scant at best, but historian √Čamonn MacThom√°is dropped some choice names in this documentary, including Johnny Forty CoatsBang Bang, Hairy Lemon, Hairy Yank, Shell Shock Joe, All Parcels and Nancy Needle Balls. Enjoy making place cards for that dinner party. 

*A tribute dance for the dancing lady was held on O'Connell St. on March 7, 2010.
Mary is still alive and living in Dublin.  

images via the Mad Mary Facebook page


  1. How have I never heard of her before?!

  2. Terrible, ain't it? Us country folk really missed out!

  3. Ah she was great. You should do a feature on Radio Guy.
    He used to hang around my school, wearing our school scarf, quoting radio slogans at us and wore socks over his shoes.
    He's a trooper.

  4. @ celina.....she was in carlow then geniva(lucky lady) married 6 kids then sadly husband died very young thus explains "mad mary"....to me not mad just sad,lookin for her husband "prince charming"........we all should reflect on our own lives n be greatful

  5. By any chance do you have a larger scan of that Daily Mail article that's referenced above? One of my images was used without my permission, so I'm looking to find out the date of publication before contacting them.

    Good article btw!

  6. In my twenties and later crossing the road close to her with my children she always scared me. The state of her mind was what unnerved me..lost to what was going on around her.

    In my twenties,and years later when crossing the road close to her she always scared me.Flowing clothes always well dressed. What made me nervous was the state of her mind..lost to everything going on around her.very sad.


  7. R.I.P.


  8. Rip mary. She wss harmless lady. I dont know how any 1 was afraid off her she ha a lovely kind face. Im afraid i wasnt very nice to u as a teenager. Shiwing off in front of my mates and i often felt bad Bout it.