Recently I found myself struck by a thought as I wandered in amongst the vibrancy and boisterousness of the beloved melting pot of ethnicity and street traders that is Moore Street. In the lead up to this I was pondering a subject far from the reality that surrounded me in the market of Moore St. – English Peerage. The Peerage of England, for the purpose of this article, is something we’d describe as an umbrella term for all of the silly bollock-talk regarding dukes, barons, viscounts and other such made up titles that happen to get bandied about by our nearest neighbours to the east. And the reason as to why I’d been thinking this deeply about such a thing in public was the same reason as always – the pub!

The Duke on Duke Street, it seems was named after some aul codger named Charles FitzRoy who in addition to being the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was also the Second Duke of Grafton. His father – Henry, First Duke of Grafton was married to a Countess and was also an illegitimate child of King Charles II and Duchess Barbara Villiers.

It was in the middle of trying to make sense of all this guillotine-worthy convoluted nonsense, I found my pattern of thought interrupted by a hardy street trader who was noisily speaking to a friend whom she hadn’t seen in a while. Filling her friend in with all of the latest goss, she spoke seamlessly as she navigated her words through the complicated array of extended family and friends.

“Well, ye know Patrick, from Domnick Street dont’che? Ah, ye do – Wacker they use’ ta call ‘im, he looked after the boxing up in Sherrifer. Well, he’s only after going and getting some youngone from Cabra up the pole. And ye won’t believe who she’s related to!? Only Biddy Reilly from Mountjoy – you know yer one Biddy – Bridget! Ah, ye do!”

It struck me there and then that these street traders, with their inherent skills for navigating complex family lineages, would be perfect candidates for teaching people all about that English peerage craic. So let’s just remember that if all these greedy developers do manage to knock Moore Street and make them redundant. They’ll have a job over in Windsor, no bother to them.

So anyway, The Duke. It seems if you stand on Grafton Street blindfolded and throw a coin over your shoulder that you’ll likely hit a pub with ties to numerable writers of International regard. I’m even beginning to feel like I’m repeating myself in some of these write-ups going on about various pubs’ ties to writers, but The Duke is yet another public house which lays claim to having sheltered the likes of George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O Brien and is another renowned Dublin Literary Pub. So renowned in fact that it is the starting point for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Which we really must get around to doing one day!

The interior is cosy, and remarkably so given the expanse of the pub. Wooden floors and carpet make up the flooring. Traditional seating abounds and there are even open fires! The lighting tends to be spot on and the colours are gentle too – all in all, it’s a boozer that ticks all the right boxes for us, aesthetically speaking.

The pint tends to be decent, nothing to be dreamt about but nothing to inspire any nightmares either. Alike most neighbouring watering holes, you’ll want a Duke’s wage to be drinking comfortably in here. We last paid €5.40 for a jar which is just too much if you ask me.

But price concerns aside, you can’t mistake the importance of a boozer like this which has stood since 1822 and houses an interior mostly unchanged since the 1890s. How lucky we are to live in a city containing such historical premises while having none of the nonsense for which they’re named after.

Whenever we’re about to set off to check out a pub that we’ve never been in before, I’ll usually check it out online. Just a quick search on Google will usually put me on the right track with regard to directions and the like. It’ll also save us the inconvenience of making our way out to a pub that won’t be open for another few hours, or worse still – one that has shut up shop entirely.

So when we set out for Clarke’s Phibsborough House, these same usual rituals were observed, and in observing them I couldn’t help but notice a headline that cropped it in close proximity to all the requisite information which was initially sought. The headline which referred to an incident in the pub some years back read “Bar manager had ear lobe bitten off in fight, court told”, and having read it I thought I’d not divulge it to my drinking companions.

It was shortly after Christmas of 2018 that we did eventually make it into Clarke’s. Pintman №2 and I were in first with Pintman №3 following in shortly afterwards. We found the place to be sparsely populated with the entire patronage sitting along the extensive u-shaped bar. We decided to buck the trend and opt for a low table which bordered the left side of the bar – and indeed the entire pub follows a similar layout with high stools being used solely at the bar and lower seating elsewhere. The decoration was standard enough with antiquated household items making up much of the ornamentation– phones, radios, clocks and sewing machines aplenty littered the shelf space while the usual array of old drink adverts and local history took pride of place in the picture frames about the place.

Being settled and more comfortable I eventually decided to disclose the aforementioned news article I had heretofore chosen to censor from my friends. In doing so, I managed to attract the attention of a man nearby who decided to interject and tell us that he’d been present during the event in question. Probing him further, we came to learn that the incident, in his opinion, was a case of a diligent barman falling afoul of some toe-rag while trying to keep his customers safe. Wondering about the outcome of the trial we asked him whether the attacker ended up being incarcerated – ‘Well I’ll put it to ye this way lads’, he said – ‘ ‘E got 3 ‘ears that fella… And the poor aul barman got one and a half’

The pint in Clarke’s was ok. Costing €4.70, it was neither astounding nor distressing and was certainly better than that on offer for a full 90 cent more across the road. Our only gripe about the place was the jaxx which was in dire need of a bit of a makeover. Other than that we couldn’t complain about this boozer too much. A grand spot where staff will risk life and limb for customers’ safety. And you couldn’t really ask for more than that!

Fair play to the gaffer. Most of you probably didn’t know that Dublin By Pub is sponsored by my employers, I mean – how could you, when they don’t even know themselves? But I would like to take this opportunity to thank my superiors for having not copped that I’ve spent the last day and a half conducting frantic research on the topic of the public house in situ at No. 15 Suffolk Street, Dublin from my desk. In work. On company time. Honestly, I’d name them for the bit of advertising here if I didn’t think that it’d get me sacked.

Now I’d love to sit here and tell you that this abovementioned research bore fruit other than my continuing gladness that I decided to make this page an anonymous entity, but unfortunately my limited research has gotten the better of me here – there are just too many loose ends. But on the topic of the history of the pub pictured, I do know the following:

  • It was once known as Slattery’s and was so at the turn of the 20th century, and indeed it’s mentioned in Ulysses as such.
  • The next record of the pub I found was an advert in a copy of a student paper – The Trinity News. Dated in 1962, the paper carries an advert for 15 Suffolk Street which gives three separate names and states: “MOYLANS late O’Donoghues |The Grafton | Stockists of The Choicest and Best Wines and Liqueurs”.
  • After that, I found a pub crawl feature in the same publication from 1970, some eight or so years later. Here the pub is referred to as Slattery’s as well as The Suffolk House and is described in the article as “many things to many men and the few insane though sober females that lurk here regularly”.
  • Before its current incarnation, the pub was named The Thing Mote, after the same type of Viking structure which sat in the Suffolk street district back when Dublin was just a nipper.

I’ll leave it you yourself to cobble together the history of this boozer, I think in the meantime I need to register with The National Library or put out an appeal for someone to lend me a complete set of Dublin directories for the last hundred or so years. Anyway, on with the pub in its current guise.

A small to medium sized boozer, O’Donoghues is widest at the front with the pub closing in at acute angles toward its rear wall. A raised section is installed at the end of the space and is more often than not used as a stage. Seating is minimal – when unused by performers, the raised section makes use of traditional low tables and stools while the unraised section exclusively contains high seating along the ledges and few high tables.

Now I’ve often decried the layout of this boozer, and Pintman №2 and №3 will argue that I’m just being too picky when I reckon that the Feng Shui of the pub just isn’t right and that the lighting is just a bit too low – and to be fair to them I probably am. The lads reckon that the craic we’ve had in here over the years supersedes any negative impact to be garnered from bad table placement and overused dimmer switches – and they’re probably right there again because we’ve had some serious craic in here.

Our experiences of the pub, having been entirely of the after-dark variety, may be different to others – but to us, this is no pub for a quiet chat. This is our go-to boozer for singing your head off whilst wedged into a crowd of strangers. The crowd is a healthy mix of tourists, dubs and countrymen & women and is usually busy enough. Service is generally well equipped to deal with the crowds and none of us has ever had cause to query or return any pints we’ve had there. Upon our last visit at the end of 2018 we parted with the sum of €5.50 for a pint which is unfortunately in line with the higher prices typical of the locality.

Recently the pub has been in the media over its involvement in litigation regarding financial matters. The content of the article is so full of technical financial shite-talk that a layperson, such as me, couldn’t decipher what in the name of lantern jaysis is going on – but it didn’t sound too good. So, who knows? We could see another name on the front of 15 Suffolk St in the months and years to come. And let’s just pray, that whatever happens, it’s that of a publican.