Farewell to the Sackville

In Dublin, the town Joyce claimed was impossible to traverse without passing a pub (only to be disproved with the aid of Google Maps a century later,) it can still be hard to find somewhere that suits your situation no matter the mood.

Somewhere that we’ve taken to recently is the Sackville Lounge, not spitting distance from O’Connell Street on Sackville Place. It’s that perfect mix of archaic and well, non archaic- a one room, no nonsense bar with a great pint, and with sound staff and customers alike. The horse racing on the telly, a bookies next door and the hum of ham and cheese toasties in the air; always made to feel welcome, and always a chat forthcoming whether in company or on your own.

In a city racing to be London-lite but with our dazzling city lights emanating from Spars, Starbucks, exuberant donut shops and expensive ‘brunch spots’ (I’ve grown to hate those words,) places like the Sackville are rapidly becoming a dying breed. People will claim Kehoe’s, Neary’s, Mulligans and their ilk to be the best ‘old man pubs’ in the city. To me, none is a patch on the Sackville.


The Sackville during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ Image From the Sackville’s Twitter account

We spent a Saturday there last year in what I can only describe was a session of Canterbury Tales proportions. Dozens of people stuck their heads in throughout various parts of the day and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life, or walked away from another pub in Dublin with the same “that was a good day” feeling than I did then. We spent another Saturday there watching Bulmer Hobson sip whiskey and mull over James Connolly’s pre-Rising disappearance as part of Anu Productions excellent  “Glorious Madness.” We saw a British army soldier duke it out with his sister’s ICA partner outside in another Anu piece during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ And I’d like to say I cheered home many a winner there but I think the place was a jinx on me but that matters not, we’ll be there this weekend to say farewell.

For here comes the hammer blow- from a cryptic message board post the other day we gleaned that the Sackville is due to close its doors. Confirmed by the staff and by a quick Google revealing a ‘mutual lease break’ date on the ‘Spire Portfolio’ (which contains the Sackville Lounge amongst other properties) of 8/2/17, it looks to be true. No doubt the recently granted planning permission for Clery’s across the lane and for the construction of a new hotel on Sackville Place will have an effect on the future use of the premises as Dublin looks set to lose yet another of the institutions that made it what its known worldwide for. Sadly, as they say, another one bites the dust.

It’s no breaking news that Bohs are set to take a (hopefully) brief hiatus away from the spiritual home of Irish football…

The club has called Dalymount Park its home for 116 years, during which legends, both home grown and international, musical and sporting have taken to the hallowed field. A crumbling stadium it may stand now, but to me as a Bohs fan it retains the glorious hue of a certain era of football stadia as I’ve spoken about here before. The terraces, the tea shop, the tin roofs and the towering floodlights all reminiscent of the glory days of football in this city.

That this coming season may be the last in Dalymount as she stands now is a bitter sweet feeling for many. That the club needed to finance a crippling dept is indisputable, as is the simple fact that as beautiful as it is to me and many others, to move forward requires a ground capable of accommodating same. With this in mind, some of the good people at Bohs have produced the video below, aimed at getting people involved in the club for the last year of the old Dalymount.

Words from Dan Lambert and Poet-in-Residence Lewis Kenny, reminding us that this is in fact the end of an era in an ever changing city.


At 2pm, Saturday January 28th at Dalymount Park, Bohemian FC will host a talk on the life of Harold Sloan and the experiences of some of the dozens of former Bohemians during the First World War. Speakers at the event will include Pádraig Yeates,  Ciaran Priestley, and Gerard Farrell, who has researched the war experiences of a number of other prominent Bohemians from history.

Last Saturday, thousands of protestors marched through Dublin city centre in opposition to the election of Donald J. Trump.  U.S presidents have inspired large protests here before, not least the 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War, but what was particularly interesting about the demonstration last weekend was the emphasis on women, given that it was called in solidarity with the ‘Women’s March on Washington’ in America.

For the historian in me, the demonstration through Dublin brought to mind an earlier protest against a U.S president which was led by female activists, in the form of the Women’s Peace Camp established in the Phoenix Park in 1984, designed to coincide with the visit of Ronald Reagan to Ireland. More than thirty women were ultimately forcibly removed from the park, and spent 30 hours in the Bridewell and other Garda stations until the formalities were all over. Activists, nuns and young mothers in their midst, it was a mystery just why they had been arrested, with recently released state papers suggesting that Gardaí certainly exceeded their powers in the process.


Press coverage of the Women’s Peace Camp, 1984.

‘Hey Ronnie Reagan’: Thatcher, Latin America and the road to Ireland:

In the 1980 U.S presidential election, Reagan had fought off Jimmy Carter, who labeled  Reagan “a dangerous right wing radical” on the campaign trail. Looking at the things he won the election on, there are echoes of more recent times – lower taxes, a tough national defence policy at home and less government interference. He took 51% of the vote, Carter a mere 41%, and an independent republican polled respectably.  Reagan’s campaign slogan certainly resonated with voters: Let’s Make America Great Again. It appeared on posters, badges, but not red hats.

A few things wouldn’t have endeared Reagan to all in Ireland – his closest political ally was, of course, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady described Reagan as “the second most important man in my life”, while Reagan jokingly referred to her as “the best man in England.” Thatcher would later maintain that Reagan “won the Cold War without firing a shot”.  Interestingly, during the 1981 hungerstrikes in Ulster the Reagan administration did warn Thatcher’s government that they were “in danger of losing the media campaign here in the United States”, but being so closely aligned to Thatcher affected how Irish nationalists would have viewed the American president.

Much further from home however, it was undoubtedly Latin America that was the catalyst for much of the opposition to his visit here. This was an on-going event, part of the global power play between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union, and it had entangled the Catholic Church in some surprising ways. Michael D. Higgins would condemn Reagan for fighting “a holy war against communism”, while Reagan regarded it as the obligation of the U.S to support those who fought Soviet influence, maintaining:

We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives on every continent from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth . . . Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.

 In Latin America, radicalism came in many different guises, including from priests and nuns. There, there existed a belief known as ‘Liberation Theology’, something John Paul II understood but tried to distance the Catholic Church from, and which was regarded as a sort of fusion of radical social politics and Catholicism. John Paul II maintained that such thinking “does not tally with the Church’s catechism.”

When Archbishop Oscar Romaro of San Salvador was gunned down in 1980, because of his opposition to the right-wing regime there, there was shock and revulsion internationally – he had just completed celebrating mass and stood upon the altar at the time of his murder. To compound the misery of the people, dozens were killed when Romaro’s funeral was fired upon by right-wing death squads. Bishop Eamon Casey was at that funeral, and it sparked something in sections of the Catholic Church internationally; one American priest recalled in his memoirs that “I had already been involved in some activism. But Romaro’s death was the beginning of my serious commitment to a life of prayerful activism.” There was a belief that the American government supported those death squads in Latin America, in the realpolitik of the anti-communist struggle.


“Sister for Justice” banner on a demonstration against Reagan’s visit, photographed at the Garden of Remembrance (Image Credit: RTÉ Archives)

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McGrattan’s established 1798?

I like McGrattan’s pub on Fitzwilliam Lane off Baggot Street. It’s a quirky place. A labyrinth of side rooms, with pool tables and a smoking area with a fireplace and blankets on offer. I’ve also been at a number of great birthday parties and memorable events upstairs.

But they’ve annoyed me by rebranding their exterior to claim that they first opened in 1798. Bad Bob’s in Temple Bar did something similar a few years back.

McGrattan's, January 2017. Credit - Sam (CHTM!)

McGrattan’s, January 2017. Credit – Sam (CHTM!)

McGrattan's sign, January 2017. Credit - Sam (CHTM!)

McGrattan’s sign, January 2017. Credit – Sam (CHTM!)

Their premises, 76 Fitzwilliam Lane,  was originally a motor sheet-metal workshop owned by R. Thomas & Sons in the first half of the 20th century.  It was taken over by the National University of Ireland (NUI) graduate club and opened up a social venue called The Graduate Club in 1964.

The Graduate Club at 76 Fitzwiilliam Lane. The Irish Times, 15 January 1964.

The Graduate Club at 76 Fitzwiilliam Lane. The Irish Times, 15 January 1964.

Conversion cost £5,000 and it turned the ‘panel beating workshop’ into a licensed premises with amenities for bridge, chess as well as a cafeteria and patio garden. Subscription was 3 guineas a year which included membership of the Graduates’ Association.

It functioned as The Graduate Club until 1975 when it was taken over and turned into a nightclub called Barbarella’s.

Barbella's advertisement, 1977. Credit - Brand New Retro.

Barbella’s advertisement, 1977. Credit – Brand New Retro.


Ulick O’Connor in Magill magazine reviewed Barbellas in 1978:

(Here) are the most naked girls you can see in Dublin. What holds up the tiny pieces of silk that cover them only an expert in structural engineering can explain. They float along with their tiny trays, indifferent to the gaze of hearty males who have been able to distract their girlfriends’ attention, to steal a look. Then, oh golly! At 12 p.m. a girl plunges into the blue fountain in the centre of the club and writhes around to frothy airs.

Upstairs the food is excellent and the service by two brothers attentive. The chef is also a brother so you have a direct line of communication if you have a complaint, which I have never had. This is a cleverly designed club, which suggests glamour. As you go in there are superb photographs by Louis Curzon of gorgeous girls, to hint at exotic times later on. If you glance overhead you are under a ship’s rigging so it is easy to imagine slipping a way to the Andes blue from the gloom and wet outside .

It was put up for sale in 1983 and rebranded as Alexander’s nightclub for a number of years. The property was sold again in 1988.

McGrattans. The Irish Times, 29 January 1988.

McGrattans. The Irish Times, 29 January 1988.

In November 1989, it was reopened as a bar and restaurant called McGrattan’s in the Lane.

McGrattan's. The Irish Times, 30 November 1989.

McGrattan’s. The Irish Times, 30 November 1989.

This is what the exterior of McGrattan’s looked like a couple of years back. All the available evidence suggests that the bar is 28 years old and not the 219 years they claim!

McGrattans, 2012. Credit - Mcgrattans.ie

McGrattans, 2012. Credit – Mcgrattans.ie

If anyone has any further information to support or debunk the 1798 year of establishment – please leave us a comment.

Roy Fox, the independent and family run greengrocer in Donnybrook, closed its doors just before Christmas for the last time after over eighty years in business. It was known for its extensive selection and colourful display of dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and cheeses.
Exterior, Roy Fox. Irish Times.

The exterior of Roy Fox. Credit – Irish Times.

When it was first opened by Hugh Roy Fox at 49 Main Street, Donnybrook in 1933, a delivery man tipped off two young people in the grocery trade that there might be a chance of a job there. Frank Donnelly and Shelia Harbourne, who then did not know each other, were taken on as assistants.
After only five years in business, a 25-year-old and single Roy Fox died of TB on June 1st 1937. At the time, he was living at 2 Windsor Terrace off Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2.
Hugh R. Fox, 1937 Death Registry. Credit - irishgenealogy.ie

Hugh R. Fox, 1937 Death Registry. Credit – irishgenealogy.ie

His assistants Frank and Shelia took over the running of the shop as business partners and later married.
The Irish Times (26 July 2008) described the shop in the 1960s as a:

traditional grocery shop, weighing pounds of sugar into bags, slicing ham and delivering large orders to customers. The domestic fridge was beginning to make its appearance but many women shopped everyday, buying in small amounts in a process known as “getting the messages”.

When Frank died in 1968, their 19 year-old son Des took over the running of the business with his mum Shelia. Initially, he was not too keen on the idea. He told Roz Crowley in the Irish Examiner (15 January 2000) that he wanted to originally go into market gardening like his uncles.

I really didn’t like the grocery business. I wanted to be out of doors, planting fruit and vegetables, enjoying being in the sun … I shocked my mother with a compromise suggestion to turn the grocery shop into a fruit and vegetable shop.

They cancelled their order for bread and sugar and soon started to import what vegetables and fruits they could.

He told the RTE news website in 2007:

A customer today would be astonished to learn how little produce was available in those days.  We would have cabbage, carrots, sprouts, cauliflowers, kale, turnips and potatoes, but these were very seasonal.  Celery finished at Christmas, not to appear again until the following Autumn.  Imported produce was limited to bananas, apples, pears, grapes and melons, and a few other items.  This was before we joined the Common Market as it was then known.  Importing of fresh produce was very difficult, and in lots of cases prohibited.  Joining the Common Market made importation of courgettes, peppers and aubergines possible, along with other foods we see today.

By the 1980s, the shop was selling a large selection of exotic produce. Journalist Marion Foster marvelled in The Irish Times (27 March 1986) that she “saw mangoes from Peru at £1 each, nectarines from Chile for 35p, fresh dates from Israel at £1.50 per pound, Ugli fruit from Jamaica for 65p.” She was also taken by the range of ogen melons, kumquats, bean sprouts, fennel and other delicacies.

Interior, Roy Fox. Daft.ie (Dec 2016)

Interior, Roy Fox. Daft.ie (Dec 2016)

With a growing immigrant population and Irish test buds developing, the shop did well during the Celtic Tiger years of the 1990s and early 2000s. Sadly Des Donnelly passed away in 2008 at the age of only 59 from a heart attack. His daughter Joanne took over the business but decided to sell up in 2016. Their last day of business was 16th December 2016 and the property was put on the market for €400,000.

Irish Times  –  27 Mar 1986; 26 July 2008
Irish Examiner –  15 Jan 2000
RTE Afternoon Show – 14 Nov 2007


Arnott’s car park entrance, which incorporates the front of the Adelphi Cinema.

I have no memory of the Adelphi Cinema (we are younger than you probably think), but growing up in Dublin I always found the Arnott’s car park entrance a little peculiar, with its appearance giving a hint at some interesting former life. While it has found its place in the folklore of the city for the appearance of The Beatles there in 1963, there is much more to the story of the Adelphi, and a curious reminder of it now sits just across the street.

The birth of the Adelphi:

The doors of the Adelphi opened for the first time on 12 January 1939, with Dublin’s Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne given the honour of cutting the ribbon. The cinema was heralded as embodying “all that is the latest in cinema design and technique. It has a seating capacity for 2,325 people.” The Irish Press proclaimed it a “modern super cinema…designed and equipped in a manner which combines the latest scientific knowledge with the best engineering skill.” In keeping with the ethos of its time,there was great emphasis on the fact that “as far as possible, Irish labour and Irish materials went into its construction and equipment.”

By then, things had certainly come a long way since a certain James Joyce encountered much hostility to the opening of his Volta Cinema nearby in 1909.  While newspapers like the Irish Press still printed the occasional denunciation of the cinema industry (normally made from a pulpit), the enthusiasm of the newspaper and others like them for the cinema captured the public mood. As Jim Keenan’s beautiful pictorial history of Dublin cinemas shows, there was a boom in cinema openings in the 1930s, and sometimes well beyond the city centre. Not long after the Adelphi, the Tower Cinema opened in Clondalkin for example.


Banner advertisement for the Adelphi, January 1939.

From Reagan to The Beatles:

Under the stewardship of Harry Lush, who managed the Adelphi from 1943 until the early 1980s, the Adelphi boomed. Lush remembered of the 1940s that “we did colossal business at the Adelphi…we had ninety-one people working in the cinema…Our queues used to go right down Middle Abbey Street and into O’Connell Street where they would get interwoven with the Metropole’s.” As Keenan notes,  the cinema was visited by some of the leading cinema talent of the day, including Cary Grant, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman and even Ronald Reagan.

The Adelphi didn’t only screen the popular films of the day, it hosted a restaurant and a wide number of social events. “Crooning contests” were popular in the late 1930s, with prizes including paid trips to the Isle of Man, exotic at the time if not today! The venue also witnessed some remarkable concerts. As Colm Keane has noted, with the closure of the legendary Theatre Royal in 1962, the Adelphi “had taken over as the city’s premier live music venue…It had a ready-made stage and adequate backstage facilitates.” The visit of The Beatles is well-known and documented, others have been somewhat forgotten. The great Louis Armstrong performed there in 1967, supported by “Dubliner Jim Farley with a 16-piece band”. Armstrong’s two concerts in the Adelphi (on the same night) were heralded as “unforgettable” in the press.

Ernest Hemingway once proclaimed of Marlene Dietrich that “if she nothing more than her voice she could break your heart with it”, and in 1966 it seemed half of Dublin fell for her when she took to the Adelphi stage. “Every song was given the haunting Dietirch interpretation. It is this quality to interpret a song that has made Miss Dietrich a legend in her own lifetime”, the Irish Press said. To list every great act that performed there would be an endless post in itself, but it’s enough to say many memories were created within the walls of the Adelphi.


The Adelphi as it appeared in the 1970s. The exterior of the building, beyond the loss of its signage, has changed little.

The Adelphi made it well into the 1990s, only closing in November 1995. For the sake of nostalgia, its final screenings were High Society and Gigi, two classic musicals of decades past. The Art Deco Portland stone facade, at first glance anyway, is all that remains.

Yet an article from August 2016 over on Publin.ie points towards remnants of the Adelphi in some peculiar places. At the Church Bar, parts of the original stage have been incorporated into a walkway, while just across the street from the old cinema, a bar which carries the name ‘Adelphi’ includes seats from the cinema in their smoking area. Sometimes, if the weather is right, they even appear on Middle Abbey Street itself. It’s a nice nod to the car park across the street, which has quite the story to tell.


Photographed earlier this week.

Red Action was a small, militant, socialist group founded in England in 1981 after several activists were expelled from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for continuing to be involved in direct action against neo-Fascists (‘squadism’). The group were known for their commitment to street-level anti-Fascist and Irish Republican politics throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some key members went onto form the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) in 1995.

The Dublin branch of Red Action was founded in 1990 and remained active until 1997. During this period, they were heavily involved in a range of community campaigns (anti-Water charges, anti-Bin Tax, anti-Drugs etc.) as well as pro-choice, Irish republican and international solidarity issues. They also formed the backbone of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) which was established in 1991.

For the first time online, here are issues 3 and 4 of their newsletter both published around 1992.

Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 3.

Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 3.

Images of Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 3.

Images from Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 3.

Issue 3 of Red Action Dublin’s newsletter had articles on the following:

– pro-choice activity and the work of the Dublin Abortion Information Campaign (DAIC).

–  the anti-extradition campaign of Belfast republican Angelo Fusco. The Dublin Anti-Extradition Campaign (DAEC), with a postal address at 29 Mountjoy Square, met every Tuesday at 16 North Great George’s Street.

– the rise of the far-right in Europe, the work of AFA and the political failings of the SWP.

– the work of the Irish Nicaragua Support Group of which Red Action members were involved with.

– a short piece on the emergence of militant anti-abortion group Youth Defence (YD)

Link to download : red-action-no-3

Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 4.

Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 4.

Images of Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 4.

Images from Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 4.

Issue 4 of Red Action Dublin’s newsletter had articles on the following:

– the results of the 1992 X Case abortion referendum and the work of the Alliance for Choice group.

– how the Left fared in the 1992 General Election with a look at the results of the Workers Party and Sinn Fein.

–  the recent activity of Portobello Unemployed Action Group (PUAG) including pickets of RTE and their relationship with the more mainstream Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU).

– small bits on anti-fascist and Irish skinhead politics.

Link to download : red-action-no-4


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