Three lads drinking, nd. (Credit – Jacolette blog)
If you knew where to go, it was possible to drink around the clock in 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Dublin.
When regular pubs closed at 11pm, still-thirsty revelers could travel to ‘bona-fide’ pubs on the outskirts of the city. A ‘bona-fide’ house utilised a legal loophole, dating back to early coaching days, that allowed a genuine ‘bona-fide’ traveler three miles (five in Dublin) from his place of residence to drink alcohol outside normal hours.
Some creative drinkers would send a letter to “themselves” using the address of a friend who lived the required distance away from their desired pub. They could then show the letter to the publican to give him some piece of mind. During a police raid, the publican would try to hide those who shouldn’t be there in his living quarters or rush them out a back door so they could attempt a getaway.
In a piece entitled ‘The Irish “Bona Fide Traveller” Nuisance”, The Sacred Heart Review (13 September 1902) noted:
Travelers, tramps and tourists are common the wide world over, but the so-called ” Bona Fide Traveler ” is peculiar to Ireland. Under the curious laws which govern or misgovern Ireland, it has been decreed that when any person “travels” three miles to a “public-house” on a Sunday he is entitled to all the drink he can buy, even though the Sunday closing law is in full force there. Thus a man living in the town of Kilronan can not legally enter a public-house to secure a drink, but let him walk or ride to Knooknagow, three miles away, and he can have all the drink he wants…
The United Irishman of recent issue, discussing the new Licensing Act, complains that it does not deal with the bona fide traveler scandal, and says:— ” Blackrock and Dunleary on the average Sunday night are a blot on Ireland. We heartily sympathize with the real bona fide traveler. But seventy-five per cent, of the people who travel down to Blackrock and Dunleary on Sunday evenings after seven o’clock do so for the purpose of indulging in the luxury of treating one another to drink … The bona fide traveler has become a standing joke in Dublin, and it was not, perhaps, too presumptuous to hope that the absurdity of men leaving a Dublin public-house at seven o’clock on a Sunday evening, stepping on a tram-car, and a few minutes later descending at the door of another Dublin public – house, invested with the rights of travelers, should have been considered. We have witnessed in English towns, it is true, scenes more degrading than we have witnessed in the streets of Blackrock and Dunleary on Sunday nights, but it is no excuse for an Irishman to make himself a bonham because an Englishman makes himself a hog.
There was at least one ‘bona-fide’ on each main road out of Dublin. They included Lamb Doyles (Dublin Mountains), Widow Flavin’s (Sandyford), the Dropping Well (Dartry), the Deadman’s Inn (Lucan), the Swiss Cottage (Santry), the Igo Inn (Ballybrack) and The Goat (Goatstown).
Throughout the years a number of late-night revellers, staggering or driving under the influence towards the bona-fide, were involved in deadly accidents. This was one of the main reasons for the Government abolishing the law in 1960.
If you wanted to keep on drinking after the bona-fide closed, you could travel back into the city and visit one of the ‘kips’ around Capel Street or Parnell Square. A ‘kip’ was a brothel-cum-speakeasy that sold whiskey or gin from tea cups till the early morning.
One of the City’s most famous ‘kips’ was the Cafe Continental at 1a Bolton Street near the corner of Capel Street which was in operation from the 1930s (?) to the mid 1960s. It was run by the legendary madam ‘Dolly’ Fawcett (often misspelled as ‘Fossett’ or ‘Fosset’). Annie Elizabeth, originally from Wicklow, married William Fawcett who was rumoured to have been a former Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) officer from the North who was discharged because of his relationship with her.
The Fawcett family also ran another ‘kip’ called the Cozy Kitchen on nearby North King Street.
Ostensibly an innocent late-night cafe, the Cafe Continental was a haven for late-night revelers who often carried clandestine “Baby Powers,” or miniature bottles of whiskey, which they tipped into their cups of coffee. ‘Dolly’ also served up ‘red biddy’ (mixture of red wine and methanol), poitín and water-down whiskey.
It was a popular place for ladies of the night and they’d often find clients there. So Dolly Fawcett’s would be better described as a ‘prostitute pick up-place’ as opposed to a brothel in the traditional sense of the word.
The Irish Times (7 Oct 1944) ran a front page piece about a journalist’s visit to an “all-night drinking den”. My bet would be that it was Dolly Fawcett’s.
‘In a Dublin All-night Drinking Den’. The Irish Times, 7 Oct 1944.
Dolly, who lived over the Cafe Continental with her family, passed away at home on 12 March 1949. Her funeral, which took place after mass at the Pro-Cathedral, attracted a large attendance. She was highly regarded in the area for her numerous charitable acts.
Longford Leader (19 March 1949) & The Irish Independent (15 March 1949)
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