Tag Archive for: liberties

Standing and sitting all around him, they gaze ahead, unemotionally, and in glib expectation of a continuance of the mediocrity that has so far graced the stage on this cold winter’s night. He has no light show, no backing band, and no bejewelled jumpsuit for to dazzle them with – he’s garbed in a nondescript t-shirt and the pair of brown cords that we always slag him about wearing. He’s singing into a budget microphone, over a synthesizer-heavy, cheap-sounding backing track. Though it’s all eyes rolling and lips pursing as they recognise his song choice, his timely deployment of a few hip swivels and arm rotations has them softened before the first chorus comes in.

Kenny's (James' St.)

By the time he’s dropped to his knees for the middle-eighth and pleaded with the nearest pensioner to “wipe the tears from your eyes” and “not let a good thing die”, he has them fully onside for the home stretch. Finishing the song, he takes his applause and joins us where we’d been laughing at him in the crowd, throughout. After enquiring with us as to where he’d left his pint, we all returned to our seats in the bar and rejoined the remainder of our friends and the prostitute who had since joined us at the table.

Numerous people within the population may disagree with sex work and more again may be anti-karaoke. But one could only surmise that only the smallest of subsets of even those people would argue that neither karaoke nor sex workers are entirely out of place in a public house. But what if we told you that this is no ordinary public house?

When those shots, arguably the most impactful ever fired in Irish history, had long finished echoing through the Cork countryside and Michael Collins had been put in the ground in Glasnevin; the task of governing the Free State was placed upon the head of a Mr William Thomas Cosgrave. Known to most of us as WT Cosgrave, he was obviously a man who didn’t fancy much of a commute to his work given that when he fought in the Rising under Eamonn Ceannt – he did so in the South Dublin Union – a then-workhouse, which now forms part of the St. James Hospital complex. And handily enough for WT – the South Dublin Union happened to be across the road from Burke’s pub – where he was born, lived, and also put the odd shift in. This pub, as observers of the plaque outside it will know – is now Kenny’s.

The reason we felt it important to emphasize, as we did above, about this being no ordinary pub is that our own impression of it was just that. There’s a relatively narrow bar on the left side of the building and, at the time we visited, the pub was ticking over with customers who all seemed to be local enough and enjoying themselves. Kenny’s is a good-looking traditional pub. One where the pint is fairly priced (€5 as of late 2022) and is well crafted by the bartenders who, on our collective visit, are full of chat and banter as they go about their duties.

Other than that inconspicuous plaque, there’s no blatant or obvious reason for someone who wanders into this pub from the street outside to know that it’s the birthplace of the State’s first de facto Taoiseach. Who, himself, fathered another Taoiseach. There’s no indication in the place that it was once raided during the Civil War and that the uncle of the State’s first de facto Taoiseach was shot and killed here. Passing from the bar of the pub into its expansive lounge and sitting amongst all the spectators of the karaoke, therein, you could never imagine that this building did bear witness to such historical events.

The funny thing is though, that places of such historical significance tend to be more solemn and reflective places. You’d hardly have your Aunty Margret up doing her best Proud Mary down at Arbor Hill, or Uncle Tommy giving My Way a good blast in the yard in Kilmainham Jail, now, would you? So, with that in mind, you can’t help but question the appropriateness of Pintman №3 crooning out his best Suspicious Minds in here, though, can you?

WT Cosgrave Plaque

But, rest assured, the more and more we’ve thought about it, the more suitable we’ve come to believe that it is. What you need to do to achieve such a state is to look at the lyrics of the song – not from the perspective of a paranoid lover – but from that of a combatant in a civil war. Cosgrave is the man who had to make the big decisions to steer Ireland out of the Civil War, post-Collins. It could be argued that it is he who is the quintessential civil war figure in Irish history. And given the alternatives available to him at the time, you could say that he was caught in a trap.

When you consider the threat of awful and terrible violence from the British war machine that hung like a Damocles sword over the head of the State’s first government, were they to not have settled the civil war, you come to realise that Cosgrave could not walk out during that violent time in Irish history where most of the cabinet and their families barely ever left government buildings for fear of execution. And all this because he loved you (i.e. the path to achieving a real republic) too much baby.

Cosgrave Shot

So, to us, there’s no reason why the performing of Elvis can be considered as a disrespectful act, on such sacred turf. It is also worth noting that, though they seem worlds apart, Cosgrave didn’t die until 1965 – at which point Elvis was already established as a global superstar. And who’s to say that the founder of Cumann na nGaedheal, anti-royalist as he was, didn’t have a soft spot for this particular King, were he to be played on Radio Éireann back when rock and roll was taking over the world?

As for the woman who had joined us, that – to us – was an unusual encounter in a Dublin pub. We had clocked her mostly-unreciprocated overfamiliarity with all of the men who were arriving into the pub as we were there, and we’d privately made a few guesses as to her profession being that which ranked as the oldest in the world on this basis.

When she did join us for a drink, and confirm our guesses to be correct, she didn’t opt to stay around for long when it was established that we were not prospective customers.

We definitely do stand over the case we’ve made for WT being likely to let a bit of Elvis slide on such hallowed, historical ground, but we can’t say with any degree of certainty that, given his endorsement of the closure of Dublin’s notorious red-light district: The Monto, the case can be made for Mr Cosgrave looking so fondly upon the solicitation of sex on the premises.

So, if you’re a blueshirt, a karaoke fan, a member of the vice squad, or all of the above – or if you’re just looking for a few decent pints, get yourself down to Kenny’s of James’ Street for one of the best nights you could hope for.

Epilogue: We do just want to make sure it’s clear that we are not suggesting that the management/proprietors/operators of this pub are involved in the provision of sex for sale. The sex worker we met in this pub was not affiliated with it or its staff. As alluded to above, this was a fairly unusual encounter – not only in Kenny’s (which we’ve separately and collectively been to a handful of times and not experienced) but in Dublin pubs in general.

Each and every June, they don their straw boaters and bedeck themselves in their finest Edwardian splendour. By foot, bicycle, and horse-drawn cart, they can be seen as they to and fro around that familiar circuit. They’ll be spotted alongside the fortifications of Sandycove, and they’ll be seen at the mouth of Westland Row. They’ll be seen on Stephen’s Green and in Merrion Square. You’ll undoubtedly see them out on the pavement of Duke Street as they quaff overpriced burgundy for to dull the sharp sting of the similarly overpriced gorgonzola that has just passed their lips. But one place you will almost certainly not see them is at Number 27 James’ Street. And for the life of me, I cannot begin to fathom why. 

I’m not sure if it’s just me. Still, every time that Bloomsday – a day I’ve heard referred to as Paddy’s Day for arseholes on more than one occasion – rolls around, I find myself a bit annoyed that all of the reportage from that day invariably centres around those familiar and picturesque vistas mentioned above.

I’m not trying to sound bitter, but having, as Joyce did too, a bit of a persecution complex, I’m always a bit annoyed that we rarely see images from the more working-class areas featured in Joyce’s writing. Areas like James’ Street and pubs like The Malt. 

The Malt

It’s unlikely you’ll find it mentioned in the literature that litters the lobbies of hotels around the country – but The Malt is a pub that features in that novel which has been called the most prominent landmark in modernist literature – Ulysses. Specifically, it appears in the Wandering Rocks episode where the reader follows Tom Kernan, a tea merchant, as he passes Crimmins’ Wine and Spirit Merchants at numbers 27 and 28 James’s Street – The Malt is the business that now occupies number 27. 

From the sundial towards James’s gate walked Mr Kernan, pleased with the order he had booked for Pulbrook Robertson, boldly along James’s street, past Shackleton’s offices. Got round him all right. How do you do, Mr Crimmins? First rate, sir. I was afraid you might be up in your other establishment in Pimlico. How are things going? Just keeping alive. Lovely weather we’re having. Yes, indeed. Good for the country. Those farmers are always grumbling. I’ll just take a thimbleful of your best gin, Mr Crimmins. A small gin, sir. Yes, sir. 

James Joyce, Ulysses

Long-time readers of the blog might be aware that our framing of a pub, relative to its minor inclusion in the works of Joyce has almost become a bit of a DublinBuPub trope at this stage. Knowing this, I initially sought to write this one without any such mention. But the more I tried, the harder it seemed to become. I just couldn’t escape the thought that a place like The Malt House – it being so brimming with working-class Dubliners, all at ease with themselves and others, in full flow of their peculiar Hiberno-English is precisely the sort of space that Joyce himself would have feasted upon for his own particular literary peculiarities. 

We would ask all readers of this piece, who seek to gain a rounded view of this pub to first allow our presence in four pubs immediately before the visit we are going to speak about here, to act as the disclaimer that it should. We will note that the pub had, during the course of that afternoon, come to be highly recommended when Pintman №9, an employee of a nearby manufacturing concern, the one that actually possesses a literal malt house, had set our jowls watering in anticipation when he spoke of the quality of the local brew that he had enjoyed there some months previous.

For fear that we’re going to lean toward another of our tropes, we won’t comment on what we really think about this. But, the first thing you should note about The Malt House is the fact that food is served. If the management in The Malt House wants to impress upon you: the customer, or you: the passerby, or you: the general member of the public – it is that they serve food.

test frame

The Sundial Mentioned in the quote above

And just like the commercial malt houses in the nearby expansive brewery, whose roasting of barley regularly engages the olfaction of the wider Dublin 8 postcode, en-masse, this particular malt house also happens to do so as well. Not with barley though, but with that aforementioned food offering. The patrons of this malt house are free to inhale the fragrance of their fellow customer’s dinners, as they emanate from the kitchen in the pub’s rear. And given that any Joycean worth their salt will waste no time quoting about sweet lemony wax, tang of faintly scented urine and, eh, Nora Barnacle’s… essence –  we’d have to make, once again, an argument for its inclusion as a Joycean touchstone. 

In the short time that we do spend in The Malt House, we find ourselves in conversation with two welcoming lads who waste no time in rearranging their table to make room for the heft us that have arrived and opted to sit at the table next to them. In the same spirit of nearby hostelries, they waste no time throwing a bit of slagging our way when they realise that we’re from the far side of the city. One of them is quick enough to enquire with regard to our League of Ireland allegiances – “Yis aren’t bleedin’ Bohs fans now are yis?” We manage to assuage any tension with a tenuous allegiance to St Pat’s by qualification of one of us having Inchicore parentage. 

And that is about all we can really report from our maiden voyage to The Malt House. It’s a straightforward pub. A St. Pat’s Pub. A Dublin GAA Pub. A pub with plenty of friendly and welcoming patrons. A pub with a great pint (€5 as of Late 2022). It’s a pub that this blog might, had it been writing about it just three of four years previously, have described as being typical of the area. But with the demise of Bakers, The Clock and Agnes Browne’s, The Malt House has lived to see itself start to become the exception, rather than the rule. So, regardless of whether this pub is just a common or garden local or a Joycean relic, or both, for all that is good and holy, be sure to get in and experience a good honest Liberties local while you still can.  

I was thinking about canals the other week. Not just in general – I had Dublin’s two canals – The Royal on the Northside and the Grand on the Southside on my mind. Now I’m not here to delve into the wider history of them, today, but that’s well worth looking into if you’re so inclined. But the canals are often, relative to this blog, foremost in our thoughts. Like so many, we use them as boundaries – deeming them to denote where the city centre of Dublin starts and ends. But, as I sat down beside Patrick Kavanagh on my lunch break during the week – I was thinking too, how their initial purpose, to be used for trade and commerce, is virtually eradicated now.  

Harkin’s – The Harbour Bar: Grand Canal Place

I was asking Paddy, whether he reckoned that his Canal Bank Walk poem might have been the thing that done it or at least heralded it. This change of the canal zeitgeist, as it were, to its modern form. The transformation of our consideration of this body of water to be a source of ecology, of nature and biodiversity and not solely a for-profit feat of engineering. 

Paddy, being a bronze statue, naturally did not respond to me. But I’ll post his poem here, which – as you’ll observe, makes no mention of industry or logistics. 

Canal Bank Walk 

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal 

Pouring redemption for me, that I do 

The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal, 

Grow with nature again as before I grew. 

The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third 

Party to the couple kissing on an old seat, 

And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word 

Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat. 

O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web 

Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech, 

Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib 

To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech 

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven 

From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven. 

Patrick Kavanagh

Now it’s probably bad enough to be reading this if you’re Brendan Behan – because after me just mentioning one of his most vocal adversaries, I’m now going to move on to speak about the pub he was in when he collapsed and ultimately died in 1964.  

Harkin’s, aka the Harbour Bar, is a pub situated on Grand Canal Place. And it could be argued that the pub and the street that it sits on are in direct defiance of the entire point that I made about the canals, above. Because, as one walks up Grand Canal Place, they might begin to notice that despite its name, there isn’t sight nor sound of the grand canal to be found anywhere. And if that leads you, as it did me, to curiosity – you won’t be long finding out that – just like outside The Lower Deck, there once was a Canal Harbour in situ near this pub. And this explains it retaining the name The Harbour Bar. And then you’ll look up at the grand vista of the Guinness Brewery and you’ll be very much reminded of the canal’s purpose as an artery of business and not a leafy lover-filled habitat. 

048 The Harbour Lights, Echlin Street (1977)

Harkin’s, being so close to the historic harbour, and being the last standing of such harbourside pubs in this environs, now finds itself with the distinction of being the pub closest to The Guinness Storehouse. On the smaller side of the city’s public houses, it’s a one-room pub which exudes an intimate, cosy sort of charm about it. Being so close to one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, the staff have clearly had plenty of opportunities to work on their customer service given the warmth of the welcome we seem to always receive in the place. And it’s a good genuine warmth too, as opposed to the brand of Mid Atlantic faux-niceness you might get in other establishments.  

Crowd-wise, it’s no surprise to say that the pub is not shy of tourists, but it also has locals aplenty and retains the feel of a proper Liberties boozer. There’s good craic to be had in the place. When last we darkened its door, we were delighted to bump into Mark, a local historian, who had us more than entertained talking about the history of our locality and sharing some old photos of it that he had on his phone. The barmen, however, on hearing we were from the Northside of the city, wasted no time in giving us a bit of stick – all being ardent Southsiders, themselves. (Check out Mark’s pages here and here

Regarding the pint, you’d be imagining that the quality would be up to scratch – being so close to the mothership. And you’d be entirely correct in imagining as such. Pintman №2, №3, №9 and I, on the occasion of our last visit there, decided that the quality of the jar and its €4.90 pricetag (Late 2022) warranted us staying for two more pints than we had initially intended to.  

There isn’t not much to be said about the pub regarding décor, function trumps form here and we’re not looking at anything too ornate. Our abiding memory of all of the structural elements of the building was the relatively long corridor that runs down to the gents. I had remarked to Pintman №2 that it struck me as the type of thing you see before you emerge out to the crowd in the mid-nineties tv show, Stars in Their Eyes. He preferred to liken it to the tunnel in Anfield.  

As we alluded to earlier in the post, it’s a fact that this was the last Public House Brendan Behan ever took a drink in before his body succumbed to years of alcohol abuse. While not exactly a great omen – and morbid and all as it is to go there, I’d have to say that even though I’d have plenty of places further up in the queue for where I’d like to take my last pint, I wouldn’t be disappointed if it had to be Harkin’s in the end.  

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.

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”… so sang Gene Wilder when he played Willy Wonka in the on-screen adaptation of Rohl Dahl’s most famous book. The song is one that you might hear from time to time as an adult and find yourself kicked by the boot of nostalgia right back to the dreamy state of childishness where you were innocent or naive enough to believe that such places as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory might exist.

Unfortunately, life gets its hands on us all, and by the time you get around to our age, you come to realise that chocolate factories are in fact cold humourless industrialised complexes filled with hardy workers operating noisy machinery and ne’er an Oompa Loompa in sight. You even know by now that if Willy Wonka’s factory was actually a reality it would be burdened with litigation and health warnings and such…. It’s tough being an adult.

The Open Gate Brewery – Thomas St.

But fear not ye dejected grown-ups, we here at Dublin By Pub have found a space that will fill that Wonka-shaped void that plagues your soul so! And it happens to be right here in Dublin. The Open Gate Brewery is a space within the confines of St James’ Gate Brewery where magic happens. There’s no confectionary and no little orange lads singing songs which, to be fair, wouldn’t really be that much craic when it came down to it. What they do have instead is something far more exciting – gallons upon gallons of beer!

We will acknowledge that this spot isn’t really a pub – but given that it’s contained within the complex that supplies pints to the vast majority of pubs that we visit, and also given the fact that we’ve contradicted ourselves umpteen times previously on DBP we’re going to make an exception. A working brewery, you could think of this space as Guinness’s very own Frankenstein’s Lab where teams of brewers are given free rein to cook up whatever conceivable form of beer takes their fancy. The gates of this brewery are then opened weekly on the evenings of Thursday, Friday and Saturday – allowing the public to sample the brewers’ wares.

I think we might have mentioned in one previous post or another that Pintman №2 is a bit of a purist when it comes to drink. It’s not often that you’ll find this man with anything other than a pint of Guinness in his claw, so you can imagine my surprise when himself and myself managed to try each of the 10 or so beers listed on the large board behind the bar on our first visit into the OGB a number of months ago. The setup is handy enough, you can have any of the beers listed outright or you can get a set of samples. The staff were sound and guided us through the options with a good degree of knowledge and friendliness, they explained that most of the taps change as new experimental brews come on stream and older ones dry up. Once we’d finished with all the seasonal beer, Pintman №2 and I knew that there was only one show left in town, and let us just say how weird of a thing it is to order a pint from within the confines of the belly of the beast – expectations run as high as they possibly can.

Thankfully there’s no sting in the tail here – these pints were perfect down to the last drop: the temperature, the head, and the pour – all spot on. The only criticism we had was that they were served in a new style glass rather than a tulip glass. We debated as to whether we’d reasonably be allowed to take points off Guinness for the way they serve their flagship beer in their own brewery as we drank a few more that evening. I’m not sure if we managed to come to a conclusion in the end.

The Open Gate Brewery is good craic. It’s not a pub in our definition of the term but it is a good precursor to the pub and should accommodate beer-thirsty palates of all types.

Full disclosure folks: we’ve since visited here on the invitation of The Open Gate Brewery and the lads from The Fine Ale Countdown and were very kindly looked after on that occasion. The piece above is based upon an initial and impartial visit, as all the rest of our posts are.

Do you ever find that in our modern existence, where our surroundings are becoming more and more homogenised in the pursuit of commercialisation, that you can lose touch with things of substance? – Things like history and culture! As you take a wander up Thomas St. and witness the encroaching trends of burrito and doughnut shops that pop up in identical guises to their sister outlets it can become all too easy to forget just how old Dublin actually is.

Tom Kennedy’s: Thomas St.

Thankfully there are things that can reconnect us to our past, these can come in the guise of a grandmother shouting about cheap detergent on her metal stall, or for us they can come in the form of reading that a pub on this same street – namely Tom Kennedy’s, is one that is contained within a building that has had a presence upon Thomas Street since somewhere in or around the 1750s, an attribute that is put into context with ease when you consider that The Yanks only declared independence from The Brits in 1776.

It’s said that Wolfe Tone may have been waked here in number 65 Thomas St, and if there’s any truth in that, it could be argued that this building has been accommodating functions for longer than most others in the city because when we arrived into the pub last we were greeted with banners and balloons aplenty denoting not that a revolutionary had been executed, but rather that Jessica was 21.

Walking into this community-warmed local of a summer evening we found ourselves welcomed into the fold without the degree of scrutiny that you might find yourself under in some other shops – as we settled into a few high stools at the front of the bar we couldn’t but be charmed at how the place was abuzz with a warmth that felt akin to something from a Roddy Doyle novel.

A long and narrow pub –it’s one that boasts all the character that a 260-year-old should. The seating is mostly cosy – long comfy couches sit you a short distance from the ground in a span that runs parallel to the bar. A handful of high stools sit toward the front of the room ahead of those found at the bar too.

The walls leave no uncertainties as to the city within which you are drinking – framed images of all things Dublin are a recurring theme. Panelling coloured in creamy tones make up the upper half of the wall space encountered upon entrance and overall the pub is more brightly lit than is to our preference, but not to a degree that warrants any negative commentary on our part. Opening up toward the back there is a raised section upon which sat a DJ who was blasting numerous ladies of the liberties with contemporary floor fillers as they loaded up on cocktail sausages.

The pint is as is hoped for in these sorts of local boozers – having two of the modern Guinness drinker’s most sought-after features: creaminess and a price tag south of the fiver mark. We drank a couple confirming the consistency too.

There’s no real negative critique we could offer on Tom Kennedy’s here. We found an old article on a theliberty.ie from 2013 where the owner was expressing concerns about the future of the pub and lamenting the demise of other local ones that were shutting up shop back then. Five years on we can only hope that he sees things a little more optimistically. The craic we had in here last summer would lead us to believe he should.

It’s no surprise that we’re fond of a pint of Guinness here at DublinByPub, the iconic black and white tipple that has been both our ruination and salvation is one we regard with the utmost veneration. Adding further to that sentiment is the internal reaction we encounter when we take a relished wander up Thomas St. in its entirety. It’s in this location that our fondness for a jar of stout becomes most evident to ourselves. Passing the spot where Robert Emmet met his demise on a colonial rope in the name of Irish independence – our sense of historical intrigue shortly finds itself overcome with a sort of Wonka-esque joy as it becomes apparent that to us that we’ve entered that particular area of Dublin that could only be described as The Guinness District. Taking full heed and advantage of these surroundings, there sits a pub which serves as a sort of demarcation point heralding the beginning of this district – and suitably enough this pub trades under the name Arthur’s.

Arthur’s: Thomas St.

Purporting itself to be the closest pub to the Guinness Storehouse, Arthur’s sits on the corner of Thomas Street and Thomas Court and is indeed a well-placed spectator for thirsty tourists bemusedly wandering up in search of the source. It would be hypocritical of us to describe the fit-out of the pub as anything other than an idyllic interpretation of our preferred design specifications. Wooden flooring and panelling of various tones, mid to dark, define the colour scheme of the bottom half of the space, while the lighter-coloured ceiling allows the pub proper use of the ample light provided by its many windows. A massive fireplace sits on the back wall of the pub- the mantle of which holds more candle wax than your local S&M club during a blackout. Upon this same back wall, exposed brick aids the traditional appearance of the boozer and the seating is made up of high stools entirely, with high tables throughout.

This pub is one of the varieties whereby the installation of a television was not deemed to be a necessary act – a feature that this author would happily award a further bonus point to that which was automatically credited for the fireplace. Along with all these things pleasing to the eye it is also worth noting that Arthur’s hosts a decent amount of live music in their upstairs bar too. We’ve been in for a blues night here and there and found the room to be an agreeable location for some music.

But all of the aforementioned is useless if a pub trading under the name Arthur’s in the shadows of The Guinness Storehouse isn’t pouring a pint of porter that’s more than palatable. Thankfully the folks behind the bar on our last visit were more than capable. Having taken our first gulp of the fine specimens presented to us, we were just about to tack on another bonus point until we were handed our change. Realising that we’d just paid five euro and forty cents for one of the shortest travelled pints in the world we immediately rescinded all prior bonus points and made plans to relocate to a cheaper shop. Arthur’s is a bit like that attractive partner you had with the expensive taste. Great to look at, but too pricey to stay with.

We like to think that we try and give everyone a fair crack of the whip here on Dublin By Pub. Our creed is that each pub we visit gets the prior benefit of impartiality and open-mindedness regardless of its reputation, location or clientele. And when we visited Agnes Brown’s in the summer of 2017, this was most definitely the case. The only problem was that in this instance, a rogue third factor joined the prerequisites of impartiality and open-mindedness; namely the factor of about eight or nine pints in the tank.

Agnes Brown’s: Thomas St.

Under the cover of a late fallen darkness we bustled through the smokers gathered at the threshold and quickly ensconced ourselves into a corner toward the front of the pub. A DJ complete with technicolour lighting took on the job of entertainment for the evening as a few regulars gave us the look one gives to a group of mouldy strangers barrelling into your local on a summer’s Saturday night. We acquired three pints of stout which don’t stand out in memory as being bad pints albeit one of them was served in a Tuborg glass – which to be fair was the preferred tulip shape.

The décor of the pub was an interesting one from the little collective recollection we can muster. We can recall an unconventionally coloured bar coated in hues of red and blue. Plenty of nationalist ephemera adorned the walls and if the writer is not mistaken a few painted bodhráns hung about the space too. The walls were a bright shade and overall the lighting is remembered as being of a fairly optimal level.

We stayed for the one pint in this instance and our visit passed off mostly without remark. We found the locals to be reminiscent of the type found in the boozers of Meath and Francis Street – friendly and boisterous, evidenced by the two grandmothers who danced arm in arm with us as far as the chipper upon our exit which did make for a hell of a flashback when it arrived into consciousness 3 days later.

I could say we had a memorable time in Agnes Brown’s but you know that that would be a lie. Rough around the edges as it was and all, we certainly have no qualms about going back sober to notch off that memorable visit someday.

It’s fair to say that we’re fond of drinking in The Liberties, we find that having a pint there tends to make us suburban dwellers feel more authentically Dublin. That said, we’re no experts, and a while back when we had finished up a few pints in Fallon’s and were considering our next course of action one of the lads suggested that we tip down to Shanahan’s for a look. The only response I could muster to this suggestion was to wonder aloud as to where in the name of Jaysis that could be.

Shanahan’s The Coombe

This is a case in point about why Ireland and Dublin are a wandering pub lover’s paradise. The haphazard, ad-hoc street layout afforded to our home soil gives rise to little hidden nooks and crannies that could only be dreamt of in the symmetrical gridded streets of the USA. Following the trail of The Coombe, we tipped on down toward Shanahan’s.

The pub is unassumingly situated amidst residential properties of varying types, a plain red facade fronts the pub which is of a small to medium size. We headed towards the raised section at the back and were greeted by a very welcoming barman who quickly furnished us with three top-notch pints, even delivering them to our table.

The fit-out of the pub was traditional yet the furniture looked relatively modern – it being in a fairly clean shape. The locals were in good form and left us to it when our conversation became a bit heated with the drink after we disregarded one of the golden rules of drinking and steered the conversation toward a political nature.

Once we had all settled down and had managed to find common ground again we agreed that we’d happily return to the pub, as we left and were bade a farewell by the friendly barman we vowed to do so before the year expired.

Sitting at the mouth of The Liberties lies a street which is as intrinsically Dublin as a bowl of coddle, singing Molly Malone on Hill 16. The Coombe is said to have been a valley which was carved by a tributary which fed the river which gave birth to Dublin: The Poddle. And it’s arguable that this valley is still feeding the lifeblood of Dublin by dishing out creamy scoops to welcome folk beyond the boundaries of the Liberties.


In our exploration of the pubs of Dublin, we’ve visited many places and the truth be told, sometimes one has to scratch under the surface to seek out the magic of a premises. But that said, sometimes you know you’re on hallowed ground the minute you cross the threshold of a pub. Of these sorts of pubs, Fallon’s is the latter.

We’ve been in Fallon’s a few times over the last month and both busy and quiet occasions and we’ve had some ups and some downs.

Visually the pub could not be mistaken for any other type than that of the Irish variety. Eyes that enjoy the sight of an excellent traditional pub will light up upon entry. The floor is unvarnished, un-sanded and scuffed to perfection. A relatively large snug occupies much of the front of the small pub. The exposed tan brickwork adds further to the place’s primitive aesthetic. A large cast iron stove/range sits at the rear of the room, the walls surrounding which bear the scars of harbouring such a device. Varied drinking ephemera alongside historical framings of local interest occupy wall space throughout. Most notably, there is a wedding portrait affixed to the ceiling, just beyond the door. Lore has it that this was put there for the benefit of an old local who would often find himself on the floor after one too many – the idea being that it would remind him to return home to his loving bride. 

The crowd here tends to consist of a mix of younger locals mixed in with a few elders and a couple of tourists for good measure too. As for the pint – this was in the top three of the year. We wondered if a pipe ran directly from James’ gate such was the calibre of creaminess. And under a fiver too. 

The pub is definitely a hidden gem when it comes to older untouched places in the city. The only detractors from the experience are an unwaveringly narky Barman. But this won’t discourage us from visiting again.