Lately, we hit something of a milestone here on DublinByPub – you might have noticed during the month of March that we finally managed to breach the ten thousand follower mark here on Instagram. We’re still a little perplexed as to how we’ve managed to come this far but we’d certainly like to take a moment to sincerely thank all of our followers across Instagram and other social platforms for their continued support and engagement, we genuinely do still get a buzz from spreading the good word of Dublin Pubs and hearing your stories and perspectives back. This following post is one we had hoped to upload when we surpassed the 10K mark, but in our usual disorganised fashion, we were a bit late to the mark and are only getting around to it now.
It’s no mystery in this modern existence of ours that certain things work better when coupled with others – salt and pepper, gin and tonic, Lennon and McCartney – you get the idea. One particular pairing whose values I’ve come to espouse as my drinking career has evolved over the years is the coupling of music and a few drinks. When tied together, the aforementioned pair tend to form a sort of symbiosis; themes in music can be outlandish and unattainable, a few pints allow us to cast off the shackles of cynicism and live in the moment of a song, whereas settling into a decent album or a good gig provides a perfectly opportune moment to indulge in a tipple or three – it’ a perfect two-way street. A good number of years ago I was indulging in this particular mix of activities when I happened upon a master of the two arts of music and drink – Shane MacGowan.
The evening leading up to this encounter began not in a pub but in a concert venue on Middle Abbey St. – The Academy, a few friends and I were in to see a since disbanded Dublin group by the name of The Republic of Loose. The Republic Of Loose at this time were known for their raucous shows – which, due to their late starting times, would guarantee a fairly rowdy and booze-quenched audience. These gigs would often involve an appearance from a contemporary musician during the encore and this evening would be no exception to that. Appearing for their first encore on this particular night the band introduced their guest for the evening – the lead singer from The Pogues: Shane MacGowan. With a drink in hand and a lit cigarette in a post-smoking-ban era Dublin, Shane ambled into the centre of the stage and led the band in a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women before performing an original – Fiesta. The crowd’s response couldn’t be described as anything even marginally south of pandemonium.
After the concert had come to a close, and in that after-gig half-drunk euphoria, I found myself sat upon a step outside the venue awaiting the emergence of the friends I’d become separated from. As I waited I had begun talking to a woman with whom I shared the step, mostly discussing the gig we came to address the topic of Shane McGowan’s appearance – at which point I felt it appropriate to declare my desire to share a drink with the great man – it was from here on that things became a bit serendipitous. Upon hearing my request –the woman produced a mobile phone and inexplicably began dialling. When she finished the call I received two important pieces of information – firstly that she was a good friend of The Republic of Loose’s lead singer and secondly (and also more importantly) that Shane McGowan was bound for a pub in Temple Bar called Eamon Doran’s.
With due thanks given for the latter piece of information I had gathered my friends and we made haste to Eamon Doran’s. Now we’ve mentioned Eamon Doran’s on DublinByPub before, it was a rock bar that towed a nice line between the popular and the alterative and was adjoined to the Dublin’s most beloved pizzeria: DiFontaines, before it made the move up to Parliament St. Doran’s had a number of defining features – these were not limited to a large Thin Lizzy stage sign, some very poorly lit basement corners from which lust-spent couples would emerge at random intervals and a narky Asian barman who poured a tremendous pint of stout. I loved Doran’s! And I frequented it to such a degree that I had found myself on first name terms with one of the bouncers, this was something that would prove to be advantageous later on.
For consistency’s sake we should comment on the pub as it stands now. Being fully aware of the potential of their central Temple Bar location, the successive owners decided to revamp our beloved haunt to resemble its neighbouring tourist traps. Thusly The Old Storehouse was born – sending rockers to go seek pastures anew the new look Doran’s became complete with the type of fit-out that you might find in any given Irish Bar dotted across the globe and began purveying that sort of paddy-whackery laden genre of Temple Bar Trad that rarely goes an hour without repeating a gratuitous rendition of The Fields of Athenry. We’ve since been in separately over the years and while we agree it would be a grand spot to wind up in for a few hours as a tourist, we can’t say that we’re likely to become locals anytime soon ourselves, but anyway – back to MacGowan.
Arriving into Doran’s shortly after leaving The Academy, we noticed no difference in the place compared to a usual run-of-the-mill night. A quick search for Shane yielded no results and with the diminished prospects of pinting with a Pogue apparent, we set about getting on with enjoying the remainder of our night. This we did, until such a time that the cessation of music and full illumination heralded the end of the evening’s proceedings. Making our way slowly toward the exit, serendipity was to step in again when I ran into the bouncer with whom I was friendly. Having more or less immediately asked him about Shane, he ushered me away into a quiet corner and informed me that he would see what he could do.
A nervous number of minutes would follow wherein I’d gain admittance to the pub once more only to be escorted out again by a more senior member of the security staff with whom I was not friendly, eventually, the door would become ajar and a friendly voice would usher me in with the instruction that ‘they’re up the back there’. They were.
In all truth, this memory is a hazy one given the amount of drink that had been consumed on the night – but there are a number of clear recollections from the overall encounter. First was the thought that I had in my head as I approached Shane. Recalling the various recorded interviews I had struggled to comprehend his speech in, I distinctly remember being worried about understanding the man. In hindsight, I perhaps should have had also been concerned about the inverse – given the drink-fuelled deterioration in my own particular lingual skills at the time. Nonetheless, both fears were ultimately unfounded – we communicated with ease and understood each other in the same manner I’d imagine tribal elders do when they’re speaking in tongues and full of ayahuasca.
Over the course of a single pint of Guinness, we discussed topics ranging from The Dubliners to Brendan Behan to Damien Dempsey and music in general. Overall Shane shone through as an intelligent and personable person, he listened to whatever nonsense I must have said to him and conversed insightfully and respectfully throughout. I remember being somewhat astonished by the size of the man’s hands as he raised a pint glass of clear liquid to his lips, a glass which he later clarified to me as containing gin when I naively asked if it contained water. This was corroborated by the smell in the air after he took another mouthful, an aroma that suggested that there wasn’t anything other than gin in the pint glass. When I’d finished my own pint (of Guinness) I asked Shane if I could hang about, and to my surprise he obliged – it was then that a pal of his took me aside and explained that intrusion was a regular occurrence in the Shane camp and if I’d mind fucking off. He put it so politely I couldn’t really refuse.
So out I stumbled into a deserted Temple Bar and set about home, and even now as I type I can still recall the thought I had when I awoke the next afternoon – the disbelieve, the surrealism. I’m still wondering to myself, especially now given the time that has passed, as to whether this just some dreamt up drunken narrative created in my subconscious. But it wasn’t! And this is no Wizard of Oz ending – it’s more along the lines of Nightmare on Elm Street I’m thinking, but with a shitty pixellated image of me and Shane taken on a mid-2000s camera phone instead of a few slashes on a nightgown.
So given that we’re always looking for good drinking quotes to punctuate the stuff we put on here and given that we’re on the subject of one of Ireland’s most beloved lyricists, we should leave the last word to Shane. “When the world is too dark, And I need the light inside of me, I’ll walk into a bar, And drink fifteen pints of beer”