Thursday, February 14, 2013

Glimpses Of The Irish House (1870-1968)

Ever since reading about it some years ago in Brendan Behan's Ireland: A Sketchbook I've been intrigued with O'Meara's Irish House, a sadly long since gone Dublin pub, that sat at the corner of Wood Quay and Winetavern Street. At the time I read about it first I thought it still existed and I went on a walk down the Quays looking for it. This was pre-google and my search was fruitless. Here's what Behan had to say about the place in 1962:

"Near by is O'Meara's, the Irish House, though why it should be called that in Ireland I don't know. I used to know the man that owned it - it has changed hands since; and I remember him principally for a few lines that he recited to me:
  'Then Hoolihan hit Hannaghan and Hannaghan hit McGilligan,
   And everyone hit anyone of whom he had a spite,
  And Larry Dwyer, the cripple, who was sitting doing nothing,
  Got a kick that broke his jawbone for not including in the fight."

A friend of mine painted that pub one time - Dinny Bowles, a very famous man - a signwriter he was and a very good one at that."

For all I know it could have been a lousy auld venue for a pint but what attracted me and many others to it was its exterior decorations. It was festooned with stucco work depicting various figures and moments in Irish history. Built in 1870 and decorated by Burnet and Comerford the pub operated for nearly 100 years until it was ignominiously torn down along with the rest of Wood Quay in 1968, a casualty to progress. What was found there after the Irish House and other buildings were torn down is a story in itself. While you can no longer visit the pub if you visit Dublin's Civic Trust you can see what remains of the friezes. The venerable Come Here To Me blog also has some close up images of the figures.  When fortune shines on me and I've earned my fortune I fully intend to reconstruct the pub somewhere in Dublin. Here are a few more images of the wonderful looking building.

The Irish House also lives on in film. In the opening moments of this CIE training film from 1965 you can clearly see the pub on the left as the driver crosses the Liffey. 

The pub also featured in the now largely forgotten 1967 screen adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses which is available on youtube in its entirety and very much worth a watch for its shots of contemporary Dublin if nothing else. 38 minutes into the film there's a pub interior which may or may not be the Irish House but a few minutes later, after an altercation, you can see the lower exterior of the pub.

The body of John Keegan Casey, the young poet and revolutionary who penned "The Rising Of The Moon" is interred in Glasnevin Cemetery. The nationalist decorations that adorn his gravestone remind me of the friezes on the Irish House which makes sense as this gravestone dates to around the same time the Irish House was built.

1 comment:

  1. There is a brief shot of this pub one year before it served it's last at it looks fantastic