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.
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.
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.