The ‘start’ and the finished : The pub and Irish emigrants to Britain

Here is a small extract on a topic of interest to many. It is taken from Chapter 8 of my book Have Ye No Homes To Go To? The history of the Irish pub. This is just a small section of the chapter.

The ‘start’ and the finished: The Irish pub and the emigrant Britain

As far back as 1817 the Select Committee on the Police of the Metropolis debated the issue of the Irish and alcohol in London. An unnamed witness provided his opinion: ‘The effects of liquor upon the Irish in every scene of depredation and murder needs only to be adverted to. It is certain that the abuse of this destructive stimulus foments and keeps alive the most atrocious and appalling crimes.’ It was widely believed alcohol affected the Irish differently than the natives and their predilection for whiskey made them more dangerous again. A Manchester Magistrate spoke on the issue in 1834 to the House of Commons: ‘If there be a company of English men drinking in a beer shop, they are very good friends if they get drunk together, and they can go home with each other and behave with the utmost kindness; but if it be a party of Irish drinking whiskey or spirits, they will quarrel or fight before they get home.’ In the same report a Manchester clergy man referred to this bias and damned the Irish with faint praise. ‘The Irish’, he said, ‘have more a reputation for drunkenness than they deserve because they are so noisy and brawling…they give money to one another when in distress and sickness, and send money to their poor relations in Ireland.’ Similar to Ireland the living conditions of most of these early immigrants were poor. In 1849 the Chief Constable of Wolverhampton commented on the issue: ‘Many are tempted to spend their time and money in these places from the total want of comfort at their own houses; indeed, many of them have told me, after having been turned out of the public house, that the place in which they lived was in such a miserable state that they would rather remain out in the open air if the weather was not so severe.’ According to the report, some migrants brought alcohol with them from Ireland and sold it in lodging houses. The police referred to such places as ‘wabble shops’ and despaired of counteracting the problem because of warning systems in place.
John Healy wrote Death of an Irish Town—later published as No one shouted stop!—about the decline of his native Charlestown in County Mayo. Ireland was in an economic morass and England wanted all types of workers: ‘England, hated England, now waved its trident engraved fresh green money under the noses of all the Charlestowns of the West of Ireland, and from those huge overstocked rich spawning streams…the young and the lusty and the eager turned like strong fingerlings and headed downstream and out to sea for the rich feeding grounds of wartime Britain.’ He described the pain felt by the families left behind and the wonder of the young emigrants. His memories as a child are of the returning crowds at holiday periods. The buses heading to the north and west of Mayo passed through Charlestown. As soon as the buses pulled up, he remembered, the men would come lurching out and into the bars on ‘The Square’. Their wallets were full and they wanted drink and ‘they drank until the buses pulled out again and went on to Swinford where they stopped again and drank again.’ They would repeat it again in Foxford and Ballina. They drank their way home, ‘those two hundred miles across the face of Ireland.’ They were a different people to when they had left. Now they could drink in the Hotel with the best: ‘they could buy drinks with the best in the best lounge bars in town. Their money and their earning power was as great, if not greater, than the social hierarchy of the town. They made more than the schoolteachers who could not afford to buy a round of drinks for the house…Drink up, mate-there is plenty where this came from…Come on, mate!- Put them up again, Tom, fill them up: let the last day be the best.’ Healy pondered the reasons why so many of these emigrants developed problems with alcohol. He acknowledged they were lonely and living in an alien environment but these were ‘stock’ answers. Money was an issue; ‘the unfamiliarity with money, the handling of money’: ‘Young men who lived in and about our town were lucky to have the handling of a pound note in the week; more likely it was ten shillings which kept them in the threepenny packet of Woodbines, gave them half a crown for a Sunday night dance, nine pence for the Thursday night picture and left something for the odd bottle of stout…The social historian will do well to ponder what happened when, overnight, such a young man found himself in Mac Alpines Fusiliers (in the employ of Mac Alpines building company) with as many pounds in his pocket as he had shillings before.’
In The men who built Britain Ultan Cowley provides a history of the life of Irish labourers or ‘Navvies’. The term ‘navvy’ came to be used as a catch all for any labouring job, particularly in relation to construction but its origins were more specific. The commercial canal system laid out in the British Isles in the nineteenth century was known as the Inland Navigation System. The diggers of these canals became known colloquially as navigators which became shortened to ‘navvy.’ Cowley quotes from a book by David Fitzpatrick published by the Economic and Social History Society of Ireland entitled Irish Emigration 1801- 1921 which described the tensions sometimes created when groups of Irish labourers came to small villages:
They lived for the present; they cared not for any past; they were indifferent to the future. Their pay nights were a Saturnalia of riot and disorder, dreaded by the villagers along the line of works. The irruption of such men into the quiet hamlet of Kilsby… produced a very startling effect on the reclusive inhabitants of the place…the navvies were little better than heathens…..For their lodgings, a hut of turf would content them; and in their hours of leisure, the meanest public house would serve for their parlour. Unburdened as they usually were, by domestic ties, softened by family affection, and without much moral or religious training, the navvies came to be distinguished by a sort of savage manners, which contrasted strangely with those of the surrounding population.
The pub was often the first port of call. In England you could get ‘the start’ in a pub frequented by the Irish. ‘In every urban centre there were Irish pubs, albeit perhaps called The George, The Crown or The King’s Head’ as Crowley wrote. Here they could network, meet old friends, get news from home, establish locate contacts, find lodgings or be given a job. Loneliness and culture shock drove men to the pub. They desperately sought a sense of community and it was in the pub they often found it.
Kevin Casey was interviewed by Catherine Dunne’s in her book An unconsidered people, the story of some Irish emigrants in London. He had an unusual job for an Irishman, working as a valet for a Lord Beatty near Banbury. He recalled his visit to a local pub: ‘I remember going to a pub one night in King’s Sutton and it was full of people. In the crowd was this chap wearing a little shamrock badge. It was what was known as an Aer Lingus badge. I went over to him and asked him if he was Irish. ‘I am’ he said ‘from Tipperary’. He was a groom from one of the other estates, and we became great pals. It’s not that the people weren’t sociable-they were and they made us very welcome. But there’s something about looking for your own identity, your own language, your own accent. It’s something to home in on, something familiar.’
Drinking numbed the pain of loneliness, acting as an anaesthetic for many. Another man described the lack of a home life as the reason he gravitated to the pub: ‘When you come over here you have no home, you pay for your week’s lodgings, get a bed, your meals maybe…you don’t fit in, your culture is different, you go out at night and spend your money in the pub because there’s nowhere else much to go to, because there’s camaraderie there, and there’s people, it’s a social kind of life.’
In his research Cowley received a letter from a man called ‘Callahan’ who told him the Irish were not wanted by the landladies and were forced into the pub by loneliness, lack of identity and culture shock. Bill Brennan who lived in Arlington House, an iconic homeless hostel in Camden Town, London, recalled a typical day ‘jumpin’ out of a van in the evenin’, soakin’ wet, into the pub-no such thing as goin’ home to change and the rain soakin’ into you…that’s why you see all the old men goin’ around with sticks and crutches, When you were young it didn’t seem to affect you, but now it’s got into their bones, dried into them.’ One traffic Island in Camden town, close to a popular pub, was known as Penguin Island. So many Irish men gathered there waiting for the pub to open on a Sunday morning dressed in black suits and white shirts they looked like a group of penguins. Dancehalls were the place to go after the pubs. They were alcohol free which often led to binge drinking in the pubs beforehand. Bill Brennan elaborated on the theme:
I needed the alcohol to be able to ask a woman to dance….I had to have a massive amount of alcohol drunk over there in The Good Mixer pub before crossing the road to the Buffalo… I was goin’ across and no one would dance with me, because I was mad drunk, and I was saying ‘What the fuck is wrong with me?’ I’m young and I’ve a three piece suit on, and I’ve got a few bob in my pocket- what the fuck’s goin on?’ And, of course the answer was I was totally drunk…..I’d come away totally frustrated. I wasn’t socially able to make any of these moves towards a normal life, which a normal human being should have without alcohol.
Phyllis Izzard was the first person interviewed in Catherine Dunne’s book. She confirmed Bill’s account; ‘some of the dancehalls could be rough, and these fellas would be well inebriated. They wouldn’t come into the dancehall until late in the night; all of us girls would have been sitting around the wall all evening like wallflowers, and then they’d come in, last knockin’s.’
Ultan Cowley sought information from women of their experience of the construction industry in Britain and how it affected relationships with men. In a public appeal he received only four replies, two of them from the same person. This correspondence is from a lady identified as ‘K. Hamilton’:
I have a limited recollection of my father’s life as a navvy. I remember he would get a draw [an advance] on his wages early in the week- having spent a great portion of his pay check the previous weekend in the pubs…..I’m afraid my father wasn’t very articulate on his return home at the end of the day. After his meal he fell asleep. However had I been able to follow him after work to ‘Ward’s House’, ‘The Queen’s Elm’, or ‘The Lord Packenham’ I’m convinced I would have found out a lot more about his day on the job….by today’s standard mine and many other Irish families in England would be classified as dysfunctional- so be it.
He received an embittered letter from a woman who wished to remain unidentified: ‘The Irish men, young and old were drunken thugs who disgraced themselves in every city they worked in. They had no respect for their women at home or on the streets…Paddy would not marry, he carried the status of a hard case. He made dirt of his own women in a foreign country…The Irish girls coming from Ireland- most didn’t drink, smoke or dope. They worked to get a bit to eat and clothes on their back.’

Irish Coffee

The story of the invention of the iconic alcoholic drink Irish coffee -a mixture of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and unwhipped cream -is an interesting one. It was apparently invented by Joe Sheridan in Foynes, County Limerick (which was a port at the time) in the 1940’s when he  provided it to a group of American tourists on a cold winter evening. It was brought to San Francisco in 1952 by travel writer Stephen Delapane after he tasted it at the nearby Shannon airport.  The classical recipe is simple. Black coffee is poured into the mug after which whiskeyirish-coffee

and at least one level teaspoon of sugar – preferably brown –  is stirred in until fully dissolved. The sugar is essential for floating liquid cream on top. Thick cream is carefully poured over the back of a spoon initially held just above the surface of the coffee and gradually raised a little. The layer of cream will float on the coffee without mixing. The coffee is drunk through the layer of cream. What could be more Irish than that?

Arthur’s Day



Kevin Martin

Author of Have Ye No Homes To Go To? The history of the Irish pub


Arthur’s Day was established – some would say invented – in 2009 by Diageo to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Guinness brewing company. From the start there were rumblings of discontent with the concept, many viewing it as no more than a slick marketing move by Diageo, the now owners of Guinness. Despite endorsements from high profile celebrities like humanitarian and musician Bob Geldof, film director Guy Richie and former England footballer Peter Crouch others such as singers Christy Moore and Mike Scott of The Waterboys and film director Lenny Abrahamson criticised this new venture. The US based Huffington Post dubbed it ‘Diageo Day’ and called for a boycott. Critics pointed to the holding of the event on Thursday night – the traditional student drinking night in the cities – as opportunist. Diageo did not help their case when they kept it on Thursday night each subsequent year thus rendering it an inaccurate celebration of an anniversary.

The Irish Times newspaper termed it ‘a master class in how to fabricate a national holiday’ and referred to its ‘a la carte attitude to traditional holidays’. It noted the countdown as a mimicking of the traditional welcome to the New Year and the ‘faux patriotism that comes with the celebration of a ‘national’ drink’ ‘ and what they called the ‘hagiographic treatment’ of Arthur Guinness as a type of secular saint. It warned its readers: ‘If Saint Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Halloween are festivals that offer an excuse for drink, Diageo has flipped the concept on its head and made the drink an excuse for a festival.’

The mechanics of the day was straightforward. At 17.59 the brewing company asked drinkers to raise a toast to Arthur to celebrate the anniversary. There were various musical, social and cultural events run on the day. Over the years the line ups were stellar and the day was celebrated in Dublin, Belfast, Lagos, Kuala Lumpar in 2009. Jakarta, Indonesia joined the list of participating cities in 2010. It continued on in spite of substantial criticism. In 2012 there was widespread discontent when the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland reported a 30 percent surge in ambulance call outs on each successive Arthur’s Day since its inception.

Finally things reached a head – pun intended – in 2013. In September a social media campaign called ‘Boycott Arthur’s Day’ came to national and international attention. Irish and international musicians lent their support to the cause. On 24 September a live debate was held on the current affairs television programme Prime Time on the national channel RTE1. It included the Guinness executive Peter O’ Brien defending the celebration. The singer Christy Moore, a long time critic of the celebration and a recovering alcoholic, had released a single to mark the occasion which he sung live on the programme. After years of increasing discomfort among the public the celebration came to an end in 2013 and was replaced in 2014 by a programme to support emerging artists in Ireland called Guinness Amplify.

It may have been officially abandoned but occasional reports still come through about the continued celebration of the event. In September 2015 MSN news reported that a bar in Jundai, Brazil celebrated the occasion while nearer to the origin of the event they reported that Spell’s Bar in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon celebrated ‘The Day Formerly Known As Arthur’s Day’.


The Palace Bar, Fleet Street, Dublin – my favourite bar.



 The Palace Bar, Fleet Street, Dublin

Kevin Martin

Author of Have Ye No Homes To Go To? The History of the Irish pub.

 ‘The most wonderful temple of art’

Patrick Kavanagh


The Palace Bar on Fleet Street, dating from 1883, is one of the best preserved Victorian pubs in Dublin and has a remarkably impressive literary pedigree. The four bronze plaques outside the pub in memory of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan, Flann O’ Brien and Con Houlihan alert passersby to the literary significance of the famous hostelry while a few minutes inside should confirm its enduring attractions. Kavanagh, the ‘peasant poet’ from the ’stony grey soil’ of County Monaghan, and Behan, the boisterous alcoholic playwright and memoirist from inner city Dublin, were the best of enemies and generally tried to avoid each other, yet neither could resist the attractions of this beautiful pub in the heart of the capital city. O’ Brien – his real name was Brian O’ Nolan but he was also known under his pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen – was part of the journalistic fraternity who drank here. Houlihan was a hugely esteemed sports journalist with the Irish Press group for almost three decades.

At the start of the twentieth century when many premises across the city were stripping out their antique interiors in an attempt at modernisation the owners of The Palace and Ryan’s of Parkgate Street met to discuss the future: they agreed to leave their pubs unchanged in all their Victorian splendour. The result of their pact meant two of the most beautiful pubs in the city remained unsullied by crass modernism. The back bar of the Palace is arguably the most stunning space in a Dublin pub. The comfortable rectangular space is a counterpoint to the narrow front bar.

With a beautiful high vaulted ceiling supported by Romanesque arches it is best seen in the day time to appreciate the intricacy of the craftsmanship. This high Victoriana is also to be seen in the typically high bar. Sitting in one of the burgundy leather bucket seats with one of the best pints of Guinness in the country is a true pleasure on a bright day.

Honor Tracy, author of Mind you, I’ve said nothing; Forays in the Irish Republic came to Dublin with her partner in the 1950s to seek out ‘Dublin intellectuals’. They went to The Palace Bar and were joined by ‘one of Dublin’s major poets, with a thirsty look on his face.’ It was most likely to have been Patrick Kavanagh. He was glad to depend on their kindness that evening, she wrote, because ‘the confidence he felt in certain racehorses turned out to have been misplaced.’

Until 2006 The Irish Times newspaper was printed on Fleet Street and The Palace Bar was a traditional gathering place for staffers. R.M. (Bertie) Smylie, long time editor of the paper, directed proceedings in a corner of the back bar termed ‘the intensive care unit.’ Most of the writers and artiste were impoverished souls and Smylie was a meal ticket for many of them. He was the de facto chief.


There’s a large reproduction drawing by Alan Reeves titled Dublin Culture- the original hangs in the National Gallery – of a group of literary figures at a Christmas party in the back bar. Among the participants are Kavanagh, poet Austin Clarke and renowned satirist Flann O’ Brien. O’ Brien was a serial prankster and the Palace was the scene of one of his best known stunts. He famously parked an engineless car outside the pub and sat in it. When challenged by a police officer he claimed he couldn’t be prosecuted for propelling a mechanical vehicle because it had no engine. On another occasion he was supposed to have been found hiding in a telephone box to avoid the clutches of the police who had raided the pub having a suspicion that an after hour drinking session was afoot. They were right and O’ Brien’s hiding place was easily found. It is not recorded what action the police took but it is most likely they were only turfed out on the street and warned about their future conduct. Being ‘found on’ is the phrase used to describe those who stay on in pubs after the official closing time. This can only be done with the collusion of the owner or bar staff and the penalties are more severe on them. O’ Brien didn’t find all the pubs as attractive as The Palace: ‘No Irishman could feel at home in a pub unless he was sitting in a deep gloom on a hard seat with a very sad expression listening to the drone of bluebottle squadrons carrying out a raid on the yellow sandwich cheese.’ It did not stop O’ Brien from occupying many a bar stool and he struggled badly with his alcoholism. On the only occasion he was filmed for television his replies to the interviewer were virtually incoherent. Ostensibly his day job was in the Department of Local Government but showed little interest in it. When once asked about his ideal system of Government he replied, ‘two clerical officers in Whitehall’. H was not a fan of the Irish political system and his default option was invariably cynicism.

Artists including Sean O’Sullivan, Patrick O’Connor and Harry Kernoff also frequented the bar. Kernoff sold his pictures from the wall. While he also exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy he sold dozens of his works in the pub according to owner Liam Ahearne. An underappreciated artist during his lifetime and many of his works sold for tiny amounts. In the back bar Kernoff’s work can be assessed at leisure. There are two signed woodcut prints high on the right hand side wall, both portraying pub scenes. One details a man playing an accordion like instrument and the other is of three patrons of the bar. On the opposite wall, there are two colourful portraits of women in headscarves and a pastel drawing of Irish actress Maureen O’Sullivan from 1944. A good account of Kernoff’s social life, including his regular evenings in the Palace, can be accessed by reading his diaries which are housed in the National Library. He befriended many of the resident writers and even had the dubious pleasure of going on holiday with his fellow Palace afficionada Patrick Kavanagh. Where they found the money is unrecorded. Both were frequently broke and, according to Ahearne, there’s a bounced cheque of Kavanagh’s for £1 and 10 shillings in the basement of the pub. The owner has a captioned black and white photograph of his father with Kernoff. It reads ‘Bill Aherne toasts the sale of a Harry Kernoff painting with two gentlemen in the Palace Bar, early 1950s.’ Close observation of the photo shows a painting on the wall in the photograph called ‘A Bird Never Flew on One Wing’. The well known picture was sold in the Palace at some point during the 1950s and eventually ended up in O’ Brien’s pub in Leeson Street where it languished for over thirty years until it was sold in 2008 for €180,000.

In more recent times it was a favoured haunt of the now deceased Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney when he was in Dublin.

There’s a small snug at the front which, unusually, can be booked in advance. Jonathan Goodall of The Telegraph newspaper reviewed it: ‘On the right as you enter the Palace is the snuggest snug bar in Dublin – just big enough for a tiny round table with barely room for benches. With its wooden frame and ornate frosted glass windows it resembles the Tardis though it contrives to be smaller on the inside. Apparently, this was where the ‘shawlies’ met – single women, often widows, out for a nip and a natter. Forget the gossip columns in Smylie’s paper, these ladies would have told you stories to make your ears burn.’

The Palace Bar was originally built in 1823 and shortly afterwards it was bought by a family named Hall. In the early 1900’s it was taken over by the Ryan family from Tipperary and stayed in their possession until sold by the ‘widow Ryan’ in 1946 for £27,000 – an eye opening sum at the time. It was bought by Bill Aherne – the ‘mountainy man’ from Rearcross, County Tipperary and is now run by his son Liam and grandson William. The Ahernes are whiskey connoisseurs and there are over one hundred and twenty to choose from – including their own Palace Bar Irish Whiskey – in the beautiful upstairs bar renamed the Whiskey Palace. Willie Aherne hand-picked the particular nine year old single cask single malt through a panel of tasters comprising  customers with an interest in whiskies. The cask of single malt containing forty four crates of whiskey is now supplied with this via bottles of 46 per cent cask-strength whiskey by Cooley distillery. The bottle’s label depicts the exterior of The Palace and pays homage to its great literary past. Their ‘Fourth Estate’ single malt has a picture of R.M. Smylie, former editor of The Irish Times on the label. It’s in keeping with the pub motto – ‘internationally famous for our intellectual refreshment’. Despite being on the edge of Temple Bar this is a great and civilised place with an exceptional pint of Guinness and a soothing conversational hub. Among the whisky bottles in the downstairs bar there’s a sign which reads ‘a bird is known by its song, a man by his conversation’. With no television the ebb and flow of conversation wafts continually through the pub. It is a national treasure. Long may it prosper.


What not to order in an Irish pub

The wildly politically incorrectly named Irish Car Bomb is an American cocktail made with Irish stout, Irish cream liqueur and Irish whiskey and was invented in 1979 by owner Charles Oat at Wilson’s Saloon in Norwich, Connecticut. The double entendre is as subtle as the drink itself. It is a ‘bomb shot’ and an obvious reference to the car bombs synonymous with the troubles in Northern Ireland. It is not advisable to go into any Irish pub in Ireland and ask for one. The inclusion of the term in the promotional material of an English bar in 2014 drew complaints and caused public outrage, resulting in a withdrawal of the offending promotional flyers and a public apology by the bar manager. To make the drink, whiskey (Jameson preferably) is floated on top of Irish cream liqueur (Baileys if you have it) in a shot glass, and the shot glass is then dropped into the stout (inevitably Guinness). Once mixed, it must be consumed quickly or…

It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘getting bombed’.

10 things you might not know about Irish pubs

1. Ancient Irish law decreed 24-hour opening

Under Brehon Law – first codified in the sixth and seventh centuries – each local king was required to have his own bruigu (also sometimes spelled brughaid), or brewer. A bruigu was obliged to have “a never-dry cauldron, a dwelling on a public road and a welcome to every face”. He had to provide hospitality to all comers in his bruidean (usually translated as “hostel”). The bruidean had to be located at a crossroads; have four doors, one on each of the approaching routes; have torch-bearing greeters on a lawn outside so nobody would pass by unwelcomed; and stay open 24 hours a day. There were strict rules on provisions: the bruigu had to stock three uncooked red meats, butchered and ready to cook; three stewed meats, cooked and kept heated; and three types of live animals, ready to slaughter at short notice. Three different cheering sounds had to be heard in the bruidean simultaneously: the cheers of the ale-makers going happily about their work, the cheers of the servers bringing alcohol from the cauldron, and the cheers of young men playing chess.

2. The oldest pub and the oldest graffiti in Ireland
After a dispute had rumbled on for many years, the owners of Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and The Brazen Head in Dublin agreed to go on national radio to decide which of their establishments should be recognised as the oldest pub in Ireland. The late DJ Gerry Ryan hosted the debate. The owner of Sean’s Bar provided evidence – verified by archaeologists and historians from the National Museum – that strongly suggested the presence of a retail premises on the site dating back to AD900. During renovations in 1970, the walls, part of which are now on display at the National Museum, were found to be made of wattle and daub. The builders also found coins dating from the period, minted by local landlords and probably used as beer tokens. The owners highlighted written evidence of a rest stop for pilgrims on their way to nearby Clonmacnoise. The Brazen Head had no answers and graciously admitted defeat. They may have taken some small consolation when a signature etched on one of their windows was confirmed to be from 1726 and was awarded the title of the oldest piece of graffiti in the country. The writing – in a whorl on a bottle-glass pane – is so small it cannot be read with the naked eye, but with the aid of a magnifying glass it is possible to decipher the spidery writing: “John Langan halted here 7th August 1726”.

3. The Normans brought wine bars and the term “vintners” to Ireland
The word tavern – originally from the Latin taberna, meaning hut – was first used when the Normans occupied parts of Ireland in the twelfth century. The Normans were wine lovers and imported the best wines from their homeland. At first, the alcohol was managed by wine merchants, or vintners, and delivered to the cellars of the castles of the Norman lords, who largely resided inside the Pale. Occasionally, they held wine-tasting events when new stock was imported, and over time began to sell the surplus at the point of storage. These taverns became meeting places for important members of society where alcohol and food were served and issues of the day discussed. Dublin’s Winetavern Street, referred to as vicus tabernariorum vini in Latin – “the street of the wine taverners’” – was the main centre of distribution and retail. In 1979, while excavating the controversial Wood Quay site nearby, archaeologists found over 2,000 pewter tavern tokens dumped in a refuse pit.

4. Pubs were once allowed to store dead bodies
The Coroners Act of 1846 decreed a dead body had to be brought to the nearest public house for storage until further arrangements were made. The beer cellars were cool and slowed decomposition, and it became common for publicans to have marble tables in their cellars for autopsies. This legislation was not removed from the statute books until 1962, and the dual role of publican and undertaker is still common in Ireland. The Freeman’s Journal of April 9th, 1869 carried a story of a bus crash in Dublin. The injured were brought to Lawler’s pub to be treated, instead of to the nearby St Mary’s Asylum where nurses and doctors were in attendance. The editor complained the choice was inappropriate because the publican had no beds. Patrick Lawler saw fit to write to the paper to defend his actions:
“I beg to say that the body of Mrs Byrne was brought into my house by the direction of Dr Monks, and laid on the table of the taproom, where a large fire was burning. Blankets were at once brought down from the bed of my own family and wrapped round the body. Every possible effort was made to resuscitate her. My house was closed and business suspended while she remained there; everything required by the doctor and those in attendance were supplied by me.”

5. Why Irish pubs have family names over the doors
It became a legal requirement to display the proprietor’s name over the front door of the premises after legislation passed in 1872. The legacy of this law is often cited as one of the unique features of the Irish pub. Often, a public house operates under a long-obsolete family name – a signature feature in the boom of “Irish pubs” outside Ireland. This change in legislation limited the previous inventive array of names: in Dublin, The Sots Hole in Essex Street, The Wandering Jew in Castle Street, Three Candlesticks in King Street, House of Blazes in Aston Quay, The Blue Leg in High Street, The Holy Lamb in Cornmarket and The Golden Sugar Loaf in Abbey Street are all long since defunct. Some pubs, such as The Bleeding Horse and The Brazen Head, kept both a family name and original title.

6. Travellers used to be legally entitled to a drink
Bona fide houses utilised a legal loophole – a hangover from the days of coach travel – that allowed a genuine traveller three miles from his place of residence to partake of alcohol outside normal hours. If you lived in Dublin city, the limit extended to five miles from your habitual residence. According to the law, the customer had to have “travelled in good faith”, not for the purposes of taking refreshment; travellers could go into an inn for “refreshment in the course of a journey, whether of business or pleasure”. It was a legally fraught area. In order to prove a public house was taking advantage of it, the court had to prove the publican did not believe his customer was a bona fide traveller when serving outside normal hours. Famous Dublin bona fides included Lamb Doyle’s in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, Walsh’s Sandyford House – then known as the Widow Flavin’s – and the Dropping Well in Dartry. The law was finally changed in 1943. Bona fide travellers could no longer be served between midnight and 6am, and the pubs were eventually abolished in 1963. The widespread use of cars brought the curtains down on a unique phase of the Irish pub.

7. A computer algorithm solved James Joyce’s Dublin pub puzzle
Leopold Bloom, the central character in James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece Ulysses, famously said it would be a good puzzle to walk across Dublin without passing a pub. The problem was only solved in 2011 by software developer Rory McCann, using a computer algorithm. There are fewer pubs now than on Bloomsday, June 16th, 1904. On his first attempt, McCann could not find a route that did not pass a hotel. He did, however, rule out restaurants with licences to serve alcohol. McCann’s route runs from Blackhorse Avenue to Baggot Street. It goes through Stoneybatter, past St James’s Gate – the home of Guinness – down Bride Street, across York Street, past St Stephen’s Green, detouring through the Iveagh Gardens, and down Adelaide Road. He modified this route in 2014 to avoid passing any hotels. Fittingly, it now crosses the James Joyce Bridge.

8. Cocktail bars are nothing new
In 1932, The Irish Times denounced the cocktail, warning readers: “It is supposed by the many to induce an appetite and to stimulate intelligent conversation; in fact, it absorbs the pancreatic juices and encourages cheap wit.” At the annual meeting of the Irish Association for the Prevention of Intemperance in 1936, it was noted that “appalling revelations have been made in the press lately about cocktail and sherry parties even among business girls in their own apartments”. At the meeting, held in Bewley’s on Grafton Street in Dublin, calls were made for “the discontinuance of cocktails and the elimination of drinking clubs’, as well as ‘the elimination of drinking at public dances”. Later in 1937, The Irish Times reported the belief of a doctor from Clare Mental Hospital that “now that women have taken with avidity to tobacco and cocktails, one can visualise the most appalling results for the human race at a not far distant date”.

9. Until 1973, the only way to get a drink on St Patrick’s Day was to go to the dogs
St Patrick’s Day, falling as it does in the middle of Lent, was once a day of abstinence. The only place alcohol was sold was in the members’ lounge at the Royal Dublin Dog Show. High attendance figures were guaranteed. Patrick Kavanagh reputedly once rented a dog to get in, while his arch-nemesis Brendan Behan stole a poodle on another occasion. The law did not change until 1973. The celebrations now associated with the national holiday were born in the United States. The first parade took place in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the British Army marched through Manhattan to a tavern. It was 1931 before a parade took place in Ireland. There was a major change in 1995 when the Government introduced the St Patrick’s Day festival. According to Diageo, St Patrick’s Day now sees over 13 million pints of Guinness being sold around the world – nearly four times the amount sold on an average day.

10. There are strange things in Dublin pubs
Some of Dublin’s hostelries harbour strange things. One such is The Clock on Thomas Street, which has an aviary in the beer garden. In Toner’s pub of Baggot Street, the beer garden utilises predator bird noises to keep away seagulls. It goes off every 18 minutes or so. In Fallon’s in The Coombe, there is a photo of a couple on their wedding day on the ceiling. A local punter given to excessive drinking sometimes fell from his chair. He would see his wife looking down at him, feel suitably admonished, and make his way home. Billy Brooks Carter from Texas loved Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street so much he requested some of his ashes be kept in the grandfather clock. Every eight days, the staff ‘wind up Billy’.

The bar in Leinster House, home of the Irish Government (Dail Bar)

The Dail Bar stayed open until 5.30 am on 10 July 2013 to cater to deputies discussing the Bill for the Protection of Life during Pregnancy. In an incident which subsequently came to be called ‘lapgate’ Cork TD Tom Barry pulled his Fine Gael colleague Aine Collins onto his lap during the course of the evening. In his defence he said he was not ‘drunk’ but ‘had drink taken’. On the night over €7,000 was spent in the two bars in the building. The Oireachtas members bar took in a total of €3,326.85, €2,507.90 of which was spent on alcohol. The Oireachtas visitors’ bar took in a total of €3,572.20. In 2013, Oireachtas Bars made a turnover of €285,564, with a profit of €104,129.
When the Water Services Bill was debated on 16 November 2014 the bar took in €7,461.19. This included the sale of 301 pints of Guinness and 139 pints of Heineken, Budweiser and Carlsberg. The next night, 18 December, the beginning of the Christmas recess for TDs, was the next busiest night of the year for the bar, clocking up sales of €7, 055.94. Over 193 pints of Guinness were drank that night and 184 pints of lager. The third busiest night was on 14 October 2014, where new members for Roscommon-south Leitrim, Michael Fitzmaurice, and Dublin South-West’s Paul Murphy, were introduced. That day the Dáil bar took in €6,710. 12.
In early July the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission announced it would hire a private debt collection company to chase down unpaid bills from the Dail bar. In the end this never happened but the result was dramatic. At the end of August 2014 a total of €11,175 was owed to the bar facilities in the House of the Oireachtas. This had dropped from the previous available figure of €72,000 at the end of 2012. When the 31st Dail was dissolved there was an outstanding tab of €5,405. By 10 March 2016 the outstanding amount due to the bar was down to €4,010. The largest single amount was for €802.
There are two bars in Leinster House, one reserved exclusively for members and one for the public, who are usually guests of TDs and Senators, and staff in Leinster House. TDs and Senators also socialise in this bar. In addition, alcohol is also served in the members’ restaurant. The two bars can remain open for as long as the Dáil is in session, which means they can sometimes be serving alcohol in the early hours of the morning, outside normal licensing hours. The bars are exempt from holding any licence and are operated on the basis of parliamentary privilege. In a letter to Gerry Adams TD dated 4 December 2013 the Oireachtas Joint sub-Committee on Administration stated: ‘In relation to the bar licence issue the sub-Committee was informed that the Oireachtas is exempt from the requirement to hold a bar licence and is operated on the basis of parliamentary privilege. They had discussed the issue and agreed ‘the status quo should remain in respect of the Dáil bar’. Gerry Adams was not happy. He said:
Most people would find it odd that a bar can serve alcohol until all hours in a place of work. For this to the case in the Dáil, where important legislation affecting the lives of citizens is being debated, is unacceptable. It is a further example of the cosy, insider political culture that has existed in this state for many decades one where politics is all about special privileges, cronyism and where standards observed by average citizens don’t apply. It’s time this culture was rooted out. The Dáil Bar should be regulated the same way as any other bar and I intend to continue to pursue this issue.
Online news and current affairs website The reported the story. The overwhelming majority of those who commented were irate. Mark Meehan had this to say: ‘In no other place of work would the consumption of alcohol be allowed. It really is the biggest example of how the political class feel themselves to be separate from the rest of the population. One set of rules for them, another for the ordinary person. It’s an insult to any pretence of democracy that we might have in this country to have a bar open anywhere in Leinster House. Those TDs/Senators who use it or defend it show open contempt for democracy and every constituent who elected them to their position.’ Martin Smith was equally trenchant: ‘And they have the brass neck to inform s there is a drinking culture that needs to be stamped out in society and below cost selling of booze to be stamped out and all the while they get to drink at work in a bar without a licence…try opening up a bar tomorrow without a licence…do as I say not as i do and what’s the bet they claim the money spent in the bar on expenses’. Donal Reynolds commented: ‘So these all night sittings they hit the boozer?! Aren’t they usually the country’s most important issues that are debated late into the night and these clowns get pissed up? If I drank during work hours I would be sacked and find it hard to get a Job again! It’s f**kin laughable what goes on in there and I’ve worked in Leinster house , dept of finance and government buildings as a contractor the stuff we got paid to do would make ya laugh ! It is pitiful that this discussion even needs to be had. It should be common sense that a clear head is needed to carry out the business of running the country. Obviously common sense is lacking.’
Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg told TV3′s Midweek programme November 13 2013. ‘If a TD has a pint or two I don’t think that’s a problem for me and I don’t think it’s a problem for the citizens of the country either. ‘The programme surveyed TDs and found that 60 of the 79 deputies who responded to the survey thought the Dáil bar should not be allowed to serve alcohol past regular licensing hours. 17 TDs admitted to having taken a drink before returning to the Dail chamber. The programme contacted all 166 TDs and got 79 responses. 72 of those surveyed said that alcohol should not be banned from Leinster House, while 67 of the 79 surveyed said they did not agree with the statement that there is a drinking culture in the Oireachtas.
Emmet Stagg claimed ‘there’s loads of places’ where people go at lunchtime to have a pint, saying this does not affect their ability to carry out their job: ‘In quite a lot of jobs that happens and people go to pubs and people have a pint and a sandwich for their lunch. Irish people have a pint regularly with their lunch, they have a pint after their work time, they have a pint sometimes at night time. So do I and I enjoy them.’
Once again Gerry Adams was not happy: ’For Emmet Stagg to say that there is no problem if TDs drink alcohol before engaging in Dail debates shows how seriously out of touch with public feeling some members of this Government now are’, he said. He told The Journal that there were at least two TDs in his vicinity who were intoxicated on the night the former Anglo Irish Bank was liquidated as part of the promissory note deal. Adams spoke to Hugh O’ Donnell of The Sunday Business Post: My preference would be that there should be no bar here. That’s my preference, and I’m not against drinking, I take a drink myself. Even though I take a drink, I never drink when I’m working. But let me just say something else. This is a place of work. If you wandered into work intoxicated it wouldn’t be tolerated too long. This is a legislature. We all know that serious matters were voted upon here.’ He also spoke of the role of the ushers in the Dail:
‘We’re very dependent on the ushers, all of us, the politicians, our support staff, the journalists – and they’re a wonderful group of people, they’re very friendly, they’re very professional. “They wouldn’t mind, I’m sure, being here until all hours if there is some serious or emergency debate or some matter being dealt with. But why should they be stuck here because I want to go and have a pint in the bar till 2 or 3 in the morning? “They’re given no notice, they’re given no explanation, but they have to stay. As long as I want to go in with my mates and have a few pints or invite in people, they have to stay there. I don’t think it’s fair, I don’t think it’s fair on them, I don’t think it’s fair on their families.’
Political journalist John Drennan wrote entertainingly of the Dail bar in his book Paddy Machiavelli: How to Get Ahead in Irish Politics. He is aware, he wrote, of the myths perpetuated in the public imagination of the public: ‘In the peasantry’s imagination (the Dail bar) consists of a palace of Berlusconi type excess where half naked showgirls, dressed in togas feed grapes to the reclining forms of portly TDs.’ Apart from the corpulence of some of the nation’s politicians the reality is far less intriguing, according to Drennan. ‘The reality approximates more closely a well appointed midlands hotel bar with a declining passing trade.’ It wasn’t always thus. Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was an enthusiastic supporter of the bar.
Over the last five years the bars racked up losses totalling €587, 547 in the past five years — the equivalent of €118, 000 per annum. What does this say about Ireland?

Television Advertising and the Irish Pub: Guinness comes to the Island

Number 3: Kevin Martin

Author Of Have Ye No Homes To Go To?: The History of the Irish Pub
Release Date: May 15th
The 1977 ‘Island’ advertisement for Guinness is perhaps the most iconic singular piece of footage in the entire history of Irish television advertising. More commonly remembered to as the ‘Ta siad ag teacht’ ad—translated from Irish as ‘they are coming’—it occupies a singular place in the visual cultural history and public imagination of Ireland. In a time when most Irish people only had access to domestic television it’s acquired the patina of a collective popular myth and invariably makes any list of most remembered advertisements. In the establishing shot a thatched pub on an island gradually comes into focus from an aerial view. The visuals are stunning; the weather incandescent; redolent of a timeless Ireland of which the Gaelic revivalists would have been proud. A mute group of people are waiting inside the pub accompanied by nothing only the ticking of a clock, the metronomic beat of which dominates the ad. The time is five past six in the evening. The patrons look uneasy and nervous and glance up at the clock. There is a palpable feeling of suspense and worry. Even a dog on the floor looks anxious. The ad cuts to an aerial shot of a traditional currach boat rowing swiftly across a wide expanse of sun kissed ocean. It cuts back and over twice from the pub. The clock shows it is just after half past six. The passive and hopeful waiting is the opposite of the active rowing. Then suddenly we see men rush to the door and exclaim ‘Ta siad ag teacht’ in Connemara Irish. We see the boat once more, this time being hauled ashore; a keg of alcohol is lifted from it by the cheerful men. The final shot shows the barman placing two full pint glasses of Guinness on the counter. With appreciative noises emanating from everybody the camera zooms in on a man taking his first sip of Guinness with a delighted expression on his face. The delivery has arrived and the world is perfect again. In the island paradise the only thing missing was Guinness. We are left with a sign on the screen in Celtic script; ‘Bionn tu suna sasta le Guinness’; you will be completely happy with Guinness. As idyllic images of Irish life go it has rarely been bettered. It is the sheer elemental nature of the visuals and the aboriginal soundtrack which make the advertisement so memorable. While it’s not made explicit this must be one of the Aran Islands, the last great repository of Irish culture for writers like Synge and Yeats. Drinking a pint of Guinness in a thatched pub on an Island off the west coast of Ireland is the apogee of genuine Irish experiences. It won a Silver Lion at the Cannes film festival and a Clio award in New York. In a poll organised by Marketing Magazine in 1999 it was voted the greatest Irish advertisement of the twentieth century. Unfortunately there was no lift in sales of Guinness. Critics argued it reinforced every possible cliché about the Irish and alcohol and bore no relation to a modern thrusting continually urbanising Ireland. It was out of time with the cultural consensus. Ireland had only been in the European Economic Community for four years and was trying to become more centrist and less backward. The image was in-congruent for many opinion shapers.