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Now; it was in my head beforehand that this months pub crawl was going to be a rare treat; We were all to be taking our pints in five pubs we hadn’t set foot in before, a rare occurrence when you consider we once tried naming every pub we’ve drank in Dublin before, and ended up giving ourselves migraines. And I wasn’t to be disappointed. This Sunday, our territory had been marked out in advance by fellow pub-crawler JFlood; we were out of the town centre, away from our comfort zone and up into his neck of the woods- this week, CHTM would hit Rathmines.

Rathmines, last week.

Now it’s odd, I’ve been in Dublin for nine years now, and have been drinking for the majority of those, but I’ve never crossed either of the canals for a pint; unless you count the student bar in UCD that is, or of course Croke Park, the odd time my home county made it there. So there’s a wealth of pubs that I’ve yet to experience, many roads to walk and chippers to drunkenly stumble into afterwards… So, still feeling the after-effects of a bit of a mad one on Saturday night, but looking forward to more-of-the-same, I met with the usual heads at Portobello plaza, and we were joined by another connoisseur in Soundtracksforthem veteran DMcHugh. Crossing the bridge into flatland, we were given a heads up on a bit of local history from jaycarax, who told a tale of the first bridge to cross the canal at Portobello, and a horse drawn carriage that plunged into the lock from it, taking the lives of its six inhabitants. This led to a tradition which was followed for many years of superstitious people disembarking from their transport at the Rathmines side of the bridge and walking across, only to take it up again on the far side.

Toast, by Turgidson, from Flickr

So, enlightened by that gem, we made our way to our first port-of-call, Toast, on Lower Rathmines Road. According to John, this is the bar that the yuppies and monied classes of Rathmines drink in; A self-styled Café Bar, it’s the sort of place you’d have your “hummus pannini and skinny latté” types alongside seasoned Guinness drinkers. Deceiving from the outside, the bar stretches well back more than its exterior would suggest, and seating is a mix of high stools around tables and comfy looking sofas around low tables. Unfortunately the latter were all occupied so we had to make do with the former. Nice looking on the inside too, this place, recently redecorated by the looks of it. At €4.35,  it wasn’t a bad pint, but not a great one either; Something I noticed on this pub crawl was that, while we didn’t get any terrible pubs for pints, we got two lovely ones, two mediocre ones, and one that just didn’t go down right. And this was one of the mediocre ones to be honest. But still, we were happy enough here, we had plenty of space, and the bar-staff even brought us down our pints. This is one of those pubs in which Diageo is running its “Pour your own pint” initiative; We stayed well clear, though there’s a couple of barmen/ex-barmen in the group, we said we’d leave it to the staff… It is their job after all! I liked this place to be honest; It’s the kind of place you might stop by for a pint and the spuds on a Sunday and a read of the paper.

Slatterys, by Mark Waldron, from Flickr

Having settled in comfortably and taken in as much of the atmosphere as we could in a short time, we upped and headed out. As I said, JFlood picked out the route this week and he didn’t disappoint; Next stop was to be MB Slattery’s, JFlood giving us a nice spiel on the history of Rathmines Town Hall on the way. As soon as we walked into this pub, I knew straight away we were onto a winner. For those of you who have never been before, Slattery’s is one in a line of pubs we are losing in Dublin bit by bit- Think of Mulligan’s crossed with Grogan’s, minus the journos and failed writers and you’ve got something close. Unfortunately the little snug inside the door was occupied so we had to make do with a few stools down the back. No matter, lots of ledges and tables to rest the pints on and plenty of space to make ourselves comfortable in. At €4.30, this was one of the lovely pints- You could tell the difference between a good pint and a mediocre one- that after a round of “Sláintes” and a mouthful taken apiece, a certain satisfaction creeps into us all; just lovely. It’s this kind of boozer we’re running out of in this city, as they get shunted out and replaced by pretentious café bars, and the culture and social history that go along with them find it harder and harder to keep on. Obviously the gaffer is sport mad, the walls are bedecked with Irish flags, while a Munster flag and a couple of sporting wall-planners hang on the wall down the back, it pleased me to see that as soon as the football was over, the telly was turned off. No having to spend your quality pub time spoiled by the annoying drawls of Dunphy, Giles and co. I come to pubs for pints and conversation, not to hear those twats! Nice spot from DFallon, copping that while there was no mirrors in the jacks, there was a St. Pauli sticker on the condom machine- We all had a smile at that one.

Graces, not the night we were there though! By Professor Michael Johson, from Flickr

It was with a heavy heart we left this place, for a number of reasons, and we made our way around the corner to Graces/ The Loft.  Now, while airs and graces weren’t required in Slattery’s, they certainly weren’t required here. This is definitely a locals bar, as the shouts and laughter indicated as we entered- no, they weren’t in our direction, just between regulars whose main topic of conversation was to rip the piss out of each other. I don’t blame the barman for eyeing us somewhat suspiciously but he, along with the regulars soon lightened up and we had a chat about the rugby while waiting for the pints to settle. The cheapest pint of the night here, at €4.10, but I’m sad to say it was one of the mediocre ones; maybe it’s just that the drink in Slattery’s was so good, but the pints here just didn’t go down as well. That said, it’s a nice little boozer, maybe not one you’d take a lady friend to on a first date, I’d pick Toast for that accolade, but alright as a “waiting for me mate so I might as well get a quick one into me” sort of place, it reminded me of the Metro on Parnell Street to be honest, plain and not a whole lot going on, but not the worst place around either. Plenty of space in the place divided into restaurant style booths, but with comfy seats; Not one I’d rush to go back to but I wouldn’t mind ending up there either. Looking for pictures for this piece I see they do music, I’d like to try it on a night like that and I might be more enamoured!

Mother Reillys, by Infomatique, from Flickr

Next up on the list was Mother Reilly’s and lord, was I happy we found this place. As inviting as Slattery’s was, Mother Reilly’s is my kind of place and one I’ll definitely be back to. The place oozes character, with flagstone floors, oak beams, candles and cubby holes; It has the feel of a lovely pub, with two (gas powered) open fires that the friendly bar-staff had no problems with us pulling our stools up around. An absolutely cracking pint to beat all that too, great value at €4.15 (or €3.50 with a student card.) I think we all agreed this was the top pub of the night, for look, character and musically too (piped music at a low volume, but good piped music, and that makes all the difference!) DFallon had a Christie Moore songbook with him for some reason, and it was very tempting to bang out a few of the tunes within; You get the feeling they couldn’t care less in this place if you did- I’m sure the regular that happened on our conversation about Moving Hearts might have even joined in. A large beer garden/ smoking area out the back looked as though it might have served us well, had it been closer to the month of June or July, but the February cold drove us closer to the fire, and all the better for it. We took in a couple more pints, such was the welcome in this place, and a props to jaycarax and H for sticking with the black stuff; Usually by the forth pub they’ve switched to the lager- shocking stuff I know, but I think we’ve finally got them hooked. About time and all. I think this joins a list of maybe three or four pubs out of the 25 we’ve visited so far that I’d have no problem recommending to anyone. I’ll be back for a Random Drop Inn anyways.

Rody Bolands, by Professor Michael Johnson, from Flickr

With the night getting on, we decided a pit-stop for soakage was in order so we took a detour up to Burdocks. Fast becoming a staple with us here, their 2-for-1 deal on Haddock and chips (€4.60 a piece between two, sure you’d spend that on a pint.) It went down a treat anyways, and we didn’t stay long as we were due to hit one more pub before the long trek home. I was skeptical enough about the last pub on our list, as the locals in Graces laughed while telling us most of our number wouldn’t get in what with their Dublin accents… We soon realized what the joke was about when we headed into Rody Bolands and saw that every wall was bedecked in Tipperary garb, pictures, old hurls and the kind of tat you’d see in any Irish pub anywhere in the world. We just couldn’t take to this place at all- Why have a beautiful, old bar like this banging out the worst kind of 80’s pop at such a high volume? Where Mother Reillys was a joy to behold, this place was the opposite, the pint of plain tasted a bit sour here, and the music was a complete turn-off. We were unfortunate in that trad sessions run here on a Sunday nights from six, but JFlood wasn’t informed when he was talking to the barman earlier in the week that they ended at eight. Again, what’s the point in that- Surely people are only getting warmed up at that stage? Maybe if we were all a few years younger, and on the pull for someone from Cork, Clare or Tipperary we’d have enojoyed it but… It just wasn’t for us; another night, maybe it would have been fine but. The pint, as I said, wasn’t the may west, and as far as I recall, came to €4.30. Service was prompt, and there were plenty of floor staff around, collecting glasses and cleaning tables. That, I liked, as well as the old shop counter up at the back, which I thought was a nice touch.

So that was that, with a long walk back into town, we all went our separate ways, happy out after a good evening on the tear. Two great finds in Slattery’s and Mother Reilly’s, two grand pubs in Graces and Toast, and an alright one in Rody Bolands. It has to be said, great work from JFlood, it’s only a pity he wasn’t able to do the write-up too. Next months pubs are on me, and we’re back into town for this one!

February’s five pubs were:
1. Toast, Lower Rathmines Road.
2. MB Slattery’s, Lower Rathmines Road.
3. Graces, Rathgar Road.
4. Mother Reillys, Upper Rathmines Road .
5. Rody Bolands, Upper Rathmines Road.

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A recent post on the Guinness Fire Brigade was, as far as I am aware, the only study on the Brigade online. Bar a passing reference on the Irish Times 1916 special website, there seems to be a complete shortage of information when it comes to the ‘Arthur Guinness and Sons’ fire service.

So, what were the odds of this:

Picked up at the Blackrock Market, for an unbeatable €10.

A nice welcome addition in the search for information, pictures and more on the Guinness Brewery Fire Service.

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Dublin firefighters inspect the General Post Office, from \’The Dublin Fire Brigade\’ (2004,Dublin City Council Press)

Recently, I spent painful hours online attempting to track down information on the Guinness Fire Brigade, but it was a hard task! Bass, Powers and Guinness all operated functional (and branded) fire services in their respective workplaces due to the nature of production and the risk posed. My interest in the men of what was branded the ‘Arthur Guinness and Sons’ Fire Brigade, centres around the events of Easter week 1916, but is by no means limited to that week alone.

Guinness, along with Powers Distillery , were both called out by Captain Purcell of the Dublin Fire Brigade during the 1916 insurrection to assist the city Brigade, who, along with Pembroke and Rathmines firefighters, found themselves working against the odds.

The Irish Times Focus on 1916 gives some extent of the damage caused to the city during the uprising

Fire had raged from the GPO towards the Liffey, reaching back along Henry Street to Henry Place and Moore Street, advancing towards Liffey Street, almost as far as the Irish Independent’s printing works on Middle Abbey Street. On the Sackville Street frontage, the Metropole Hotel, standing between Eason and the GPO, was gone, and with it adjoining buildings including the Oval bar. Thom’s printing works was destroyed.

On the Saturday night, well into the uprising that had, in the words of Captain Purcell, done at least £2.5 Million worth of damage to the streets of Dublin, it became apparent that there was a very real threat Jervis Hospital was going to burn to the ground. Purcell called on the fire brigades of Guinness Brewery and Powers to assist his Brigade. Occasionally under fire, they worked heroically and ensured the safety of the hospital.

Dublin Fire Brigade,1916 period standard. Las Fallon collection.

Little is known about the Guinness Fire Brigade in so far as a date of formation. Their exploits during Easter Week are documented in so far as possible in Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whiteheads ‘The Dublin Fire Brigade’ published by Dublin City Council in 2004 and an essential read for all interested in the history of the city. Yet they were a different Brigade, seperate from the Dublin Fire Brigade entirely. Thus, they have remained somewhat of a mystery.

Firefighters training at the site of what is now the Guinness Storehouse attraction

Some interesting insight can be gained into life for the Brewery fire and rescue squads from Edward J. Burkes recent The Guinness Story: The Family, The Business, The Black Stuff (O’ Brien Press, 2009) The book also provides information on the companies support for the repression of the Easter Rising, which makes for interesting reading in itself (for example a company of Dublin Fusilers were allowed set up in the Robert Street grainstore, and Guinness Daimler trucks topped with railway engine smoke boxes were a popular mode of transport and defensive/offensive tool for British forces)

Guinness firefighters, around the 1950s. Notice the \’AGS\’ branding of helmets.

From Burkes book, we can gather information of a fire at the Guinness Brewery in 1820, as reported in the Freemans Journal. All breweries and distillers in the area operated a fire-service (No surprise due to the highly flamable nature of the work) and all, along with the insurance companies of the area, helped to ensure no extensive damage occured.

One can only be reminded of recent events and the fire in the Guinness complex when they read the company press-statement which boasted…

“….the damage done is not very extensive, nor of such a nature as to stop the business of the brewery even for a day”

Brewery Fire Brigade piece.

The Guinness Fire Brigade in the 1930s.

The Guinness Fire Brigade in the 1930s.

To many people,the Guinness fire-helmets are the most exciting part of the story. Below, I’ve included some snaps of Guinness helmets over the years, from the time of the Rising up until the mid 1900s. AGS, of course, stands for Arthur Guinness and Sons.

A patch from near the end of the Brewery Brigades lifetime. Las Fallon collection.

Guinness has long been a powerhouse of Dublin life, employing thousands of working class people in this city through boom and bust alike, but this is certainly an overlooked aspect of the story. The men of the Brewery Brigade, perhaps more than anyone else, show there was,and indeed remains, much more than stout at the heart of Saint James’ Gate.

\’Arthur Guinness and Sons\’ early helmet. Las Fallon collection

Helmet from mid-century period, again branded \’AGS\’ Las Fallon collection

My thanks to the lads at the contemporary Guinness Fire and Rescue Service for getting in touch. This image shows the modern service Guinness operate on site.

Credit to D.Doyle for photograph

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Downey’s Pub, Ballyfermot Road, Dublin 10.

“I remember when they did this place up, in the mid 1980s, there was music playing in the jacks then. They tried to ban jeans and all, it was never going to work. Anyway, in I go to the toilet, and there’s an old lad swinging forward and back at the urinal, scuttered and on another planet. ‘New York, New York’ is playing over the music system.

‘Jesus, they really have done this place up’, he says to me. ‘Frank Sinatra wouldn’t be seen dead taking a piss in Downeys last year!’

Christ what a pub. The above story, is from lfallon (the da) who used to frequent Downeys and another pub or two up this stretch. Still, it’s safe to say that Downeys was always the local best. No better man to enlist for the day then.

Downeys of Ballyfermot is, amazingly, the only pub Google image search never heard of.

Sunday night. Straight past the ‘Bar’ door. “The locals drink there” says lfallon, and “…the piano music (Not eh…literal piano music) stops when a new face walks in”. You might review the odd pub on the internet young lad, but here you’re a newbie. Watch and learn and all that. The lounge it is. The bar will happen soon, we won’t try swim before we can walk.

The lounge is jammed. Good luck finding a seat. “They’re up! Grab it!” I grab the seats, lfallon grabs the pints. They drop them down and all. They’re €4.20 (quite reasonable in this part of the world) and look as good as a pint of Guinness can. These are top class pints.

We’re not long into it, in fact she’s still settling, when the dad launches in to a story. A local punter and Ballyfermot character, previously employed by the great Arthur Guinness and Sons, used to pop in here every morning to ‘clean the pipes’. The pints were said to be the best around, no bollocks pints of stout. Still are.

The telly’s are on. All three of them. They’re not loud though, the volumes down and the locals are deep in conversation. (and believe me, these are locals- everyone looks like they’re paying rent on the seats but still remain friendly and one gets the impression this small club is always looking for new members) You hear snippets of it. The neighbours this, D’ya remember that. Great stuff.

It’s not long before you’re buying raffle tickets. This is a real community pub. Only half an hour later, and you’re putting money in the box for the local old folks. The ‘banter’ (and God, I hate talk of ‘the banter’) is actually there.

The raffle goes ahead, and Team Fallon, naturally, win fuck all. Nevermind that. The pints are coming in thick and heavy now, and all is well. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone in the place, from the 20something year old females at the table opposite to the local old lads by the bar, is on the black stuff. Yer only man around here it seems.

Liam Weldon, just one of the characters you'd often find at the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club back in the day

Upstairs, hidden away, you used to find the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club, in fact- the music is back by all accounts. Only a few months back I was here myself, to see the wonderful Andy Irvine of Planxty fame. A great spot. Back in the day I’m told everyone from Liam Weldon to Mary Black, The Fureys to Jim Page would be found here. It was one of ‘the’ folk clubs. If the atmosphere upstairs was anything like that in the 2010 lounge, the place must have been electric up there.

The ‘last orders’ lights are flashing now.

Palmerstown, in so many ways, is very close to Ballyfermot. Still, the lesson learned tonight is this- never leave home at 9pm to visit a pub like this. You’d want to be here earlier me thinks. Pubs like this fill up on a Sunday night for a reason.

You can learn so much from your old man if you can get him to his own old local, and God I learned plenty here. It’s hard to fault this place (The Guinness remains top-notch, the place as clean as when that fancy reopening occurred in the mid-80’s, and the punters as friendly as you’ll find anywhere), but it’s a hard pub to leave. Straight into the chipper next door, and the chat begins.

When can we go back?”

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Peter's Pub

After Mother Nature tried her best to put us off our stride, and herself and Irish Rail conspired to delay me getting back to Dublin and causing the CHTM pub crawl to kick off a little later than usual, we met at Traitors Gate, well wrapped up against a very chilly Dublin Sunday evening. Traitors Gate as its known colloquially is the archway leading into Stephens Green and is so called because the inscriptions on its underside are the names of the Irishmen who fought and died in WW1, a subject that is still the inspiration for many an argument in Irish households. We had a quick gander at the names while waiting for a new attendee, JBrophy and decided to scarper as soon as he arrived, the cold being the cause; luckily we didn’t have too far to go to our first port of call which was to be Peters Pub, around the back of Stephens Green Shopping Centre. A lovely spot this, I’d been here a few times before when ambling around during the day – When you can get a seat, it’s the business; A pint and a toasted sandwich, I don’t think there’s a better combination. Unfortunately, the place was packed to the rafters with people stopping off for a break from the shopping and bags and big coats meant a tight squeeze for all. Not to be deterred, we took position at the back door and sampled the fare. A nice pint it has to be said but not a fantastic one, and at €4.80 was a little steep. But, no matter, it was grand and warm and the company and banter was good.



the Lord Edward.

With the lack of seats an issue, we didn’t stay long and were soon on our way to our next destination, The Lord Edward just across from Christchurch. A little moment of panic hit when the place looked like it was closed but that subsided quickly when we got around to the front door and it opened like a doorway into a different world, nice and warm with the offer of a tasty scoop at a bargain price of €4. I think we’d all been in here at various stages but I’ve always enjoyed the pint, a touch soft but tasty and much needed. The location of the pub was also a factor, being next to Burdocks was a big deciding factor. We got a few stools inside the door and were joined by another new head in the shape of kbranno, bringing his experience into the mix. A nice pub for a bit of banter this, though I’m not sure how many people were watching the Tenerife game on the telly above our heads. DFallon did comment though, that those among us that are into football drifted into a dreamlike state watching the game, it has that capacity to usurp conversation really. So we snapped out of it, got back to conversation and finished the pints. Out one door we went and in another, as we left for Leo Burdocks for a battered sausage and a scoop of chips.

The Brazen Head

You don’t get that too often, the free scoop of chips thrown in, but it was much appreciated and needed as we strolled through the cold to our next stop, The Brazen Head, on Lower Bridge Street. They say this is the oldest pub in Dublin and I don’t disagree. It’s a lovely place, one that a few of us had never thought to frequent, it being a little out of the way. Plenty to look at and talk about in here as we supped our pints in the “Robert Emmett” room, with all the signed dollars of visiting tourists and ancient posters on the walls. Again, we went back above the €4.50 mark for the scoop here but I’d say it was worth it- we got some nice seats and bantered back and forth about the man who the room was named after. While his speech from the dock has been repeated a thousand times, his rebellion itself was not so much brave as… a bit mad really. There’s quirks galore in this pub, if only you had the time to explore them, but the one that stands out is the etching on the window halfway up the stairs- A visiting journeyman etched his name, his occupation and the date on the window with his ring; dated at 1796, it was only a couple of years before the rebellion of 1798… I liked this pub but the night was getting on and we still had two stops to go.

Frank Ryans

For our first foray into the North-side, we headed across to Frank Ryans, Queen Street. I don’t know how I wasn’t in this place before, as although the Frank Ryan who owned this place was of no relation to the one who fought in the Spanish Civil War, the name inspired (as it always does) no end of conversation. I love a pub with an open fire and this place provided us with one, and a pool table, good music, warmth and a more-than-decent pint for €4.30. I think we all liked this place a lot and promised a return. The kitch décor of the place wasn’t too OTT but still seemed a little out of place, as it’s a locals pub and it doesn’t need the boots hanging from the roof or the Ballybofey signpost to make it Irish. If anything, they make it Oirish, and that’s not a good thing. We stayed for a couple here, such was the welcome, good music being played at a low volume, and the quality of the stout. A nice touch was the board with the newspaper clippings over the jacks; without it, I never would have known that Ho-Chi-Min worked as a kitchen porter in London…

So onwards and upwards to the highlight of the night; How could you venture down this part of the city without visiting The Cobblestone Bar in Smithfield Square- What a pub. They say you get the best Trad sessions in Dublin here and they aren’t too far off the mark. Far enough away from town to dissuade the cheesy ‘old sod’ ballad bollocks, the musicians here are top notch. We didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy it, such were the crowds thronged around the music, leaving us in a precarious position beside the front door, and so we headed down into the bowels of the pub, and got a nice spot out of the way. The pint was without a doubt the best of the night, you know when you get a top pint as it satisfies down to the last mouthful, the head stayed creamy and white on each of the pints we had, a joy to behold and far from some of the muck you pick up around the Temple Bar area. I really like this pub, I haven’t been here enough, it’s only a ten minute walk from O’Connell Street but psychologically much further I guess… But, I reckon Sunday nights visit will be the boot up the arse we need to start heading there on a more regular basis. I don’t know how to describe it; this place just feels like a pub is supposed to feel, the hum of conversation and laughter, the musicians in the corner, top barstaff and good craic.

So there you go, part three of the CHTM pubcrawls, and a nice trip across the city it was too. Next months pubs will be chosen by JCarax, and I’m looking forward to it already!

December’s five pubs were:

1. Peter’s Pub, South William Street.

2. The Lord Edward, Christchurch Place.

3. The Brazen Head, Lower Bridge Street.

4. Frank Ryan and Sons, Queen Street.

5. The Cobblestone, King Street North.

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