Tag Archive for: trad

Back in 2014, the inimitable and ground-breaking Dublin folk discombobulaters, Lankum, in their song Cold Old Fire prophetically sang of how they:

look for signs that Dublin’s heart’s still beating,
That concrete and glass and peelers and mass, they haven’t stopped the people from screaming.

When it came toward the latter half of 2021, some 7 years later, you could say that Lankum needed not to look for those signs anymore. On an early Saturday afternoon, arriving up at Smithfield Square, even the most optimistic of those intending to attend could not have imagined the vista that would greet them, as it did us when we emerged from the winding alleyway concealing the entrance to the Jameson Distillery.

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With placards, loudhailers, musical instruments, cameras and other such paraphernalia, the thousands had assembled to make a stand. To send a message to the powers that be that we weren’t going to sit down and allow them to pave over one of our most beloved of Irish cultural institutes – The Cobblestone Pub.

Now, the story of the protests and planning battle that ensued when there was a proposed redevelopment of The Cobblestone in 2021 is, at this stage, a well-told story. The purpose of this particular blog post is not to add anything new to that narrative, but I had been looking through our archive of photos the other day and noticed that I had taken more photos of the initial protest than I initially thought.

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So, on foot of that, I decided I’d put together a post for the website, just to briefly tell the story of the protest that I attended and just a brief timeline of the planning battle thereafter. But it’s all just a vehicle to share some of those images, which are a mix of digital and black-and-white film.

In October 2021 the news came in the form of a small piece of paper that had been affixed to the front of the pub. Some crowd called Marron Estates were applying for planning permission to hotelify The Cobblestone. It was to be built upon and the actual pub portion of the premises dissected into a fraction of its current guise.

Action was swift. A protest, the protest depicted in these images, was called for the very next Saturday, and despite the short notice and the fact that society hadn’t exactly returned to full, post-pandemic normalcy yet, the turnout was far in excess of what most had anticipated.

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Being no stranger to the odd protest, before this, I can say with absolute certainty that this one felt very different. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t anything to do with the money in the protestors’ pockets, or because it had a ratio of one traditional musician to every 2 persons in attendance. But there was a great sense of camaraderie in the air amongst all that marched.

The protest started in Smithfield Square, where members of the Mulligan family (Tom Mulligan being the publican who holds the lease for the pub) and friends carried a coffin with RIP Dublin and RIP Culture daubed on either side. They took this from the pub and into the centre of the square. Some short speeches were delivered, and the procession began its slow and steady circuitous march toward Wood Quay, the main offices of Dublin City Council being the end point of the march.

From Smithfield, we emerged onto the quays from Lincoln Lane and made toward the Ha’penny Bridge, where we stopped shortly at Merchant’s Arch, which only the week prior, had been earmarked for destruction by hotel. It was during this stoppage that an American tourist’s curiosity got the better of her and she asked my partner and I what we were marching for. When we told her it was to keep a pub from closing, she seemed to leave with more questions than she had arrived to us with.

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We shortly arrived at Wood Quay after that, where some tunes and dancing broke out near the entrance to the building. As the bulk of protestors arrived, a more structured gathering formed outside the building and around the steps up to it. Then some of the organisers, marchers and some of the Mulligan family made some further short, yet emotional, speeches. And then we all had a sing-song and a session. And went for a few pints afterwards. Naturally.

A deadline of early November was identified as that by which the public could submit objections to the request for planning permission. Another protest was to follow and a well-organised online campaign to advise people on how to submit objections seemed to be omnipresent online in the time leading up to the deadline.

When the deadline did pass, it was reported that a massive figure of almost 700 people had lodged an objection. Thankfully DCC listened to the weight of objection and opted to refuse the planning permission.

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This was then to be appealed by Marron Estates in December of 2021 before them ultimately withdrawing that appeal in May of the following year.

While the future of the pub does remain somewhat unsure, we have collectively been breathing something of a sigh of relief since the withdrawal of that appeal. The whole saga does, however, remind us to be ever-presently grateful for the fantastic pubs that remain dotted around our city. The Cobblestone is still welcoming musicians in every night of the week and allowing them to ply their trade. So make no excuses for getting in there as soon as you can.

We’re embedding the full gallery of images we have from the protest, below. They’re in a Flickr album that you can scroll through using the arrows on the left and the right.

Could we also suggest, for a better and more fully rounded, telling of the story of the battle for The Cobblestone, that you check out this excellent documentary – Athbhaile -The Cobblestone. And also have a look at Luke McManus’ masterpiece: North Circular.

A couple of posts back you might remember that we were drawing parallels between pubs and books. Well, rejoice ye lovers of poorly constructed prose because here comes this poorly-effected simile once again.

Peadar Brown’s: Clanbrassil St.

Pubs and books… consider, if you will, the similarities between the two – how both a pub and a book are home to many a great story, both have acted as vehicles for education and enlightenment for as long as we care to remember, and both are a source of refuge where the common man can go to escape the mundanity of ordinary everyday life.

Keeping that in mind, let us say that as we continue to wade through the convoluted task of drinking our way through the entire network of boozers in dear old dirty Dublin town, we’ve come to recognize a great many parallels between the pubs of our beloved capital city. We’ve identified things that are true of some pubs and have also come to recognize some traits that can be attributed to all pubs. It’s one of the latter of these two observations that brings us back to our initial thought – given that it’s true that of all books that they should not be judged by their covers we’d argue that the same sentiment can be applied to pubs regarding their façade.

Taking the pictured Peadar Brown’s here as an example, its haphazardly decorated frontage sitting amidst apartments and fast-food units just doesn’t really constitute the type of composition typical of the more refined imagery you’ll find adorning products upon the shelves of souvenir shops. And this is, at least for our own selfish reasons, a good thing. For if an image of Peadar Browns’ facade could convey the level of craic available inside – the place would be besieged by every imaginable incarnation of plastic paddy conceivable, and within days it would be rendered uninhabitable for discerning drinkers like you and me.

It was the weekend of the All-Ireland Football Final last year when Pintman №2 and I had fallen afoul of the ire of the man behind the taps in Fallon’s (we love you Fallon’s but good Jaysus can you be a narky one.)Deciding not to tarnish our perception of the pub any further, we decided that it was high time that we ticked Peadar Brown’s off the list. Heading southward up to Clanbrassil Street we soon found ourselves at the threshold of the pub which had temporarily rebranded itself as Jim Gavin’s in tribute to the Dublin bainisteoir himself. Tentatively we crossed the threshold to find a pub that we instantly regretted having not visited sooner.

With tiles toward the front of the pub and beautifully weathered wooden boards flooring the back end, the pub is decorated traditionally throughout. The ephemera around the place is in plentiful supply and ranges from local and national history to sport to the usual knick-knacks like vintage beer and cigarette advertisements.

Amongst the more traditional décor, there is a theme to be found. Denoted by painted bodhráns, as this particular theme tends to be, we recognized a definite Republican flair to Peadar Brown’s. With portraits of the signatories of the 1916 proclamation and the prominent placement of the green Irish Republican flag over the mantle, it’s not the type of place we personally would have been advocating a visit to for any of the lads in white rugby tops that we encountered culturally appropriating African American slave song around temple bar over the weekend just gone. We’d also be wary of bringing any Rangers fans in too, we noted the pub to be a bit of a hub for Celtic fans given the couple of die-hard hoops propping up the bar early one Sunday taking in some inconsequential tie with a rival from the bottom of the league table.

Upon our first visit (which would inspire plenty more) we settled in with two jars of Arthur. Having counted the change returned and calculated them to have impacted the pocket to the tune of €4.60 apiece, we turned our attention to the quality. And let us say that these gargles were as creamy as that poxy couch in your granny’s front room. Served in the preferred tulip-shaped vessel, we found no fluke to be identified with the quality remaining constant throughout the duration of our first session here, and let me tell you – it did end up as a session. With the sole intention of dropping in for a pint or two to give the pub a try, Pintman №2 and I soon realised we’d be here for a longer spell than initially intended.

As if being satisfied with the atmosphere, the gargle and the aesthetics wasn’t good enough, Peadar’s had another ace up its sleeve. We were barely into our third pint when we came to notice a growing assembly of musicians beginning to occupy the back section of the pub. In ones and twos, we observed the arrival of them – a guitarist or two first, then a piper, then a fiddler and then plenty more besides. By the time we were halfway through our fourth pint, we were front row to a blistering All-Ireland eve céilí and Peadar Brown’s had captured our heart.

So you may take your picturesque rip-off dens festooned in fairy lights and hanging baskets. They might look the part on a calendar, or a postcard, or a fridge magnet. But no such piece of overpriced tat could possibly deliver the type of craic that you’ll find within the walls of Peadar Brown’s. This pub is a pillar of its community, a place of music and culture, a proper public house! This is a real Dublin pub!

‘That burrito was delish now’ said Pintman №2 as we stood on waiting for the Luas. Agreeing with him on the quality of the soakage we’d consumed not ten minutes prior I posed a question as to whether he agreed with me that Mexican food wasn’t exactly the ideal entrée to a night’s worth of stout. Reciprocating with another agreement in turn – Pintman №2 added that he ‘never really enjoyed the first mouthful of Guinness after a burrito’. As the Luas arrived I was inclined to disagree with him

M Hughes: Chancery St.

Having boarded our tram the topic of conversation changed swiftly to an agenda solely hinged around the subject of pubs, namely which of the many around Smithfield we intended to visit this particular evening. As we approached the Four Courts stop I diverted my gaze out the window and came to see M Hughes – a pub we had unsuccessfully attempted to visit on a number of occasions. This was to be a sighting that was immediately followed by the hasty cancellation of Smithfield pinting plans and a last minute scramble off an almost departed Luas upon realising that the place was actually open.

Hughes is a pub I’d often heard people describe as being the last place of refuge wherein soon-to-be inmates could enjoy a final pint before making their way across to the Four Courts to be sent down before the criminal courts were relocated further up the river. I’d also heard of the place being described as stronghold for traditional musicians – so expectations were mixed at best.

The interior of the pub is fantastic. You’ll often here us lauding pubs for interiors that harken back to the 1960s and further beyond, but it’s not often you’ll hear much about the 70s or 80s. Wrong and all as we likely are – we decided that the fit out was reminiscent of the two aforementioned decades. Dark brick and dark wood panelling are used to much effect. A snug large enough to be considered a lounge sits at the front of the pub and is sectioned off with the type of glass panelling the door into your granny’s kitchen used to have.

The seating is traditional enough – hexagonal tables provide ample perching space for pints and large green couches hug the walls, the couches themselves have seen better days but we wouldn’t have them any other way. The tactile compression of the metal springs that lay sprung beneath the upholstery instantly invoked nostalgia for Pintman №2 and me. When we heard the squeak of these springs we were instantly transported to the days when yer da would plonk you down with a bag of crisps and a bottle of Cidona and instruct you to ‘go and make friends with that youngfella over there’… a simpler time.

The only gripe we had with the aesthetic of the pub was the lighting – the brightness is such that we’d suggest that there are lads who have played in Lansdowne Road under less illumination. Our dissatisfaction with this aspect of the pub was not to be the defining feature of our visit this time around though – for with pubs you’ll often find that one aspect of discontent can be readily cancelled out with something that is done well – this brings us nicely along to the pint.

Y’know when you’re sat in a pub that is known to purvey a pint that’s a cut above the rest? And you might just plonk that 1st beauty down upon the table just so you can sit back and admire it as it settles. Then you raise it gingerly toward your mouth and quaff confidently in the full knowledge that you’re about to sample the cream of the crop. Think of that sort of satisfaction, but guerrilla style! Little did we know when we were raising these scoops toward our unsuspecting mouths of the sheer beauty that was about to dance upon our palates – pure crackers of pints, the type that were half gone after the first mouthful.

As this explosion of flavour subsided and as I looked down to Pintman #2’s half drank glass I only had the one thing to say to him: ‘Thought ye didn’t like the first mouthful after a burrito?’ I was duly told to fuck off.

Hughes is a fine relic of a type of Dublin pub. We’ll likely be back someday to check out the trad they offer. It’s also an early house too, so we might have a look earlier on sometime. We’ll definitely be back for one of them creamy pints either way!

There was a moment there in 2017 where we were getting a bit worried about the state of the Dublin pub scene. Borne from the increasing number of pubs closing their doors our concerns were compounded when we realised that many of these were boozers that had been operating as far back as we could remember.

Pipers Corner

Now granted we’re still sore from the loss of The Sackville Lounge, but our 2017 grief subsided somewhat when some new pubs sprung up here and there. The first of these caught our attention when we noticed works ongoing at the site of Sean O Casey’s on Marlborough St., the most notable feature of which was the new façade which had been decorated with what this author safely assumes to be the largest image of Seamus Ennis ever printed.

Seamus Ennis for those not in the know was an Irish musician who was most famed for his prowess when it came to playing the indigenous Irish musical instrument – The Uilleann Pipes. The Uillean pipes are an interesting instrument, less discerning ears will tend not to describe them as a pleasant aural experience, but if you’re anything like ourselves you’ll find that the drone of the air passing through the chambers of these pipes will unearth your inner seanchaí and inflame your desire to wander barefoot across the breadth of the country, imbibing solely on whiskey and communicating only in song.

The pub opened last July promising live trad seven nights a week – a statement that had us terrified with the thoughts of pricey scoops and Galway Girl on repeat. Thankfully these were to remain mere nightmares and the pub has already become a hub of activity for all those seeking authentic traditional music.

The interior of the pub is no ornate affair, dark blues are contrasted with plain whites which give the pub a brighter look than most others. The materials are rough and ready – my companion, a carpenter by trade, couldn’t forgive the fact that the back bar was made from a material he reliably informed me was OSB board. But I liked the overall look of the pub and argue the point that it’ll wear into itself naturally, as all traditional pubs should.

The drink is a mixture of craft and usual fare and should placate the adventurous and the purists alike. Our usual pint of Guinness came in at an even fiver and was consistently well poured.

The Piper’s Corner is certainly our favourite new Dublin Pub. Its authenticity is a breath of fresh air in a Dublin smothered with establishments offering homogenised and expensive ‘experiences’ in the guise of anything from New York glamour to Budapest chic – Long may it run!

Brendan Behan famously once described himself as a drinker with writing problems – this is something that one would assume that the person who set out to describe The Cobblestone was well aware of. Labelling itself as a drinking pub with a music problem, it’s a pub that’s described more succinctly and accurately than most others in the city are.

The Cobblestone: King St.

The Cobblestone is located in the historic district of Smithfield on the outskirts of the northside of the city centre. It endeared itself to us when it threw a party to celebrate the death of Maggie Thatcher when she finally decided to take her throne in hell. It’s not an ornate, museum-worthy Victorian time capsule like many of the pubs we’ve posted previously. It’s rough and it’s ready. It has a grand lick of paint and pictures of musicians aplenty across the walls. The Jaxx is without any charm and one of poorer across the city.

But considerations of the aesthetic kind are irrelevant when it comes to The Cobblestone because this is a pub that does what no other (or very few others) do in Dublin. The cobblestone purveys unadulterated, unamplified, and un-templebar-ified trad every night of the week. You can saunter in there on a random Tuesday night and hear what we here at DBP consider to be the sound of Ireland.

Now there are plenty of nominees for what constitutes itself as the quintessential sound of the island of Ireland. Some will argue it to be the roar of Croke Park on All-Ireland day. Some might deem it to be the tolling of an angelus bell. But we believe the sound of Ireland to be one that resonates within the walls of The Cobblestone. What could sound more characteristically Irish than the tortured moan of the uillean pipes drowning in a cacophony of boisterous conversation as a Guinness tap hisses throughout?

The pint was always a good one when we’ve visited in the past and we’re shamefully well overdue for a visit currently so we can’t comment on price. It’s the goto trad pub in Dublin and we can only hasten that you nip in to hear the sound of Ireland someday soon.