Verbose and all, as we’d like to be about every Dublin pub that we visit – sometimes there’s just no escaping the plain and the ordinary from our experiences. And not that we’d like to label Kavanagh’s of New Street as such, it just happens to be such a pub relative to all of our experiences there.

Kavanagh’s: New St.

Each time we’ve darkened the door of this particular hostelry, we must admit that it on the occasion of having left the big and the green, and admittedly enjoyable, bombast of its nearest competitor across the way, and we’d be naïve to think that this didn’t feed into our view of the place. So do take that as a disclaimer, if needed.

A medium-sized and well-maintained pub, it’s a rather bright space during the day and, as Pintman №2 would put it – a grand place to watch a match, though it must be disclosed that this is an attribute he affords to any space that has a visible television and a sky tv subscription.

A large bar sits to the left of the space as you walk in, and a stonework arch catches the eye at the back of the room. Leading out to the beer garden and the toilets – it was in the passageway beyond this arch that we found what we considered to be one of the more conversation-worthy features of the pub – a note that read “no drink to be brought out back after 7 pm, as neighbours are complaining”. Something we all agreed definitely threw a sort of passive-aggressive shade toward dwellers domiciled in the pub’s proximity.

Kavanagh's Sign

We had reason to recall the tone of this particular note during the pandemic when the pub hit the headlines for their defiance of Taoiseach – Micheál Martin’s pleas for pubs to refrain from selling takeaway pints, childishly referring to him as ‘Mehole’ their printed quote.

Thankfully, there wasn’t such juvenility evident in the pint pouring and pricing to be found when we visited. Pints were of acceptable standard and caused no considerable hurt for either wallet or the palate. There was no food about the place on the occasion of our well-dated visits, but even the quickest look at the pub’s social channels will tell you that this is something they’re really pushing lately. Suffice it to say that we don’t need to tell you how we feel about that.

But keeping pandemic-era politics and anti-carvery bias aside, we’d categorize this as a grand little pub. An unremarkable and inoffensive local shop. And God knows that they’re becoming a rarer and rarer gem these days.

In the waning weeks of 2020, before everything turns to shite again, I find myself upon a bench amid inexplicable red plastic protrusions shooting from the ground in a manner as confusing as the tax affairs of some nearby headquartered multinationals. I am hungover and am sat like some sort of 21st century Kavanagh – begrudging people on e-scooters and segways, as they whir by in twos and threes.

I make a phone call to distract myself from the cold and am eventually joined by my better half, who, in true depressing, 2020 style has just come from a funeral. We’re here, amongst the jauntily-angled architecture, for to tick off one of Dublin’s most recently built public houses.

Brewdog

Hastily, in the end-of-year cold, we make toward the furthermost end of the southern quays, remarking, as we go, on the newness of the buildings and the emptiness of the streets. In short time, we come to an uber-industrial, faded-red steel-beam framed building; in Caledonian blue the sign above the entranceway reads: Brewdog.

To those unfamiliar, Brewdog is a Scottish brewery and pub chain which has been one of the defining entities in Craft Beer’s international boom toward the mainstream in this part of the world over the last decade and a half, or so. Having exponentially grown from humble beginnings, the company quickly became one of the UK’s largest independent breweries. In its lifetime, they’ve become known for their provocative marketing techniques and have ended up doing things as uncool as suing somebody for using the word ‘punk’. Recently they were implicated in a whistle-blower’s report which accused them of fostering a toxic and fearful culture within the company.

When we arrive inside the building, we land at an empty reception desk and, once there, wait about five minutes for someone to approach. We rumble through the formalities of the dreaded ‘new normal’ – the Covid protocols of the day – and are sat at a table on the ground floor, not far from some sort of indoor fire pit. Our server then hands us some menus for our perusal and reminds us of time limits that apply (under said- Covid guidelines) before promptly disappearing for fifteen precious minutes of our meagre allowance of drinking time.

In these fifteen minutes, we peer about the vast space like a couple of curious meerkats, only to be somewhat frustrated by the otherwise unoccupied staff who seem in no rush to take our order. As we observe one of them doing a literal dance for another, we decide that our efforts are in vain and decide to try and suss out the locals – a more difficult task than first imagined. We discern no obvious customer base at this time – the décor seems to request a young and trendy clientele, but instead, on this occasion, has pulled in a lot of middle-aged professional men and their laptops, a former Fine Gael TD amongst them, single-handedly robbing the place of any pretensions toward cool or hip it may have held, heretofore.

Eventually, we do get to order, and we order plenty. The beer, of course, is phenomenal. Having been to a Brewdog bar or two across the way – I’m happy to admit that the beer is always outstanding – in its quality, its variety, and its presentation. Dublin, thankfully, is no exception- there is even a pilot brew kit contained within the premises and, indeed some beer brewed in that very same set of equipment is to be found for sale in the pub. And while the quality of the fare is not up for comment, the price certainly is. This is a very, very expensive place to drink. A pint of their flagship beer – Punk IPA, comes in at a walletclenching €7.20 (Circa Late 2020). We theorise whether the pricing is just set to be in line with the salary of the nearby residents’ or an end to a means concerning the maintenance of such large premises. We settle on both, probably.

Concerning the building, the first thing to note is the size of it – it’s huge. Set out on two vast floors, it encompasses all sorts of different types of seating. Downstairs is afforded an abundance of light from its large open windows, while upstairs has porthole windows aplenty to look out as you play whatever game it is that is played on a glossy-polished table so long that it would put Vladimir Putin to shame. If you find that you’re not in a sporting sort of humour, and the weather is ok, you can head out to the considerable balcony/roof garden space, which enjoys views of the very last, or the very first of the waters of The Grand Canal.

Brewdog – Grand Canal

The design spec of the building is what you might call late-stage hipster industrial-chic. Unaffected concrete abounds with the requisite complement of exposed beam, cable tray and air duct. Curated street-art style murals are plentiful and instagramable neon signs are, of course, to be found. And I suppose plenty would call it an impressive looking sort of space, but when I walk around it, I can’t help but thinking to myself that such a large and faux-industrial space trying to convey its indie and punk vibe is oxymoronic in every sense. It’s the antithesis of indie and punk – it’s what Carroll’s Gift shop is to the 1798 Rebellion. It’s not punk, it’s aggressive capitalism wearing one of those cheap Ramones t-shirts that was almost certainly sewed together by an impoverished wage slave in deplorable working conditions, far, far away.

As someone who has drank in and enjoyed drinking in Brewdog bars abroad in the past, I really wanted to like this place. But I guess the reality of it on your doorstep just proved too much to handle. If it were more central to the city, I’d probably concede that I’d have ended up returning at some stage. But it’s so out of the way down there in silicon, low tax land that It’s unlikely I’ll be heading back to spend so much money anytime soon.

So, if you want good and expensive beer served in expansive ironically threadbare surroundings amidst tech bros, property developers and Fine Gaelers, by all means – head on down to Grand Canal Dock and fill your diamond-encrusted boots. But in the case that you’re looking for the real deal, The Thomas House is located at 86 Thomas Street.

Once upon a springtime’s evening, myself, Pintman №2 and a handful of other drinkers had found ourselves wandering merry through the streets of the capital. We were undertaking that grandest of Irish Sunday traditions – bouncing from pub to pub in the late spring sunshine attempting to assuage that impending doom of Monday morning with craic and pints.

We had started in The Liberties and had found ourselves up that long and boozy boulevard which contains streets Wexford, Camden, George’s and Aungier. Our intention was to make slow headway back to The Northside when we came to The Lucky Duck – one of Dublin’s newest pubs at the time. It looked decent, and in a time when we hadn’t any notion of who PressUp were – it offered no preconceptions, either. So, we decided to drop in and check it out.

The Lucky Duck

Standing at the threshold of the pub, we were met with the one thing which singled it out from others – the addition of a bouncer on the door. A certain anomaly for a normal pub of a Sunday evening. Having been scrutinized by our craictoseintolerant friend, we just about made it into the pub and happily found ourselves, a pint or two later, acquainted with two middle-aged local women who took it upon themselves to enthral us – their willing audience, with tales of the pub in its former guise – The Aungier House, or The Danger House as it was known to them. We asked them whether that name was warranted back then, to which they replied – sometimes.


As mentioned prior, the pub is operated by the much-maligned PressUp group and was opened in 2018, ending a two-decade-old spell of dereliction. The opening of the pub also happened to render an algorithmically generated route which solved Leopold Bloom’s much-quoted puzzle (about crossing Dublin without passing a pub) null and void. Take that, computer nerds!


The interior of the pub is newly kitted in a similar Victorian style to some of its nearest competitors. It merges newly purpose-built elements alongside apparent repurposed ones and contains a medium-sized snug at its Aungier Street side. A copper-topped bar runs most of the length of the space completing the look. It’s a very good-looking bar, certainly the most attractive in the Pressup portfolio, in our opinion.


Another feature of the pub which you might notice as you walk down Upper Digges St. is the collection of Delft Houses, which adorn shelves in the window. Cian, over on EveryPubInDublin, has identified these as souvenirs which were distributed by Dutch airline – KLM. These are noteworthy, as they refer to the intended name of the pub – The Dutch Billy.


We’re not entirely sure why the pub is called The Lucky Duck. We toyed with the theory that it was probably a name that was chosen in keeping with the avian pond-dweller theme established by the nearby (and excellent) Swan pub. Or possibly that it could be connected to other Dublin hostelries containing the word Duck in their title – there being two: The Dalkey Duck and The Wild Duck. Neither of these theories would prove conclusive.


What we do know is that the pub was to be called The Dutch Billy under the assumption that the structure containing the pub was an original Dutch Billy (A Dutch Billy is a specific architectural style of house which was built in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries and was named after King William of Orange). Plans for this name were so far advanced that a web domain was registered and a sign painted. But given that the above assumption proved to be incorrect, the name was changed late in the game.

https://twitter.com/feennui/status/984544318970003459


The pint, on this maiden occasion, was noted as being acceptable, though not exceptional. Price was not recorded at this time, though there was an outburst worthy of a warning from the bouncer when the price of the toasty was revealed to us. This price, while remembered as being somewhat outrageous at the time, was also not recorded. In the latter half of 2021, the Guinness is now recorded as having been well presented but leaving something to be desired and was priced at €5.80 per-pour – a far cry from the £1.70 previously charged in The Aungier House, as reported in The Evening Herald in 1995 which, further on in the edition, reports the price to be one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in the city.

aungier


I think we’d be happy to label this as our favourite of the pubs in PressUp’s arsenal. It would be easy to be cynical about The Lucky Duck, especially given its proximity to The Swan – one of the city’s most authentic versions of the sort of pub that The Lucky Duck seeks to emulate. But why would you want to be cynical – they’ve, admittedly, done a fantastic job with the space. They’ve replaced a dismal derelict shell with a beautiful pub. How can any of us, especially in the context of contemporary dereliction discourse, I think we’d be happy to label this as our favourite of the pubs in PressUp’s arsenal. It would be easy to be cynical about The Lucky Duck, especially given its proximity to The Swan – one of the city’s most authentic versions of the sort of pub that The Lucky Duck seeks to emulate. But why would you want to be cynical – they’ve, admittedly, done a fantastic job with the space. They’ve replaced a dismal derelict shell with a beautiful pub. And yes, there is a bigger chat to be had around PressUp’s furthering monopolisation of the sector, but for now, how can any of us, especially in the context of contemporary dereliction discourse, argue with something as nice as The Lucky Duck?

Me uncle had wolfhound,

That never had to pee.

But Hairy Lemon snatched it

Down on Eden Quay

The words of Pete Saint John, as sung by the gravelly baritone of Ronnie Drew in John’s encyclopaedic ballad – The Mero. The song, whose title is derived from a Dublin cinema, is one which seems to chronicle every conceivable Dublin City character of the mid-20th century – Bang Bang, Alfie Burn, Dolly Fawcett, Con Martin, Johnny Fortycoats and as mentioned above – Hairy Lemon all make the cut.

The Hairy Lemon

According to Bobby Ahearn’s excellently titled book, which brilliantly catalogues Famous Dublin Characters – D’you Remember Your Man? – Hairy Lemon was “a formidable dog-catcher who patrolled the city around the time of World War II”. In the book, Ahearn outlines how Hairy Lemon – a jaundiced man with an oval-shaped head was frequently used as a deterrent for bold children, who’d be told to “behave, or Hairy Lemon will get ya.”

Sadly, Hairy Lemon died a lonely old soul with no friends or family to remember him. That task came upon the local librarian in Cabra, who, having not established the man’s actual name, put a prayer in the local mass that week for the salvation of H. L., not wanting to have the priest referring to the dead man in such colloquial parlance.

While his name may have been a mainstay of the Northside back during The Emergency – today Hairy Lemon’s name looms large on the southside of the river. In the heart of Dublin 2, at the junction of Drury and Stephens’ Street – there sits a pub which some have incorrectly assumed was named in homage to a long-forgotten, rancid piece of citrus. A pub that is actually named after that fabled dog warden of days gone by – The Hairy Lemon.

Glowing like freshly bloomed Howth gorse on a dull day, the pub looks out upon far dimmer surroundings and looks a great option for thirsty passers-by. Passing through its doors, you’ll be greeted by that haphazard yet welcoming sort of décor where the only design spec is to cover all and any available wall space with whatever you can, with no regard for theme or homogeneity. Aside from the bedecked wall space, there is wood and exposed brick that abounds to complete the look. Amidst all of this, there is the notable addition of the bar featured in The Commitments. Sitting close to the entrance and making up part of the structure that contains something resembling a snug, drinkers can imbibe alongside the same timber that Colm Meaney knocked his curly head off in the cutaway scene in the movie when The Commitments play their first gig.

Colm Meaney Commitments

We’d advise drinkers to locate to the Drury Street side of the bar, where seating is overwhelmingly comprised of high stools and nooks and crannies are provided aplenty. The window-side seats are very appealing and offer some fantastic people-watching potential. And as for those whose hunger outweigh their thirst; we’d advise them to make toward the Stephens’ Street end of the building – wherein the lower seating section is located and where most of the sit-down meals tend to be served. Overall, though, this is a pub on a large scale – with the full of the upstairs offering ample additional pinting space, along with a terrace for smokers – first and second-hand alike.

When discussing the pub amongst ourselves we were all in agreement that we certainly like the place. And then in probing further on this, we came to identify the pub as being one that put us on the right pathway, so to speak. A gateway pub. A pub that your immature, early-twenty-something-year-old self could find a semblance of comfort in when all social life was the dark and the loud meat markets of lingering adolescence. This was the type of place that offered a warmly lit convivial alternative to those gaudy nightclubs that no one really liked anyway.

Pintman №2 and №3 are the most recent of us to have darkened the door of the pub and report that the pint (early 2022) is hitting the wallet for €5.80 and while being described as acceptable, is also noted to be considerably lacking when compared to some nearby pinting dens which have become known for the quality of their stout.

While we’re not drinking pints there too much lately, we can’t help but have a fondness for a pub like this. It educates us on a character of old. It doesn’t present itself with too much pretentiousness. You could very easily find yourself drinking in worse surroundings.

If you were to happen upon the scene of a very recent murder and inadvertently disturb evidence there and then find yourself, as a result, in police custody and subsequently charged with a murder you did not commit and then, after all that – find yourself at trial, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment whereupon you end up in an overcrowded prison cell, drinking a primitive sort of alcohol brewed from fermented scraps of fruit foraged from bins and canteen floors, you’d be spending the same amount of money, but having ten times the craic as you would be if you were drinking in this glorified Cromwellian monument.

Keavan's Port

Have some respect for yourself and walk up to J O’Connell’s, instead.

At the very outset of this post, I first want to offer you, well – future you and your team, some information that will undoubtedly aid you in answering one of the questions in a pub quiz. The question will centre around the Olympic Games and will most likely ask something along the lines of – in what year were the 2020 Olympics held? And you will know that this is a trick question and that the answer is 2021. All because you came to read the ramblings of this pub-obsessed headbanger.

The Bleeding Horse

Now, none of this really has any real correlation with the pub about which I intend to speak. But let me be honest with you and admit that this year’s delayed Olympics was the first where a Modern Pentathlon had cause to leave me in thought of a Dublin Pub.

Yes, it was of course in the midst of one of those irksome Monday hangovers when I was putting in the longest of my working hours. I was listening to the radio and heard the far-too-cheery hosts discuss a German Olympian: who had met the ire of the internet when she was found to have punched her horse during the equestrian section of the Modern Pentathlon event. “Was the horse bleeding?” asked the host at one stage. Immediately I was transported to that awkward junction at the top of Camden Street.

A cavernous pub set out on multiple floors, The Bleeding Horse has the distinction of being one of the few Dublin Pubs which retains the name it held prior to the 1872 Licensing Act, which required the proprietor to affix their name to the premises they ran. It should, however, be noted that the pub’s name was changed to The Falcon Inn for a period in the middle of the 20th Century, and having done a bit of archive digging on it, I’ve found that most mentions of the name in the media are to lament it having been changed in the first place – one such article being humorously headlined: What’s bleeding wrong with the old name?

WhatsApp Image 2021-08-18 at 9.16.55 AM

The definitive genesis of the name itself is unclear, though there does seem to be two front-running explanations. The first of these relates to the claim that there was once said to be a farrier on-site at the premises, who would carry out the practice of bleeding horses for supposedly beneficial reasons. And the other, of which there are a number of variants, relates to a riderless horse entering the pub having come from a battle, further afield (some say during the Cromwellian invasion and others say during the United Irishmen’s 1798 rebellion). In each telling of this version of etymology, the horse is said to be bleeding upon entry with some going as far as to say that the horse dies on the floor of the tavern. One of the sources I checked even alluded to the pub being haunted by the spirit of the dead horse and mentions that strange, unexplained noises can sometimes be heard in the pub after close. But this author would argue that this is more likely a result of the kebab shop across the junction.

Pintman №3 and I were recently chatting about The Bleeding Horse and immediately we were in agreement that it was a pub which we both certainly liked. Its abundance of differently shaped, sized, and lit spaces give it a wide appeal and its historical chops are, of course – an advantage. Not only does the pub have age and name at its disposal to pique history gluttons, but it also has plenty of ties to Literature – James Clarence Mangan is said to have frequented the place and it gets a mention in the grandest of Dublin texts – Ulysses. It’s also cited in Donleavy’s Gingerman.

Speaking some more about the place, we did note one feature which we’d mark the pub down on and that was the expanse of the large, centre-located bar. Mulling this over, we compared it to Synott’s of Stephen’s Green – their’s being the most extreme example of over-allocation of bar space. Though we were in agreement that The Bleeding Horse wasn’t that far gone. Naturally enough, after that, chat mutated to talk of large bars in general. We wondered if our unease with them related to some subconscious awareness of longer beer lines and their inherent susceptibility to the production of poorer pints, in comparison to their shorter counterparts.

We also pondered the phenomenon of larger bars not usually increasing the speed at which you could obtain a pint, suggesting that there may be complex mathematics at play behind the scenes there. But that’s definitely one to work out over a pint and with a few betting slips and bookie’s pencils.

The Bleeding Horse really is understated in comparison to some of the pubs in our city, whose owners (or PR agencies) are only too happy to fabricate some bespoke bollocks to tie in with their “image” and sell you sugar-laden, low abv cocktails. The pub is a good one, and an infinitely better choice to drink in over its newest neighbour. And while we can’t speak for the quality or the price of the pint at this minute, given the gap between present times and our last visit, we certainly would have no hesitation in returning to suss this out. And we might just.

Post Script: And just might, we did. A recent visit to the pub gave us the current price (late 2021) of €5.50 for a pint of Guinness, and a more than acceptable one it was too.

Recently, in thinking about what I was going to write about Gill’s pub on Russell Street, I had been conjuring up verses and choruses from The Rare Auld Times. Though Pete Saint John’s anthemic lament for old Dublin makes no mention of car rental offices, builders providers and decent Italian restaurants, you could argue that the sentiment of the song is one that very much applies to Russell Street in Dublin’s North inner city. Famously home to the Behan family before they made the leap out to Crumlin, or Siberia as Brendan would quip, Russel Street – by all accounts – was typical of the sort of street that the rare old times bemoans the demise of – tenement lined, industry adjacent, bustling and rebellious.

Gill’s: Russell Street

There are, however, still some tenuous remnants of the past to be found on this street. Croke Park, though a different beast these days, remains, as does the canal. A Celtic Tiger era block of apartments bears the name ‘Behan Square’. Arguably though, the strongest remaining tie to Russell Street of days gone by is the public house which sits on the easternmost side of its junction with the North Circular Road – James Gill’s.

Obviously, this piece is going to contain a lot of Behan references – and nobody needs me to tell them that there are a great many Brendan Behan quotes on the subject of drinking and drunkenness – but there’s one that I believe is most appropriate here. This is the one where Brendan remarked that “drunkenness was not regarded as a social dis­grace”, in the Dublin of his time and how “To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement.” and “To get drunk was a victory.” And the reason I deem this one to be so appropriate is that when I finally managed to raise a glass to my lips within the walls of Gill’s, it did feel like a bit of a Victory.

Opening on a strict schedule of big match days, concert days and whenever the owner feels like it, James Gill’s public house is one that can be difficult to arrange around a busy drinking schedule. Hence the sentiment of victory! Yours truly managed to successfully board the bandwagon and get in for a pint on the occasion of the aftermath of a draw tie between Dublin and Kerry in the first of the two 2019 all Ireland finals.

Gill's 2

Having found myself, initially, in the main bar, I was happy enough with the décor. Brendan Behan ephemera abounds. A considerable portrait of the man is painted to the wall on the Russell Street side of the pub, under this sits a physical bibliography of his works – each encased in its own frame. The rest of the featured imagery and trinketry is remembered as being fairly standard, as compared to temporary pubs. Though I should emphasize that my visit to Gill’s was at the tail end of a day which saw my thirst adequately quenched for quite some time.

With that said, I should move on and mention the pint, insofar as much as I can. I took no notes on price, and the fact that I don’t remember it as being in any way awful must mean that it was ok. If that makes sense. I did find myself surprised to receive a glass, glass and not plastic on the occasion though.

A raised section sits to the rear of the bar. Walking into it on my last visit, I found it to be harshly lit and resemblant of a comic book store – its walls being lined with hundreds, if not thousands of, colourful magazines which turned out to be various match day programmes from nearby Croker. The toilet is situated out beyond this back section of the pub and has the distinction of being one of the only pub toilets in Dublin where the sight of something shrouded in tinfoil is not to be automatically construed with illicit recreational opiates. Yes, should you find yourself the discoverer of tinfoil in a toilet cubicle in this pub, just as I once did, be assured that this, more than likely, is only indicative of a countryman who defied the best wishes of his mother and opted, instead, to obey the long-respected creed of ‘Eating is Cheating’, leaving poor Mammy’s hang sangwiches in the lurch.

Gill's - Jaxx Tinfoil

I don’t think any Brendan Behan admirer, such as myself, would ever come to rate this pub too harshly. It’s infrequent opening hours are certainly a pain, but to finally get in and enjoy a pint is a real treat. The appearance of the pub doesn’t really seem too dissimilar from the way it appears in the excellent Brendan Behan’s Dublin, which is up on youtube. And in amongst all the mayhem of sweaty GAA jerseys, there are one or two locals to be found who will give you a story or two about the area. And what’s not to like there.

There’s one in every town and parish of Ireland. You can’t miss them as they cut a dash in shops, workplaces and public houses; going about their day to day mundanities. Nearly everything about them is as it should be – the attire is in keeping with what is to be expected, as is the accent and the mannerisms, there’s usually just the one thing that will stand out – the hair. Jet black and generally extending to flank the face with sideburns of varying sizes, this is the primary indicator of what I term a particular Irish character called ‘The Elvis Aulfella’.

Bakers: Thomas Street

Elvis Aulfellas, on average, tend to earn their keep as manual workers or as drivers. If there exists a job where one can sing or whistle freely, there is an Elvis Aulfella to fill it. Though manifested daily in their physical appearance, an Elvis Aulfella’s devotion to the king is not something that he may always be so outward about in general conversation. Should an Elvis Aulfella come to build your porch or pave your driveway, he’ll do just that – you shouldn’t expect yourself to be canvassed on the virtues of Presley in order to have the work done to an agreeable standard.

It’s at social gatherings where Elvis Aulfellas come into their own. DJs see them approach on the regular and cheap karaoke microphones are more than acquainted with their h-sound ladened warbling. They drink in normal pubs, local pubs – pubs like Bakers. In fact I’d go as far as to say that Bakers is the ideal Elvis Aulfella pub – and that’s not just because it was flush with Presley ephemera.

Bakers had a sort of a warm charm to it – a real down to earth shop. The walls were covered in all sorts of things pertaining to the tastes of the working class ageing Dublin gentleman. The sort of things they’d hang in a room of their own at home – if they had one. But the sizes of Liberties abodes being what they are, Bakers stepped in to provide a sort of communal man-cave for its customers. This, in turn, provided a real treasure trove for eejits, such as myself, who find interest in the modern social history of The Liberties in the face of all the gentrification ongoing, there.

Whenever we drank in Bakers, we’d opt for the bar and, subconsciously, try to sit as close to the collage of John Wayne pictures as we could. There’s something calming about John Wayne. It’s probably his standing as the most beloved figure of our grandfathers’ generation, but images of the man they nicknamed Duke tend to elicit comfortable feelings of clandestine donations of shiny pound coins and a seemingly unending supply of hard toffee sweets for me and my ilk. Once happily sat in the environs of this collage we would set about tucking into a few pints, which were always anticipated with no fear for their quality. What was always surprising, however, was the price – last noted in the late summer of 2019 as being €4.40 – far lower than some immediate neighbors.

At this point you might be wondering – why the use of the past tense in most of what was written above? Well, as unfortunate circumstance would have it, this piece is more of a Eulogy than anything else.

It’s another sad reality in this pox of a year that Bakers is set to be one of the pubs which will not return to trade whenever this all-encompassing pandemic has sang its last encore and made for the stage exit.

And that really is a terrible shame. Not just for all the Leeds United plaques and fake Elvis Presley gold discs that will be condemned to landfill – not even for the collection of John Wayne imagery, but for the old stock locals, Elvis Aulfellas included, that will have to find a new third space. It’s true that The Clock and Kennedy’s in nearby proximity are a similar sort of pub; but the truth is that pubs like these are getting fewer and fewer in the heart of town, and, sparkly and intriguing as they may be at first, no amount of donut shops, aparthotels and for-profit rural hardware simulacra will ever provide the cultural sustenance that the likes of Bakers did. I’m just glad I took the chance to darken it’s door when I had it.

Back there in March at the outset of the end of the world, when everyone was elbow deep in everyone else – fighting for jaxx roll and self-raising flour, you might have seen me up on the quays, at the mouth of Parliament Street, sketchbook in hand, scribbling away. You see, like a sizeable part of my commonly crowd-shy countrymen and women, I had found myself diluting and rationing the last of my quickly dwindling supply of soap. After the deluge of panickers had subsided, me and my ilk would be left to find shelves, which would normally replenish our supplies of soap, utterly barren.

Sunlight Chambers

It was then that I thought of the Sunlight Chambers – a building which sits on the westernmost corner of the Liffey end of Parliament Street. The building is characterised by glazed ceramic friezes which run above the ground and first floors along the length of the building’s façade. Running in a sort of storyboard arrangement, the friezes are said to depict the process of making soap – a sort of early 1900s YouTube tutorial, if you will.

As you might imagine, I wasn’t really able to extrapolate any of the required information on how to get the DublinByPub luxury soap product line up and running, so instead I opted to take a ramble up Parliament Street. If you’re not too familiar with the street, I can only urge you to take a stroll up there some afternoon – it’s laden with historical significance to the city of Dublin: It leads up to City Hall, it contains Thomas Read’s – Dublin’s oldest shop and it’s also home to The Turk’s Head. A pub whose name dates back quite some time.

The Turk’s Head: Parliament St.

Those of you who have very graciously been following us along over the last few years might recall the piece we wrote on The Deer’s Head of Parnell Street. In it, we referred to a group of Dublin pubs as the ‘headed’ pubs – those being the ones with the word head in their title – we then wrote a little bit about the genesis of such names. The Turk’s Head, as it turns out, is a fairly common pub name over in the UK and it sort of comes hand in hand with another common pub name across the water – The Saracen’s Head. These come as a couple due to the fact that they are both said to relate to The Crusades, or heraldic symbols derived from The Crusades.

We did a bit of research on the Dublin incarnation of the pub named as such and found it to be dated back as far as the 1700s. However, in the course of this research, we found another possible genesis for the name – it being that it may have been derived from a type of sailor’s knot. It is suggested that the knot, known as a Turk’s Head due to the resemblance it bore to the style of Turban worn by Turkish natives at the time, would be used as a symbol to lure illiterate sailors into pubs close to bodies of water.

We mightn’t ever come to know which of the origins apply to this pub when it was originally bestowed with its name, but the fact that it still retains it is certainly a bit of a buzz. As is its placement, with the name Turk’s Head, so close to one of Dublin’s more beloved Kebab shops – Zaytoon.

I think it’s a fair assessment of the place to say that The Turk’s head looks like no other licensed premises in Dublin. Taking its aesthetic from the prominent reflective mosaic work, which spills from the centre of the bar across to other pillars in the room. Drinkers might find themselves, after one or two too many, gazing lovingly into one of the faces which are set into the shimmering miscellany of broken tile.

The bar, too, is a unique one when compared to the more run of the mill structures your average Dublin drinker would be accustomed to. Sitting in the centre of the room in a misshapen rectangular arrangement and topped in marble, it offers the usual array of macro beers seen in most pubs around Dublin.

This pub, to our estimation, isn’t what we’d consider a pub in the truest sense of the word. You certainly wouldn’t be landing in at 11.30 of a Tuesday morning after your granny’s funeral for a few sambos and a verse or two of The Parting Glass. We’d categorise the Turk’s Head as more of a late-night venue, than a pub. And to that end, we can’t really offer too detailed of a guidance on the place, certainly not in terms of the pint, anyway. Having collectively spoken on how we remember our respective last pints in The Turk’s head, we’re in agreement that pricey and not-great are two key attributes. But that may no longer be the case. We’ll defer to more up to date knowledge, should we receive it.

I don’t think we were ever going to laud Turk’s Head when we came to write about it. And that’s all grand – it’s definitely a case of horses for courses. We’ve had some good nights in here but not the type of nights that you envision when you think of the word pub in its traditional sense. Either way, we’re just delighted that the 18th century name remains.

You might note, as you take your travels around this city and find yourself, over a pint, sneaking a listen to a group with a good variance of age, that there may occur a moment where two people at opposing ends of the chronological spectrum will be speaking about what they both believe to be the same Dublin pub. And you might notice that when one of the two makes a description of the pub, that it doesn’t exactly conform to the description made by the other. And if you’re just that inquisitive, you might think to yourself that these two people are speaking about two entirely different places. And you’d probably be right.

Nancy Hands: Parkgate St.

Where the pubs of Dublin are concerned, convolution is often the order of the day. There are dozens of cases of pubs in Dublin bearing a name which once adorned entirely different premises. And as you might have imagined, Nancy Hands falls under that remit too. Having been previously named as The Deer Park, the pub takes its current name from a pub in the Phoenix Park, The Hole in The Wall, which used to be called – you guessed it: Nancy Hands.

The name Nancy Hand’s, as it turns out, is no stranger to convolution when you consider that its biggest claim, arguably, is the references made to it in Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, what this author believes to be the most convoluted piece of writing ever produced.

The pub is traditional in its appearance, red brick and wood abound to create a beautiful interior. The most famous feature of the pub is perhaps one of its staircases, which was taken from Trinity College, where it featured in the film ‘Educating Rita’. But this certainly isn’t the only talking point of the pub which is awash with curios and bric-a-brac. We’ve read that some of the seating comes from a church in Yorkshire and that the decorative copper frontage was salvaged from a butcher in Wales.

We’ve visited a few times down through the last couple of years but a more memorable visit was on a solo run I made into the pub having found myself in the need of shelter from the cold, one early Sunday afternoon of a February. Having plonked myself at the bar and ordered a pint I began to take notice of a couple of aul lads at the end of the bar. I was witness to what was a fairly ordinary scene – four or five men gathered neatly at the end of a bar, attentive to a horse racing meeting which was been broadcast on a small TV. There was only one minor detail in this whole scenario that differentiated it from an entirely unremarkable one and that was that the fact that the horses on the television were not racing on turf or sand, but on a blanket of snow.

As you can imagine, this was high on the agenda for topics of conversation being considered by the locals. First there was a general round-table discussion on where everyone thought it might be. The Nordics took an immediate lead just after one of the men was ridiculed for suggesting that the meeting might be in France. And just as ‘up around Scandinavia and tha’ was about to surmount an impassible lead, the loudest of the group made an impassioned recital on why he believed that the racing had to be coming from North America and empty vessel or not, this lad was not without his backers. With that a consensus had been formed and most had agreed that these were north American horses that were being televised to this comfy corner of Dublin.

With this agreed, the troupe then began in their attempt to establish whether the pattern followed by American racehorses was the same as that in this part of the world. Horses race clockwise here, there was no disagreement there – but as far as making any semblance of a call on the direction followed by the gee-gees, stateside, was concerned, not one of the men dared put there neck on the chopping block for that one.

A relatively protracted period of silence followed only to be broken by the smallest of the men who then chirpily enquired as to whether “it’d be anything like the jaxxes over der?”. His perplexed audience reacted as such, affording him the opportunity to elaborate: “ye-no, de direction of the water, like. It goes the opposite way over there doesn’t it?”

There followed a short lesson on the hemispheres of the world as I bit my tongue and refrained from interjecting with a Simpsons reference. The next race started, and it was determined that these horses were in fact racing anti-clockwise and all were then in agreement that this had to be an American race meet that we were watching. “So, would them horses be right-hand drive, then?” enquired another of the lads to the gaiety of the others.

As if all this wasn’t entertainment enough, it was the last race which abides in memory the most. Not content enough with the distinctiveness of being an anti-clockwise, snow covered track; this meet had one last trick up it’s sleeve. As the camera began to concentrate on the jockeys readying themselves, the bar began falling into silence. The reason for this was almost certainly the fact that none of the jockeys had mounted their horses and were all busy attaching skis to their feet.

With that, they were all assembled at the starting line – each with a hold of a pair straps apiece, trailing from their respective horses . And before we could even gather our thoughts, they were under starters orders and were off – each being dragged, on skis, by a horse. Laughter erupted and it erupted in the truest sense of the word – violent, gregarious, unfiltered belly laughter filled the bar. Staff came bounding in from the lounge to find out what the noise was. Every person in the bar was laughing! Two tourists entered, went noticed by all of the laughing staff and left again.

The race ended. And wiping the tears of laughter from my cheeks I think I’d subconsciously become aware that the craic could never top that which had just happened. So i killed what was left of my pint and hit the road.