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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.

John Kavanagh (The Gravediggers’): Prospect Avenue

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.

Gravedigger's 2

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.

Regardless of whether some politicians want to hear it or not, there can be little escaping the fact that drink is interwoven into our national fabric. Come temperance, cafe culture and minimum unit pricing – one and all – there are literally centuries worth of work that will be required to separate us from our association with lady liquor.

The Bohemian – McGeough’s: Phibsborough Road

I say this not because of half the public parks in the city being former Guinness estates, nor is it to do with the porter proscribed to new mothers or blood donors. This opening statement is prompted by my recent discovery that many of the well-known junctions, or corners, of Dublin, had their name bestowed upon them not by figures of historical or mythological fame but by the names of the very publicans (and sometimes grocers) which they gave frontage to. So think Bakers, Harts, Hanlons and Leonards – all baptised in intoxicating liquor. 

image credit: national library ireland

Of course, I wouldn’t be bringing this up if it wasn’t relevant in the case of the pub pictured. And given that The Bohemian is situated on Doyle’s Corner it seems an apt subject. Doyle’s Corner has an interesting history of which this particular pub is a part of. Back around the turn of the century, the intersection of The North Circular and The Phibsborough Road was known as Dunphy’s Corner. Now, this is where it starts to get a bit confusing because the word Doyle is about to be bandied about as much as it might do in a series or two of Father Ted. 

The name Dunphy’s Corner was derived from another public house which sits directly across the road from The Bohemian – now named Doyle’s Corner, formerly named Doyle’s. The pub that provided this named was owned by a man named Thomas Dunphy who presided over it from the mid-1800s up to around the 1890s. The name Dunphy’s Corner must have been widely used by Dubliners because it’s well represented in song, literature and lore. It gets a mention in Peadar Kearney’s anti-enlistment Ballad about the recruiting sergeant William Bailey (Lankum do a great version), who is said to have stood on the corner in the process of his enlisting. And Peadar might have been working on a subliminal as well as a perceptible level here because ‘going round Dunphy’s Corner‘, as it would have been put, was seemingly an idiom used to describe those who had gone to the great beyond, given its nodal point on the route taken by hearses on their way to Glasnevin. Those familiar with the first half of Ulysses, might remember that Poor Dignam went the very same way along that route in the earlier stages of the book. 

So in the mid-1890s or so along came John Doyle. And John Doyle fancied he might usurp Dunphy and in setting about doing this, he acquired both number 160 and number 66 Phibsborough Road and placed within each of them a public house which bore his name. It was a trick the evidently worked because, as I’m sure you will know, the corner is still referred to as Doyle’s. Seemingly someone by the name of Murphy – proprietor of the nearby Botanic House – took ownership of The Bohemian in the 1970s and figured he could usurp Doyle by erecting signs which read ‘Murphy’s Corner’. But the inhabitants of Phibsborough and Dubliners alike never took to it. So it remains – Doyle’s Corner.

image credit: archiseek

But what about the pub? We’ve collectively visited here just the once over Christmas time and what a gem. Though it doesn’t seem to make the frequent lists of Victorian bars that do the rounds online, this must be one of the more polished in the city. Hard dark wooden floors adorned with flashes of complimenting tilework give the pub a durable feeling – it’s a floor you can imagine was well equipped for the sawdust and saliva it might have suffered in days gone by. But it’s far cleaner these days which is in keeping with the rest of the bar. Traditional seating of couches and small and large stools is ample throughout and plenty of light protrudes the large windows to bounce off the coffered (new architectural term of the week) ceiling and illuminate the dark ornate wooden bar and partitions in which decorated glass is set.

Pints, on the occasion of our last visit, are remembered as being dispatched in good time and with plenty of competence. The taste was spot on and the price was most certainly right at €4.50 a go (Dec 2018)

Though we only did have the few on this occasion we did remark on how the locals were in good spirits and gave us the warmest of welcomes of all the local pubs. And as we vowed to return, I couldn’t help but think of one of the lads.

Although he might be starting to catch up now, Pintman 5 was once an old head on young shoulders and in the indulgence of one of his favourite pastimes of reintroducing old Dublin phrases he managed to bring the bewildering threat of “wigs on the green” into our lexicon. Anyway, I was thinking I must get onto him about bringing back the whole going round Dunphy’s corner thing. I mean wouldn’t the great gig in the sky be all the less terrifying if it had the promise of a pint in The Boh on the way out to the cemetery. 

Recently it was reported that An Garda Siochana had decided to notify the proprietors of John Kavanagh’s (AKA The Gravedigger’s) that they need to stop people from bringing their pints outside the pub and enjoying them on the green space to the front of the pub.

Gravediggers calls time on enjoying a pint outside

One of the most famous pubs in Dublin has been told by gardai not to allow anyone to take drink or food outside its premises. ince 1833, Dubliners have long enjoyed drinking pints outside the iconic John Kavanagh’s bar in Glasnevin, more commonly known to Dubliners as The Gravediggers.

Now, personally, we’re more at home drinking our pints within the confines of the unadulterated perfection that is the bar in The Gravediggers, but when we saw this it just didn’t sit well with us. I mean, by all accounts this is a practice which has gone on for years with little or no major complaint. Along with this, there is no uniformed policing of this law across the city – so to single out The Gravedigger’s seems a bit unfair. And last but not least, how many actual days do we get in this sunforsaken city of ours that we’d be able to retire onto the green to have a few scoops.

So we decided to start a petition….

Sign the Petition

It was recently reported in the news that Gardaí are to clamp down on the tradition of having a few pints outside Kavanagh’s (aka The Gravediggers) pub in Glasnevin. We wish to highlight the inherent unfairness of this to the authorities and add that the same laws are not enforced outside countless amounts of pubs across the city.

Though, slow at first – the petition started to take off. Hundreds of signatures began to flow in and we even saw a bit of media attention.

Petition launched to repeal ban on pints outside Dublin’s most famous pub

A petition has been set up to repeal the ban on drinking outside one of Dublin’s most famous pubs. It was reported on Wednesday that Gardai had told the owners of Glasnevin watering hole, John Kavanagh’s ‘The Gravediggers’ that they could no longer let customers bring their pints outside.

https://www.buzz.ie/food-drink/petition-launched-gardai-ban-drinking-outside-one-dublins-iconic-pubs-333951

Petition launched to allow drinking outside popular Dublin pub after Garda ban

A PETITION has been launched to repeal the ban on drinking outside iconic Gravediggers pub following public outcry. Gardai told the historic Glasnevin pub, John Kavanagh’s, also known as The Gravediggers, that they are not allowed to let punters to bring pints outside the premises.

So please do sign the petition if you’re with us and fed up with this nanny-stateism! It’s only a few pints sure.

Whenever we’re about to set off to check out a pub that we’ve never been in before, I’ll usually check it out online. Just a quick search on Google will usually put me on the right track with regard to directions and the like. It’ll also save us the inconvenience of making our way out to a pub that won’t be open for another few hours, or worse still – one that has shut up shop entirely.

Clarke’s Phibsborough House: Phibsborough Road

So when we set out for Clarke’s Phibsborough House, these same usual rituals were observed, and in observing them I couldn’t help but notice a headline that cropped it in close proximity to all the requisite information which was initially sought. The headline which referred to an incident in the pub some years back read “Bar manager had ear lobe bitten off in fight, court told”, and having read it I thought I’d not divulge it to my drinking companions.

It was shortly after Christmas of 2018 that we did eventually make it into Clarke’s. Pintman №2 and I were in first with Pintman №3 following in shortly afterwards. We found the place to be sparsely populated with the entire patronage sitting along the extensive u-shaped bar. We decided to buck the trend and opt for a low table which bordered the left side of the bar – and indeed the entire pub follows a similar layout with high stools being used solely at the bar and lower seating elsewhere. The decoration was standard enough with antiquated household items making up much of the decoration – phones, radios, clocks and sewing machines aplenty littered the shelf space while the usual array of old drink adverts and local history took pride of place in the picture frames about the place.

Being settled and more comfortable I eventually decided to disclose the aforementioned news article I had heretofore chosen to censor from my friends. In doing so, I managed to attract the attention of a man nearby who decided to interject and tell us that he’d been present during the event in question. Probing him further, we came to learn that the incident, in his opinion, was a case of a diligent barman falling afoul of some toe-rag while trying to keep his customers safe. Wondering about the outcome of the trial we asked him whether the attacker ended up being incarcerated – ‘Well I’ll put it to ye this way lads – ‘E got 3 ‘ears that fella… And the poor aul barman got one and a half’.

The pint in Clarke’s was ok. Costing €4.70, it was neither astounding nor distressing and was certainly better than that on offer for a full 90 cent more across the road. Our only gripe about the place was the jaxx which was in dire need of a bit of a makeover. Other than that we couldn’t complain about this boozer too much. A grand spot where staff will risk life and limb for customers’ safety. And you couldn’t really ask for more than that!

Outside of a few punts on The Grand National and Cheltenham, I think that it would be a fair assessment of myself to say that I’m not that much of a gambling man. But with that said, I’m here to tell you today that I would happily bet pounds to the pence that former Ireland and Leeds footballer – Johnny Giles, when given the option of drinking somewhere other than The Back Page, would probably do just that.

The Back Page: Phibsborough Road

So here’s the thing, it’s not that I have any inside knowledge on Gilesy’s drinking venues of choice or his inclinations toward craft beer or anything – it’s just that on either of the gable ends of The Back Page there is, in the guise of street art, two nods to Giles’ former colleagues. One is a direct Eamon Dunphy quote likening Christiano Ronaldo to a fish and the second happens to be a colourful caricature of the late Bill O’Herlihy, fully complete with his trademark catchphrase: Okey Doke.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that Johnny would have a problem with either of these two embellishments in their own right. It’s just that if I were him I’d probably be a bit annoyed about the proprietors of The Back Page not completing the troublesome trio and emblazoning me upon their facade too. But Gilesy I am not, so I suppose that I should state for the record that my initial visit to The Back Page was made with no such biases, hypothetical or otherwise.

If those two above-mentioned features haven’t convinced any of you football-mad readers out there, I must hasten to advise you to make no mistake about it, The Back Page is here to stake its claim as one of Dublin’s utmost soccer-centric bars. With national and club football flags and scarves looking down upon the countless images of moments from soccer history, this pubs grá for the beautiful game is something it wears proudly upon the sleeve of its vintage Italia ’90 jersey. I’m even sure that I wasn’t hallucinating when I saw wallpaper comprised entirely of FIFA PlayStation covers stretching back as far as the nineties on one of the walls.

The downstairs interior of the pub consists of three main sections, -the bar which is situated at the front of the building is the first of these. Tending to be dimly lit upon each of our visits – it’s a space wherein you’ll find a handful of high tables outside of a raised section with lower seating. A medium sized bar is placed to the right of the space, beside which sits a full-length bookcase housing a sizeable collection of board games.

The bar itself is well stocked and offers a wide range of craft alongside a couple of the old reliables. Guinness came in at the painfully high price of €5.60 a pop, and while objectively it wasn’t a pint which was overly poor on quality, it was most definitely one which felt like very poor value when compared to the price and standard in the pubs located within the immediate vicinity.

Beyond the main bar toward the back of the premises, there is a lengthy atrium which offers high seating at bar-tops which seemed as if they were protruding from the ledge along the wall in the manner in which they jutted out perpendicularly. Opting to sit at one of these we surveyed the rest of the space and found agreement in our dislike for what was essentially the kitchen from a pizza restaurant. This particular feature which sat partly obfuscated by the bar made us feel we were in a restaurant more so than a pub.

The third main space within the pub is found down a short corridor from the right side of the front of the pizza restaurant. Housed within here is a games room which boasted a veritable leisureplex worth of amenities such as pool tables, table tennis tables, and a crazy-golf course. Yes. Crazy Golf. In the pub.

if any of you currently reading this happen to be long time DublinByPub readers, you may have already twigged that this one wasn’t for us. I’m certain that there are people whose experience of going for a few pints can be enhanced with the addition of miniature golf and pizza, but those people are not us. And while I’m sure that our absence from this pub is no lamentable matter of fact for its proprietors, I can only offer our particular opinion. And our opinion saw something of a contrived and gimmicky affair.

But different folks will take to different strokes. Plenty will have no problem with a sports bar being readily built and decorated. Us, we prefer a more organic establishment of a boozer’s theme. We reckon it’s like reading a book – in order to have a meaningful understanding of the narrative you have to read through the entire text. You can’t just skip to the back page!

“Once you have palm trees in a pub you may as well just forget about it”

… so were the choice of words deemed appropriate by Pintman №2 after he’d finished surveying his surroundings. We’d just sat down to our inaugural pint in the relatively recently refurbished Doyle’s Corner in Phibsborough and as I informed Pintman №2 that I was intending to utilise his opinions on the pub’s horticultural inclinations by way of a direct quote he found himself impeded in his response by Pintman №3 who, himself, threw his tuppence in by suggesting that I make sure to mention them “Eddie Rocket chairs there as well”. “Hold on and I have a look meself”, says I.

Doyle’s Corner: Phibsborough Road

First things first, the lounge in Doyles Corner is a plush affair. With its goldened lettered signage, its Gatsby-esque bar and its chandelier lighting, there can be no denying that it is an aesthetically pleasing space. But a drinking experience, fancy surroundings do not make. Having spent all of about five minutes in these opulent surroundings I found that I’d invoked a deep-set fear in myself – the type of fear that your granny might have instilled in you when you were under the age of five and dared touch some ornament or another on a shelf in her ‘good room’. It’s that same fear that might stop you from touching museum exhibits or that keeps you quiet at funerals, which is all good and well in its own place – except for the fact that it’s not exactly a state of mind that’s conducive to comfort. And as we sat on high stools in the lounge of this boozer battling the aroma of chicken wings in an attempt to quantify the quality of our pints – comfort was not a quality that was coming to mind.

It was just when I’d about made up my mind on the place when Pintman №2 and №3 came to suggest that we relocate to the bar. ‘There’s a bar?, I wondered before being reliably informed by my companions that indeed there was and that the entrance to such was located just behind the abovementioned offending palm tree. So, feeling like three early Amazonian explorers, minus the machetes, we passed through the impeding tropical flora where we emerged from the overgrowth to find surroundings far more tempered to our expectations, a proverbial oasis of calm.

Looking like something that we can only imagine some worn-in boozers around the city might have looked like at their outset – The bar in Doyle’s Corner hits the eye with a degree of freshness. Characterised by the light-toned wooden seats and walls, the bar’s use of alcoves add a good degree of comfort – while their separation with glass aids not to compress the perceived size of the space. Walls are mainly decorated with glass-cased taxidermy such as birds and fish and the odd framed graphic here and there too. A fireplace which houses an iron woodburner sits toward the front of the room, the functionality of which we never established as it was lamentably left off the time of our visit. Overall though, we found the bar to be a nice space and would have to tip our hat to the designer for having bucked the trend and avoided installing that pre-worn “old-pub” effect so commonly seen in new premises these days.

Pint-wise, the pub fared relatively well for somewhere next door to the likes of The Hut. At an even fiver, it was drunk with no complaint made regarding its quality.

It’s funny though, if this had been our local which had made way for such a fit-out, this blurb may well have been of an entirely different tone. Unfortunately, none of us ever darkened the door of this pub in any of its former guises so we can only report on what we know. And that is that if you’re in the market for a chicken-wing joint with instgrammable decor, the lounge in Doyle’s Corner may just be for you. But, if like us, you just want to gather a few friends into an alcove, sup on a few pints and have a chat, you’d better move on through the jungle and head into the bar.

It’s probably fair enough on our part to assume that the word ‘hut’, when considered by all those included in the English-speaking world, will elicit images of rudimentary structures of mud, straw and/or bamboo in the mind’s eye of most. But today, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you about a tiny subset of that aforementioned lingual population who, upon hearing the word ‘hut’, will come to think not of favelas or muddy Maasai camps – but will instead conjure up the thought of craic and creamy pints amidst perfectly retained Victorian grandeur. Yes, that’s right – ask anybody of a certain vintage upon the streets of Phibsborough what the word ‘hut’ means to them and they will almost certainly set out immediately to put you in the know about Phibsborough’s most beloved pub – The Hut.

The Hut: Phibsborough Road.

Having spent a worthwhile thirty-five minutes devouring all information that Google will provide us with on this pub it seems only appropriate that we follow suit from those who have penned their own thoughts on The Hut before us by first mentioning the name. Some say that it’s derived from hut-like structures which once provided shelter for the inhabitants of Phibsborough. Others (namely those allied to the local LOI team – Bohemians) say the name is taken from hut-like dressing rooms which used to be in situ in nearby ground, Dalymount Park. Us, we happen to think the name could be rooted in Latin given that the word ‘tavern’ is derived from the Latin word ‘taberna’ which translates to, yep you guessed it, ‘hut’.

Regardless of the provenance of the pub’s name, there is certainly no ambiguity to be encountered when it comes to its standing as one of the remaining authentic Victorian Dublin Pubs. A longer room than its well-kept façade might suggest, it ticks all the boxes regarding features of such pubs from that period – wooden dividers and partitions, stone and wooden bar-tops, gas lamps, grocer’s drawers, and my personal favourite – cask-heads incorporated into the structure of the bar – all of them well-kept and authentic; affording the pub ample parity with any of the more central and well-known Victorian watering holes dotted around the capital.

We managed to collectively get up to Phibsborough for a pint over the last few months with the full DublinByPub contingent in tow. Arriving into The Hut a few hours following nightfall (and with about 4 or 5 pints sunk too) we, or should I say our dark-adjusted and somewhat intemperate eyes, immediately found our one and only complaint with the place – the brightness. It’s needlessly bright in the evening. We wondered if it was a safety feature – one to give the cohort of Mountjoy screws, who supposedly drink in the pub, every opportunity to spot a potential aggrieved former inmate.

Seeking refuge in the more softly illuminated environs of the snug we sat down to three pints of plain and remarked on how expansive the carpeted room was. Possibly the largest snug in Dublin, we wondered? The pint itself I remember as being the best of the immediate locality – well-poured and served through the hatch of the snug it was enjoyed by all around the table with no complaint about taste or about price, coming in south of a fiver. Happy drinkers all around.

We might, if we could, go back to those thirty-five minutes of research we mentioned earlier. It was in an Irish Times article written on the subject of The Hut some years back that we happened upon an interesting quote from one of the pub’s owners – Joe Mohan. In it, he describes his position as owner of the pub, as being one which makes him responsible to ‘just mind the place’. This quote resonated with us for a few reasons, but mainly due to the fact that it was reminiscent of a sort of caretaker sentiment that we’d heard over and over again from various barmen and pub owners alike. These are people who are at the helm of the likes of The Gravedigger’s, The Swan, Fallon’s, The Palace, The Long Hall… we could go on. Do you reckon that it may just be coincidence that all of these pubs just so happen to be up there with the most renowned and regarded in all of Dublin? Because we certainly don’t!

If you happen to wind up upon the streets of Phibsborough and you find that that persistent thirst just won’t relent, we can only suggest that you drop into John and see how good a job he’s doing of minding The Hut. Maybe even ask him to dim the lights a bit for us too, will ye?

Nice one!