Following up on Sam’s post drawing attention to the fact a huge archive of rare archival video footage has just been uploaded onto YouTube, I was particularly struck by the wonderful madness of one clip in particular, entitled ‘Publicans Take To Water’.
The clip shows huge crowds gathering along the Liffey to watch the ‘Pub Tub Derby’, a curious event in the city in the 1960s which aimed to raise funds for the construction of new swimming pools in the city.
As Cyril J Smyth has noted:
The sponsors of the race comprised eleven well-known Dublin publicans. The tubs used for the event were formerly Guinness stout barrels and bore the names of the respective pubs on them. The course was between Capel Street Bridge (Grattan Bridge) and O’Connell Bridge. The winning pub received the Guinness Perpetual Trophy, presented by Arthur Guinness & Sons (Dublin) Ltd. Individual prizes were awarded to the ‘pilots’ of the first four tubs past the finish line.
While many of the pubs who participated in the Pub Tub Derby on the years it ran are no longer with us, Madigans of Earl Street and the Lord Edward are still going strong today. A great comment about the event on YouTube from Liam Tuohy is worth sharing too. Posted below a video of Sean Dunphy’s ‘If I Could Choose’ (one of Ireland’s best ever Eurovision entries, even if defeated by Sandie Shaw!), he noted:
Years ago I had the great pleasure of sharing the bill with Sean for “The Pub Tub Derby” while we both stood rocking in a small boat on the Liffey under Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge. It was then, and still is, one of my most enjoyable and funniest memories while working as DJ Lee all thanks to Sean and his enormous personality
While jumping into the Liffey remains popular today, especially among the kids who gather at the docks, swimming up it in discarded Guinness barrels has been relegated to history. These kind of little tidbit videos make a great addition to YouTube.