Posts Tagged ‘Portobello’

Three old images of Dublin that I’ve come across lately online.

Though the pub has now been replaced by a Chinese restaurant, you can still see the lion above the door. c. 1940s/50s?

A view towards Rathmines from Portobello. Early 19th century?



A rare photograph from the construction of Liberty Hall. c.1962

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I was very intrigued to read in Paul Clerkin’s Dublin Street Names (2001) that Liberty Lane off Lower Kevin Street used to once extend all the way to the canal at Portobello. Clerkin suggests that “this route can still be traced, although a warehouse now disrupts it and various sections have been assigned new names”.

Using Google Maps, I’ve tried to trace this line.

What do you think?

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As you probably know by now, every month this blog organises a pub-crawl. In rotation, a different person chooses the five pubs in advance, picks a meeting point in the city and makes sure not to let any details slip to the rest of the group about what pubs are to be visited.

April was my turn and I chose the area of Portobello.

I set the meeting point for the corner of Harcourt Street and Stephens Green. This was once the site of Little’s Pub, now the Stephens Green Hotel, which was taken over by members of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) during Easter Week 1916.

This location was also chosen to confuse people on the route we were going to be taking that day. We could of easily headed off towards the direction of Wexford St, Leeson St. or back towards Grafton St. One of the joys of these pub-crawls, in my mind, is having no idea where your ‘tour guide’ for the day is going to bring you.

Dfallon and Hxci were on time as usual, with CHTM! crawl regular JFlood only a couple of minutes late.

I led them up Harcourt St., stopping briefly to point out Edward Carson’s birthplace, and through Camden Place where we spotted this little letterbox. I crossed the road at Camden Street in order to point out the (mostly) hidden plaque at No. 34 where Na Fianna Éireann were founded in 1909. The plaque can be only been if you face the building from the opposite side of the road.

Our first stop was Cassidy’s. I was surprised to see the place so busy on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There were a number of families and punters dotted around the long, narrow bar. It is hard to talk about Cassidy’s without mentioning that it was a stopping point of Bill Clinton in December 1995 where he was photographed enjoying a pint of Murphy’s Irish Stout. Apparently, the Cassidy’s are ‘distant cousins’ to the Clintons. We were able to get the best seats in the house, by the window immediately on the left when you enter. The pints, were as far as I can remember, perfectly fine. In truth, we didn’t explore the pub or stay long enough to get a real feel out of the place. But I liked what I saw. Especially the prime spot, where we sat at the window, perfect for people watching.

Not an amazing bar but a lovely one none on the less. Definitely one to pop into if your ever going to try The Camden Crawl.

Cassidy's on Camden St. Not to be confused with the pub of the same name on Westmoreland St.

We only had to cross the road for our next stop. The historic, imposing Bleeding Horse. When we walked in, the place was blaring from the sound of the premiership. Far too loud to warrant the little amount of people in the bar. Usually thronged with after work types on the weekday, the immense pub seemed ghostly empty at this time on a Sunday. We were able to find two lovely sets of tables at the very back of the bar by the window. (For me, this pub-crawl was characterised by the great seats we got in every pub). The pints were lovely and it was nice to have our numbers boosted as we were joined by recent CHTM! pub crawl enthusiast Angela and veteran Hamada.

The Bleeding Horse, 1950s.

The Bleeding Horse dates back to 1649 and claims to be the second oldest pub in Dublin. There are many stories on how the tavern got its name. The most frequent one told is that during The Battle of Rathmines (1649), Cromwellian forces brought their wounded horses to the thatched, timber inn that stood here.

The Bleeding Horse, 1972. (It renamed 'The Falcon Lounge' for a time in the 1970s) Photo credit - Hohenloh

The Irish Times, surprisingly, does not wield many interesting stories relating to the pub. The only one that stood out was that Countess Markievicz presided over a Republican meeting in the premises in September 1923 at which Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen and Helena Maloney spoke.

The Bleeding Horse as it looks today. Photo credit - Ingawh

Across Kelly’s Corner, we swung by the renowned Bretzel Bakery and up to The Lower Deck, known locally as “Ryan’s of The Harbour”. There’s been a tavern on this site since the 1830s. Though I’ve spent many evenings down in the basement at various gigs during 2007-8, I don’t think I’d ever properly been upstairs. We managed (again) to get great seats by the window beneath the array of GAA merchandise.

The Lower Deck, 1960s (?) then called 'Ryan's Bar'.

The pints were grand and the barman friendly. My only complaint was the eager, acoustic cover singer who was playing far too loud at such an early time of the evening in the middle of the bar. We finished our pints up quicker than usual because we could barely hear ourselves chat.

The Lower Deck as it looks today. Photo credit - Kelly T.

Moving on, we crossed the road and into The Portobello. I had thought that this pub had completely gone down the tacky tourist route but I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely, wooden interior and lack of ‘paddy tourist’ vibes in the place. (The bartender said that the first half of the pub has barely been altered since the Easter 1916 Rising when the ICA occupied the premises then called Davy’s).

Davy's, early 1900s (?). It is now a bar and hotel called The Portobello.

We took seats in the middle of the premises beside an unusually placed vending machine. On the other side of us, a large trad session had begun involving up to a dozen people. The pints were again grand (I should of really taken notes during the night). A nice pub, full of history, but I’m not sure if I’d feel the need to come back anytime soon. The fact that there’s an over 30s disco called Rain attached to the pub isn’t a real selling point for me personally.

The Portobello as it looks today. As you can see, there's been little structural change to the front of the pub.

Stomachs were grumbling at this stage so we dropped into the quality Aprile (Est. 1969) chipper on the corner opposite The George Bernard Shaw. A feed of chips by the canal hit the spot nicely. Here, we were joined by our red-haired Italian friend Julian, in a jolly mood due to a Roma win, who had missed the last few pub crawls.

Next up was O’Connell’s on Richmond Street. This was my ‘pièce de résistance’. I for one had never set foot in the place before and I was pleased to hear that no one else besides DFallon had. This is what makes our pub crawls. Being brought into areas of the city and pubs that you’d never usually venture into. Definitely one of the few bars in the city that you’d have to point out to someone. It’s not loud. No neon lights, flags or banners outside. Deceptively small from the outside, the bar was unusually put together with various seats of different sizes all over. A little corner on your left as you go in, a thin row of seats directly opposite the bar and a whole separate section, slightly raised at the very back. We ordered our pints off the pleasant proprietress and settled in for the night. At €4 for a pint of Guinness, they were definitely the bargain of the evening.

J. O'Connell's on Richmond Street.

All in all, I thought it was a success. Certainly compared to my last effort, which saw three of my five pubs closed.

I might find myself back in Cassidy’s soon with a newspaper in hand, ready for an afternoon of people watching if I see that those seats are empty or The Bleeding Horse to watch ‘the football’ (there’s even a TV in the beer garden!) or indeed O’Connell’s for an (agreeably cheap) Guinness filled session.

Though you might not find me there, if GAA is your interest, check out The Lower Deck and if it’s Trad music, The Portobello might be your place.

Next up is JFlood who will be escorting us around the city at the end of May.

April’s five pubs were:

1. Cassidy’s, 42 Lower Camden Street.
2. The Bleeding Horse, 24 Upper Camden Street.
3. The Lower Deck, 1 Portobello Harbour.
4. The Portobello, 33 South Richmond Street.
5. J. O’Connell’s, 29 South Richmond Street.

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Walking down the Grand Canal from Portobello Bridge (La Touche Bridge) to Leeson Street Bridge on Thursday got me thinking about an amusing prank from October 1968 that I heard some years ago. Here’s the original Irish Times article published in full.

The Irish Times. October 4 1968.

Unknown pranksters turned over a mile of the Grand Canal in Dublin into a bubble bath yesterday. The sequence of events was described Dragnet style by Jimmy Parsons, lock keeper of Lock Cottage, Portobello Bridge. “At 2:30am, a night nurse in Portobello nursing home looked out the window and saw white foam rising 30 feet out of the lock and overflowing on to the bridge and roadways. At 5am the police arrived. All they could do was watch. At 7:30am the fire brigade came. They said it looked lovely but that they couldn’t help”.

By then, Dubliners were on their way to work. The wall of foam hampered traffic at the bridges at Porotobello, Charlemont street and Leeson Street. Hundreds of curious people jammed the canal-side.

Portobello Today. Flickr user Miroslav Čuljat.

“It’s really like a fairyland” a schoolbound youngster breathed. “I’m going to be late for work” said a typist who had jumped off her bus “But it’s worth it – I’ll never see a sight like this again”.

Hours later some of the original watchers were still there, still spellbound, gazing at the foam writhing upwards in a Disneyland ballet.

The high wind scooped great gobbets of froth from the lock gates and flung them into the sky. Other pieces, too big to fly, rolled over the roadway like huge snowballs. “Lookit – it’s snowing” two messenger boys bellowed in chorus, beside themselves with excitement.

Portobello Bridge today

“All we want now is Brigit Bardot in that bubble bath”, observed a man with a ballroom sheikh hair-do.

Jimmy Parsons arrived, with a weed-rake on the end of a 10-foot pole. Poling about on the bottom of Portobello lock, he said over his shoulder, “This must have been caused by jokers dumping detergent or soap – powder into the locks. The way the foam keeps coming up, the stuff is still down there. It’s an expensive joke. They must have thrown hundredweights of it to whip up this froth”

Giving up on the search, he sat on a lock-gate and said “You should have seen it at dawn. Like icebergs it was. Icebergs floating down the Grand Canal”.

Angrily aloof on the canal – bank nearby, two swans looked on. After a while, they took like seaplanes in search of pure water. But the foam stayed and so did the crowds…

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