Alike all the great cities in the world, dear Dublin of ours is one that is often defined by its most famed thoroughfares. We may not have avenues that garner attention on par with that afforded to the Champs-Élysées or Broadway, but there can be little doubt that our little metropolis is oft-characterized by the expanse of O’Connell Street darkened in the rebellious shade of the GPOs grandeur, or by the hustle and bustle of the Grafton streetscape vignetted in sound by the various buskers of the given day.

Of course, there is little wrong with these scenes, they are what they are by no accident, but, as all keen and unkeen travellers alike will tell you – the real heart of any city is, more times than not, found off the beaten path. Hidden off in small side streets, where industry and old habits clamour against nightlife and gentrification, is the concentrated distillate of a city’s very essence.

Harbouring about as great a variance of energy as the underground pipes knocking about over on the continent around CERN, Capel Street is one of Dublin’s better examples of the streets described above. Serving as a main, yet narrow artery from Dorset Street as far as Grattan Bridge, it’s a street that pulls far more traffic than was ever intended. Acting as something of a demarcation between the end of the Henry Street shopping district and the beginning of the more residential setting that lies close to The Four Courts, it is a street that we would wager gets its unique energy from the variety of businesses that are to be found along its length. These contain, though are not limited to:

• Pubs
• Restaurants – both Dine-In and Take Away
• Charity Shops
• Barbers
• Sex Shops
• Antique Shops
• Electronic Repair Shops
• Music Shops
• A Hardware
• A Tool Shop
• Bookmakers
• A Pet Shop
• A Tattoo Parlour
• A Jewellers
• A Comic Book Store
• A Tailors
• A Workwear Shop
• A Model Shop
• A Hemp Shop

Slattery’s in 1975 (credit: Dublin City Council Photographic Collection)

Sitting somewhere roughly around the middle of all of this is Slattery’s. Along the corner that facilitates the meeting of Mary Street Little and Capel Street, it strikes a more curved appearance than any other on the street. Complete with its Romanesque windows and striking façade, you could argue it to be the most unique-looking on the street.

Operating as a licenced premises since the 1800s, the pub boasts as having obtained the authority to operate as an early house in 1892 in order to cater to the once-bustling nearby market trade. Though trading through the Rising, The War of Independence and The Emergency, we would argue that the pub’s most notable contribution to Dublin and Irish history is its use as a music venue in the latter half of the 20th Century.

One doesn’t have to exhaust to much clicking power in their research of this pub to find that it happened to become a bit of a muso’s paradise from the 1960s onward. Catering for genres aplenty, it was the go-to venue for rockers, bluesmen, pipers, singers, and listeners galore. There are accounts of all sorts of different musical nights on the various floors of the pub: an acoustic night, a blues night and a number of different trad nights – a long-running one called The Tradition Club and another, The Mug’s Gig, organised by Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine – so-called as it took place on a Monday night.

The trad nights in the pub, by all account were legendary, a recording of a night at The Tradition Club survives and is available here. Cream of the crop participation wasn’t unusual with some of the evenings pulling in anyone from Seamus Ennis to Ronnie Drew up to Andy and Donal, and their pal, Christy Moore. Christy even namechecked the publican, Paddy Slattery in his song “Me And The Rose”.

A Tracklist from a recording of a night in The Tradition Club (via JoeHeaney.org)

Phil Lynott is also said to have frequented the pub too, an account of him reciting some of his spoken word poetry at an acoustic night there is given by a pal of his, Ivan Pawle, in Graeme Thomson’s biography of Phillip. It would even seem that the pub’s ability to pull in the stars of stage and screen hasn’t waned too much given that it was the venue of choice for Anthony Bourdain when he wanted to make use of the early license for the cure and a fry in the Dublin edition of his TV show, The Layover.

Slattery’s is a good-looking pub, there’s little denying that. With its rectangular bar sat in the middle of the pub, it offers up plenty of choice in the ‘ol nook and cranny department. The matte-tiled floor, colourful in comparison to the rest of the pub’s dark wooden interior, contrasts well. And there’s a sort of museum redbrick wall adorned with ephemera relating to the 1916 Rising which flanks the stairs down to the toilet.

Whether as a result of the Bourdain visit or not, the pub would seem to be geared more so toward a tourist market these days. We found this to be evidenced, firstly, by a substantial collection of literature and leaflets about day trips and visitor experiences beside the entrance, and secondly, by the over-enthusiastic floor staff who tended to pester us with food menus and premature glass collection while we were there last.

A Membership Card for The Listener’s Club in Slattery’s.

Thirdly, and perhaps most conclusively, was our winding up on a crawl with a few Norwegians during this visit. Through a mouthful of snuss, one of these lads told us that they arrange a trip to Dublin every few years to satisfy their relish toward decent Guinness: fair play to them. Speaking of Guinness, Slatterys pours a decent one which warrants no negative commentary regarding taste. Financially, though, we found it less agreeable, it being relatively high to some of the neighbours (€5.60, as of May 2019). Though when or pals from Norway told us about the fifteen quid price tag, apiece, on their pints back home, admittedly, it didn’t feel so bad.

So be ye celebrity chef, ballad singer extraordinaire or stout-thirsty Scandinavian, we can only offer you the same advice we’ve been doling out to one and all for many’s the year. Namely that Capel Street is one of Dublin’s greater drinking streets, due in no small part to the fact that it has no bad pubs, and Slattery’s is most certainly no exception to that.

We used to live like lords. We’d roam freely from bar to bar, marching to the beat of the filthy change that jingled about in our arse pockets. We’d wade through packed pub gangways searching for seats that weren’t available. We’d cling to the bar and press the flesh with any hand, outstretched in our general direction. Sweaty in summer and sniffly in winter, we’d embrace friends and strangers with equal disregard for personal space. We’d breathe each other’s air, taste each other’s drinks and smoke each other’s smokes. We never booked ahead and we’d eat, only when we’d had our fill. Sometimes we wouldn’t eat at all.

We used to live like lords.

If you could possibly indulge me, I’d like to continue with a cliché. And this one has been uttered aplenty in various forms of expression, both artistic and not: But! You really just don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. And us: we lost it all. I’m sat here a mere couple of days before some of our city’s pubs will reopen their doors and allow customers upon their premises for the first time in over three months. But now all is changed, changed utterly. Not only is a terrible beauty born, it’s also walking, talking and getting ready to go to pre-school.

We’re told that there’ll be plexiglass – walls of the stuff. There’ll also be time limits, mandatory food orders, table service, queues and all sorts of other measures, the sum of which are required in order to allow pubs open once again. It seems that spontaneity, the very essence of the magic that is the Dublin pub experience, is the one which is the most helpful to the spread of COVID-19.

We’ve chosen to use our piece on The Bankers as that which will include a bit of a COVID-19 spiel for a few reasons. Mainly because the pub has been in the media over the last few weeks – showing off the modifications, newly installed within, to deal with a socially distant customer base. It’s also the second to last pub that I happened to imbibe in before the great shutdown in March. And with all that’s gone on, I have to admit that I’m left with something of a newfound fondness and gratefulness for the place.

I think it’s a fair thing to say that one can have little doubt in their mind when they state that, at some point in history, a banker was a person whom one could aspire to – a pillar of the community, even. But another thing that requires little doubt is the fact that whichever particular moment in time that this was, it is certainly now dead and gone. Ask anyone of my ilk, who had the delight of trying to begin their professional life back when Brian Lenihan was popping cloves of garlic like panadol in celebrity economists’ kitchens, what their estimation of Bankers are and I could almost promise you a response that will be as critical as it will be laden with profanity. So you might say, the name above the door of this particular pub isn’t one that has really ever had much appeal to my generation and me.

But what’s in a name? I hear you and Juliet ask. If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, well then a pub by any other name must surely be just as much craic. And yourself and Juliet would be correct, this pub’s name is inconsequential to its actual appeal. Once you’ve stepped inside the cosy confines of The Bankers, you’ll find that any thoughts you previously held of bludgeoning bondholders will find themselves calmly assuaged by the charm of this pokey little boozer.

Jutting, angularly, out onto Trinity street to give way to Dame Lane, The Bankers is a pub that has no shortage of footfall outside – an attribute which affords the pub one of its finest features – its people-watching real estate. Dublin has several excellent pint-proximate people-watching spots and the front of The Bankers is undoubtedly on par with the likes the front window in The Long Hall.

The Bankers would easily be categorised as a small pub, relative to those about town. It’s comprised of two main sections – a low seating area toward the back and a high seating area at the front, this being the one that houses the bar. The bar, though compact, seemed to offer a good degree of choice the last time we were in. Covered in all sorts of denominations of foreign bills, a craft-thirsty Pintman №7 was happy to retrieve a pint of Wicklow Wolf from it.

Pintman №2 and I stuck to the usual pint of plain on that occasion back in March, which rang in at a price of €5.50. And a grand pour it was too.

The streetlamp style signs we like, as seen in Fallon’s

The pub itself is a dark enough space, mainly down to the stone tiled floor and the dark wood throughout. Thankfully though, the artificial lighting used to countenance such darkness tends to be at a good level. The interior is decorated with the usual trinkets and ephemera you’d see around the pubs in town and was noted to be the better of the few cabinets around the place, all of which were full with illuminated whiskey bottles. We also noted that they have those streetlamp style signs that advertise both Guinness and Smithwicks, the same as can be seen in Fallon’s, we like them. The back section of the bar struck a bit of a different look, it being adorned with a large scale mural featuring a myriad of famous Irish faces and quotes inscribed alongside.

The pub offers a full food menu, too, and with being so central it certainly has an eye on the tourist trade. Alike others that do, we noted that the lounge staff could tend to be a bit over-exuberant when it came to glass collection and their insistence on us making use of table service, though this will probably stand to them now.

While The Bankers is a fine little pub, I’m not going to pretend that it was always one that I held any sort of a grá for. But we live in strange times. I was talking to a few friends a while back about what the last pubs we visited before lockdown were and how, through one terrible way or another, they could be the last that we would ever visit. And when I listed and thought of the last three I visited on the final day I was on the pints, pre-lockdown – The Palace, The Bankers and Lannigan’s – I thought to myself, in a sort of pub life flashing before your eyes sort of way, that I’ve no regrets here. I didn’t waste my last ones. Time well spent.

Anyhow, we’re definitely prone to a bit of hyperbole here, so you might forgive our sorrowful tone about the new normal at the start of this piece. The video of The Bankers’ new setup looks grand. Look them up and check it out. We’re definitely gonna book a table.

Consider, if you will, the following couplet.

“There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”

Taken from Canadian crooner, Leonard Cohen’s back catalogue – these much quoted and poignant lines have many different meanings to many different people. Some think redemption, and some reckon resurrection are the abiding themes to which Laughing Lenny’s words refer. But us, we have our own interpretation, namely that Leonard Cohen is obviously a man who’s never been to Frank Ryan’s.

Presumably named after the republican veteran of Irish and Spanish conflicts – we’d be comfortable enough in labelling Frank Ryan’s as the darkest pub in the city of Dublin, perhaps even the entire country. And as you find yourself rubbing ointment into your bloodied shins of a morning after being there, you will surely agree that there’s neither crack nor light to be found in this Smithfield bar. Sorry Len!

A seemingly traditional pub beneath all the darkness, it makes use of wood as its primary material and is relatively narrow upon entrance. Becoming partially divided twice along its length, it eventually steps down a foot or two at the back opening somewhat to reveal a pool table. Feeble light that is afforded to patrons of the pub tends to be by means of tea and fairy light, mostly hued in shades of red. Along the walls and hung from the ceiling, should you manage catch a glimpse, you’ll find any amount of paraphernalia scattered around – the overarching theme of which seems to lean mostly toward music. But, that said, there’s plenty of drink themed bric-a-brac and license plates filling in the gaps between.

I suppose you might call Frank Ryan’s the original hipster pub – it espouses all the principles the newer incarnations are at pains to remind us about. It has the craft beer, it’ll let you bring the madra in, I think it does pizza somewhere out the back too. But because it doesn’t roar this from the rooftop, and probably because the Guinness is pretty decent too, it manages to retain the charm of a proper Dublin boozer.

Whatever about cracks, there are thankfully no shortcomings in the craic in here. Generally, the place keeps a nice relaxed vibe and is the perfect venue for a night of pints and chats. Though, be warned: you’ll want to try somewhere else if you find yourself oscillating at a higher frequency. We decamped into the pub last year, hyper and half-drunk, only to find ourselves subject to the sort of fascism that Frank himself sailed to Spain to fight against. They cut us off! The Bastards!

The morning, nay, afternoon that followed this sorry incident was, as you might imagine, a rough one. Waking to several texts countenancing my proposed cancellation of Frank Ryan’s, the fear set in like a sledgehammer of doom. Such was, and is the abiding memory, of this anxiety that I’ve yet to, ahem, darken the door of the pub since. And to this day the fear that I might have been barred persists. So with that in mind, allow me to finish just as I started, with the wise words of Leonard Cohen. And please, allow me to directly aim them toward the Gatekeepers of the pub which bears the great Frank Ryan’s name:

” If I have been unkind

I hope that you can just let it go by

If I, if I have been untrue

I hope you know it was never to you ”

Though there’s no smoky haze or abundance of black faces, and still without the bourbon stink or distant cricket hiss you can still close your eyes and immerse into the hollering and the bawling of man and instrument. And in the rhythm of that juke joint rattle you can cast the Liffey as your Mississippi, and Martin Dunleavy as Blind Willie McTell and just, nearly, almost reach a state of transcendence.

The Facade of The Ha’penny Bridge Inn, it’s currently missing its ‘y’.

But then it all shatters with a sharp tug on your coatsleeve and the piercing screech from the reddened face barking violently and abrupt toward you… ‘DRINK! DRINK!’ he screams it into my baffled face as I struggle to muster a response. “DRINK!” he screams louder again. And just as I begin to utter a response, he clarifies the matter – ‘Buy a drink! This music isn’t free”. He’s a manager… or the owner. I’ve been in the pub for no more than 40 seconds.

You could say that my first adult experience of the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn was a bit unusual, well that was what I had assumed until I’d come to realise that finding yourself at the receiving end of the ire of this particular barman was not an unusual occurrence. Dozens of people have too relayed to me, their stories of being howled at in this particular pub. I even seem to remember hearing Lankum recounting a similar tale onstage to a sell-out audience in Vicar St one night, and again in an interview.

I’m not for one moment going to suggest that it’s okay for a grown man to shout at people like this, but you might forgive me on this occasion for endorsing this man’s penchant toward tirade. Allow me to frame it in terms of Bang-Bang. Bang- Bang, Thomas Dudley to his mother, was a Dublin character of old and is rightly revered for the break from mundanity he provided to ordinary Dubliners of his era. But, an inescapable fact of the matter is that there were almost certainly persons who departed from an encounter with him in a less than a positive mood solely for the reason that he didn’t conform to the status quo. For better or for worse, this shouty barman is a character, and you’ll certainly leave the pub with a good story if you happen to trigger his vocal cords, which is eternally better than leaving with no story at all.

So, a month or two back Pintman №3 and I, in the absence of any nearby uncharted pubs, decided to seek out this pugnacious publican and get to grips with a pub we haven’t paid much prior service to in the past.

Arriving in of a weekend evening we found the place as busy as expected – I set about grabbing the last remaining seat while Pintman №3 headed to the bar. Returning pintless shortly thereafter, Pintman №3 tossed a wrapped knife and fork onto the table leaving me to wonder aloud as to whether he’d ordered food. No, no he responded, throw them into me bag there will ye? Obliging him, I held off on a follow-up question when he immediately explained his rationale around the act – it’s €5.90 a pint, have to make that up somehow.

One of the more authentically traditional boozers of the Temple Bar district, the Ha’penny Bridge Inn is standard enough in its appearance, an L shaped sort of room with the bar on the larger side of the L, we’d categorize it as a small to medium pub. There’s no messing about with seating which is upholstered in a red pattern and comes just as good and cosy as it would in any standard suburban local. A mesh of tile and wood makes up the flooring and the most notable feature of the pub is probably the collection of fabric badges and crests which are affixed to the ceiling above the bar. We agreed that it had the makings of a good cosy shop but lost out on being classified as such due to the front doors to the street being permanently open. Oh, and that €5.90 pint was far more acceptable to all relevant sensory considerations than it was to those of a budgetary nature.

In the end, having discovered that our cacophonous friend wasn’t about, we headed on for somewhere a bit more familiar on this night. I hope he’s still putting in the odd shift now and again. The Ha’penny is certainly by no means a bad pub and is most definitely the pick of the bunch when you lump in its nearest neighbours. So, if you think €5.90, or 1,180 ha’pennies, is a fair price for a pint, by all means – have at it. Just leave the cutlery alone!

“This old pub standeth on sacred ground, surrounded by the high walls of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital, by the ancient cemetary of Bully’s Acre and the dungeons of Kilmainham Jail. The Patriot’s Inn has been closer to the pulse of Irish history than any other contemporary pub.”

So says the signage sitting at the entrance to the Patriots Inn pub in Kilmainham. Now far be it from us to stand here today and call this pub’s historical bona-fides into question, but can we just ask you whether you might agree with us that the sense of historical significance that may well be afforded to this pub just happens to get even a little bit diluted when you factor in the fact that that sitting just atop the pub is Dublin 8’s most authentic, lively Italian dining emporium – La Dolce Vita. I mean, pizze di Napoli, fettuccine alla carbonara and spaghetti al pomodoro, don’t exactly scream saoirse na hÉireann now do they? Maybe it qualifies under ‘our gallant allies in Europe’. I don’t know.

The Patriot's Inn Pub Kilmainham

It’s probably just me. But when I first pushed back the door of the bar in The Patriot’s Inn of a November evening, the first thing to grace the olfactory plains of my internal workings was the pungent bouquet of basil, garlic and tomato. All fine things in their own right and great in the appropriate time and place, but when a man has the desire for porter, he need not be enticed by certain aromas and these are certainly included with those. I, and others so discerning, have been known to leave pubs for less.

But this night, it would take more than the smell of decent Italian gnosh to move me and my companions as we were there to get this pub well and truly ticked from our list. Making our way to the bar we hastily retrieved a few pints and set about getting a table. Finding our way to a free table toward the back we listened a while to the music which emanated from the lounge before tucking into the pints before us. While the enjoyment of these was impacted by the smell of food, it was agreed that they were of an acceptable standard and a decent price too. (€4.80 in November 2018… we don’t often get the chance to get out to Kilmainham)

As we discussed Italian involvement in the course of Irish History and considered floating to the owners – the idea of changing to the restaurant to French cuisine for the 1798 tie-in, we came to notice two lads who had become uneasy about themselves and were up and down from their seats a lot. Deciding that they were probably looking for something we left them to it before they interjected and asked the entire enclave which we were sat in if they had seen a ring about the place. Having received entirely negative responses to their queries one of the men informed us of how it was the other’s wedding ring which had gone missing, the other having only been married a few short weeks and out on his first few pints, sans-missus, since the big day.

It was at this moment when a beautiful act of male telepathy occurred. We all knew that losing a wedding ring was bad. But losing one on the first few pints away from the wife – fatal. Every person harbouring a Y chromosome in that room knew that this fella’s entire drinking future was at stake. So with that, we all mobilized. Recruits seemed to appear from all angles. And after a solid ten or fifteen minutes of ransacking the back alcove of this bar, a tolkeinesque roar could be heard throughout the town of Kilmainham as this newlywed was reunited with his wedding band once more. And even better was the fact that after such upheaval, I’d no longer found myself bothered by the smell of Italian cooking. We sank a pint or two with the newlywed afterward to celebrate before heading down the road.

The Patriot isn’t a bad pub by any stretch of the imagination. But they could do with leaving the pasta upstairs.

Dublin! It’s a city, if the annals of internet comment sections are to be believed, that divides opinion. And while pub-dwellers prone to over-romanticisation, such as ourselves, are ten a penny – there’s also a hefty cohort out there in the world who refuse to base their opinions of our native city on anything other than the darker end of the full spectrum.

Though our official line is one attesting to the craic and beauty being in plentiful supply, we’re not so ignorant as to equate Dublin to some utopia and even we like to take the road out sometimes in search of an atmosphere where urbanity doesn’t abound. Where settings are a little, if not a lot, more rural.

Thankfully when such pangs kick in and when time or money won’t allow – we can achieve something akin to a rural encounter without having to travel so far. Sometimes an experience bordering on bucolic can be had mere minutes from the city centre – we’re referring, of course, to a pub which rightly calls itself an authentic country pub in Kilmainham – The Old Royal Oak.

In researching the name of this pub, I can’t say with any great degree of confidence that we’ve managed to establish its exact origin. Some say that there must be a tie with the nearby Royal Hospital given its inclusion of the word royal, but in the course of our research we’ve come to establish our own particular theory. We have previously touched upon the genesis of some modern pub names in our post about The Deer’s Head and similar to that, we’ve found ourselves looking back toward our old colonial neighbour for answers. You see, it so happens that an abundance of pubs across in the UK have names containing any given permutation of the words royal, oak and old. And as you might imagine, there’s a good reason for this.

Way back in the 1600s during The English Civil War, Royalists and Parliamentarians were having a bit of a disagreement. And this disagreement was of such severity that it brought about the need for a battle in the town of Worcester. Possibly about governance, possibly about sauce, who knows? Anyway, King Charles, the king to be; not the dog, being head of the Royalists and a bit of a useless prick to boot – decided that he had scant chance of survival when pitted against Lord Protector and cunt of the last millennium – Oliver Cromwell, Ollie being head-honcho of the opposing side. Opting to hide away from all the bloodshed, Charlie sought refuge – and as the story goes, found it in the relative sanctuary of a big oak tree.

Fast forward a decade or so and the civil war is over, Chaz is back on the throne and is regaling everyone with the tale of the time he was shielded from danger by a big bastard of an oak tree. So Brits being Brits – they start writing songs and naming boozers after this Royal Oak, as it had been dubbed.

Let it be known that our guess, educated by the fact that The Old Royal Oak was first opened as a pub when British rule still reigned over this country, is that this pub took its name – as so many others across the Irish Sea did – from that tree in the middle of England. And if it didn’t then so be it. We still managed to get around to calling Ollie Cromwell a bollox in at least one of the things we’ve posted on this website.

The Oaker is a pub that would seem to espouse the principle that less is more – the bar, a one-roomed, undivided space, is characterised by its simplicity. Upon entrance you’ll observe low seating on your left and a medium sized bar to the right. Seating, while not in short supply, is limited and when the place fills up it fills up fast. We commandeered a few stools up near the bar just in the nick of time when we last visited. Decoration is made up of the usual cavalcade of ephemera you might find in traditional pubs – paintings and pictures of local landscapes and landmarks, old drink adverts, framed jerseys and a few flags on the ceiling too, just for good measure.

I’d made my first visit here in the company of Pintman №5, who rates this pub as his favourite in the city. My fears of disagreeing with him were quickly allayed as we settled in to a few pints and he pointed out an elderly lady perched on a stool at the end of the bar. Describing her as “a little dreamboat” he informs me that she is the owner, or related to the owner as it may be.

When the time comes to use the jaxx, I’m reminded by my companion to inspect the snug while en-route – and I’m glad that take this instruction. Peering through the unassuming door I find myself in a space that is more family – living room than pub-snug. Its cosy inhabitants, all of whom are glued to a match on the TV, react to my interruption with the same sort of perplexity you might to a perfect stranger wandering into your own sitting room. I return to the bar extoling the cosiness this snug to my companions before demanding of them that we sit in there upon our next visit. We will!

Pintwise, we’re in dream territory here €4.80 on our last visit (which was Nov 2018, way too long ago) and a decent skinful sunk with great pleasure. Pintman №5 indulged in a toasty on that occasion too and it looked the part.

Out and out this is a fine establishment. One I wish was in more of a convenient location relative to a northsider such as myself. The pub too is also a great lesson for all new and prospective publicans thinking of going for that big revamp. Simplicity can be effective, if the place is run right.

Recently we were philosophising about what it is that brings that certain sense of je ne sais quoi to pints when they’re taken in enjoyable numbers of a Sunday. Having given due regard to theories of Old Ireland and The Sabbath, we came to look on the whole situation more generally and found some consensus that the sweetness derived from a Sunday session is most certainly directly proportional to its inherent risk. Riskiness, when you consider its intrinsic incalculability, is something that borders on the magical. And you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie out on a tightrope or a high roller staking five grand a hand to get the endorphin rush that risk can deliver. All you need to do is put your next days’ wage or even your entire job on the line and get down to the boozer for a skinful on a Sunday. Fair warning though, I tossed these particular dice a few weeks ago and I lost.

Thankfully this loss brought about no need to hightail it back to hatch number two or to pawn the family silver, the nature of my punishment this time around was to be more sensory than anything. With a humdinger of a hangover the next morning, I rushed queasily down the road to make the last Monday DART that would deliver me to work on time. Sufficiently sardined onto same, I made the horrifying discovery that I was headphoneless. And of course, it wasn’t even a tiny moment after I’d made that realisation when two particular gentlemen, whom I could only describe as the type who would have been dealing with NAMA during the recession, boarded the train. Unfortunately, these boys had no inclination to keep as quiet as the rest of the passengers and set about letting the whole carriage hear their conversation which was convened entirely with the use of business buzz-word bollock-talk. You know the sort of stuff – acronym laden shite that you’d hear the minister for finance yammer on with when he’s speaking about citizens like financial commodities. Anyhow, it was these two gobshites and their overuse of the phrase Silicon Docks in referring to the Grand Canal area that had me thinking of The Ferryman.

Almost certainly named in accordance with the dockland profession, The Ferryman adds to that reverence which (rightly) is afforded to historical working-class figures. Dockers and their ilk tend to be particularly esteemed compared to their inland contemporaries when it comes to works produced from all pillars of culture such as art, literature, music and, em, pub names. And given that the docks are now tech-centric you’d have to wonder if the dockers that future generations will refer to will be silicon dockers. I don’t suppose that it’s entirely unlikely that gravel-voiced troubadours will sing merrily in slip-jig timing about the days of user acceptance testing to patrons gathered around the lounge of The Senior Data Analyst Inn in a century or two. Thank the big fella upstairs that you and I won’t live long enough for that one.

On the medium to large side of things, The Ferryman is a pub whose look is very much timber focused – wooden flooring, tables, and facades abound while surfaces which are not covered with timber are painted in tones resembling such. Ephemera is mixed and follows no defining pattern, but one could pick out plenty of maritime stuff in there to tie in with the name if they chose to. Wrapping around in the sort of shape that almost resembles an L, the bar is relatively open and boasts plenty of seating options. There’s a sizable downstairs bar in the pub too and overall you couldn’t fault the appearance of it. There’s plenty of window space around the street-facing walls of the building too which make for fine people-watching opportunities while you sip away on a pint. And speaking of the pint, it won’t bring about any cause for concern in the tastebud department but will rock the wallet for five and a half euro which is certainly on the higher side of things.

Pintman Nº7 and I were in last over the summer and had a couple of mid-afternoon scoops before heading further afield. The place was ticking over with a customer base mostly comprised of tourists from nearby hotels as well as one or two more local sounding lads who were appropriately garbed in lifejackets. We considered making a bad joke about them falling into their pints but decided against the risk of offending hardier souls than ourselves.

Aside from a pricey pint, we couldn’t criticize The Ferryman too much. It’s a pub that must be commended for having weathered the storm of the recession and managed to keep the doors open when so many others were closing. And given the concentration of industry back into the docklands these days, it seems that The Ferryman should be more than able to stand dockers (silicon or otherwise) in good stead for all their future quayside drinking needs.

It’s early afternoon on a bitter February morning and I’m huddled around the graveside of Fenian Leader – Jeremiah O Donovan Rossa with another dozen cold persons on a guided tour of Glasnevin Cemetery. An actor in full Irish Volunteer regalia is in the throes of his re-enacting of Padraig Pearse’s famous graveside oration. The wind is whipping up in short frenzied bursts which are shaking the surrounding trees, strong trees – nourished on the since-decayed flesh of patriot dead. Haphazardly, this wind is spraying a pin-prick icy drizzle laterally toward my face, aiding it in its apparent attempt to render all exposed flesh numb.

I’m entirely sure that February is a fine month for a great number of things, but even more certain am I that Saint Brigid herself would agree that this is no optimal month for traipsing about on consecrated grounds for prolonged periods in the frost. After an hour or so the otherwise enjoyable tour ends and before I can speak the reddened faces of my companions render moot the question I have in my head. We are all in telepathic agreement that the time has come to seek shelter from the cold – and our chosen location for such is another thing that Brigid would’ve probably been agreeable to, her being the patron saint of beer, and all. We are bound for Kavanagh’s, The Gravediggers.

At this particular point in time our having never been to the pub is a shame we carry in secret. We fancy ourselves as knowing a thing or two about the most well-regarded pubs in Dublin and we’re repeatedly deflecting suggestions and changing subjects in order to try and conceal the awful truth. And with this comes the expectation, the hype. It’s not possible for this pub, good and all as we’re sure it will be, to live up to the standard our respective unconsciousness set for their waking counterparts. We find our way out of the cemetery and push back the heavy iron gate and proceed toward the battered wooden door. The world stops. It’s glorious.

Before long, the eight or so of us are burrowed intimately into the last remaining enclave which shier groups, similar in size, might have regarded as too small. Scatters of pints begin to arrive from the bar and arouse, in the faces of their recipients, the sort of joy you might expect to see on that of an exhausted mother postnatally cradling her new-born moments after birth.

With that, the heat has returned to our faces and the pints and conversation flow in synonymy. Outside, a mutinous streak of sunlight gasps from the grey clouds which could not conceal it, it passes through the windows at the front of the pub and works as best as it can to illuminate the pub before ultimately becoming choked out by the shade therein. And with the light and shade in battle and the joviality and expressiveness around the place you could easily convince yourself that you were inside the frame of a Vermeer or a Caravaggio, if you wanted to. .

This pub is the archetypal Dublin pub – but not just in appearance. A family run boozer with strong community ties, it’s the very essence of what a Dublin pub should be and the yardstick against which all others should be measured. This is the original model of what so many imposters unfruitfully seek to recreate for profit or for glory. To walk into the sepia-toned confines of this pub is to step squarely into the past – each feature is as characterful as the next: be it the smoke-stained ceiling, the bark chipped table or the saloon doors. There is no coincidence in the fact that the pub has been used in countless TV and movie productions to elicit a sense of days gone by.

And it’s entirely apt that the pub, which opened in 1833, is used for historical programming, as it’s dripping in lore and history. I’ll assume that everyone is already au fait with one about the afters of Luke Kelly’s funeral, and forego that for now. Even more interesting, as Luke too I’m sure would agree, is the fact that the pub and the set of customers whom gave it its name are responsible for some of the lingo that’s still commonplace in the modern lexicon. During the war, when glass was in short supply, they say that the grave diggers, weary from their work in the adjoining cemetery, would adjourn for a drink and offer up earthenware jam-jars for the purpose of being used as receptacles for their well-earned beer. From there the phrase “are ye goin’ for a jar” was born.

The pub, they say, is also responsible for the main entrance to Glasnevin Cemetery having to be relocated away from Prospect Avenue to its current one on The Finglas road. It seems that the delays resulting from mourners who couldn’t resist a liquid detour before the coffin was lowered into the soil were so bad that the only way to combat it was to build an entire new entrance.

I suppose I should get on to the pint. This is as good as it gets folks, each and every one is a showstopper and I make no hesitation in saying that this pint is the best in Dublin. This fact then, by proxy makes the pint of Guinness in The Gravediggers the best in the country, which in turn then makes it the best pint in the world. And what’s more is that it’s always charged at a fair price too, the lads could probably charge six quid a pop if they wanted to, but they won’t, the last time we managed to get up that way it was going for €4.80 a measure. A bargain!

So anyone who’s followed our ramblings for the last few years will know that we’ve been a while trying to convey our love for this pub through text. A while being measured in years in this case. I think we’ll never manage to write something that we’re 100% happy with so we’re going to convince ourselves that this one is good enough because if we don’t we’d only end up writing a full book on the pub, which I suppose we couldn’t rule out into the future either.

Ever since Molly wheeled her barrow up the road from those pelt-peddling pricks down at the mouth of Grafton Street and plonked herself where it’s supposed that the Vikings once erected the thingmote, their version of Dundrum Shopping Centre, you could argue that the most westward point of Suffolk street has been subject to something of a rejuvenation.

It’s here outside St Andrew’s church that you might listen to the portrayal of fiction as fact when steady throngs of tourists are corralled around the likeness of the city’s most famous mythical brasser only to have her described as if she were as real as Tone or Collins. And as you watch these tourists, one by one, mount Molly’s plinth and degrade the cause of feminism one brush of her brass bust at a time you might think to yourself that it’s not ideal but that it could be worse – it’s only a statue after all and where’s the harm in a few Yanks thinking of her as once actually alive… alive-o. It’s also probably apt enough that O Neill’s is the public house which sits upon this site because it, to me, falls into this same category as the scene aforementioned – it’s not ideal, but it could be worse.

Relative to our, ahem, studies… this bar is quite a notable one insofar that it’s the first where we can conclusively state a connection to James Joyce, a good pub does not make. And yes, this is another pub with strong links to JJ himself, it being featured in Counterparts – one of the short stories contained in Dubliners. In this story we meet Farrington, a legal secretary whose vitriol toward his superiors is severe enough that it manages to manifest itself as a thirst. And such is the insistence of this thirst on the day that Counterparts is set, that Farrington heads off on his afternoon break to quench it:

He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out: “Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.” The curate brought him a glass of plain porter.

Thankfully the standard of the jar seems that it was up to a higher level back at that time for if Jim happened to be writing about my maiden visit to the pub he’d be flinging his lingual prowess at describing how the curate poured my drink into a near empty and used vessel in one single pour and offered to sell it to me at full price. A decade on that still gives me the shivers.

I don’t know whether its just the size of the pub of the proliferation of taps, but the drink in here tends to be an issue more so than it should be. Personally, and anecdotally (off and online) we hear of bad pints galore in here (check out the Guinness we came across on twitter recently in the picture.) and with the price tag of €5.50 a go, the standard should be far higher.

Aesthetically the pub has its ups and its downs. Traditionally decorated, the front bar is resplendent with wood alike all other show piece pubs of the Victorian age around the city. It would be my pick of the many sections on offer especially seen as it’s good and out of sight of the dreaded carvery bar – a feature which Pintman №2, №3 and I have spent plenty of time arguing about. I should also, at this point, mention that the two lads aren’t quite as anti-O Neill’s as myself, their assessment of the place being an adequate one for taking in a match or two. But I think I might have them on the ropes about it these days.

Returning to the point made earlier on, and while not my pick of the bunch, O Neill’s is a pub that isn’t quite as bad as it could be. But with the touristification of Dublin ongoing it’s most certainly following the cash in the wrong direction. And what a shame it is to find that a pub with such fine potential to sit up top with the big leaguers would seem to be having it’s genuine cultural bonafides paddy whacked into a twee tourist only experience. Something which I suppose the quare one outside knows all too well.

If you were to ease yourself into a chair in the busy waiting room of an oncology clinic and gorge yourself upon the alcohol hand sanitizer that presumably hangs from the wall there, 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 defacto famine-era soup kitchen!

Have some respect for yourself and walk 20 seconds up the road to The Flowing Tide instead.

Seriously, it’s a kip. Don’t bother. I’ve made a balls of the image above there and thown the colours out of whack. I’m not arsed fixing it because the place is a kip!