The Irish Pub, Turtle Bunbury & James Fennell (Thames & Hudson, 2008)
Watch Turtle and James talk about 'The Irish Pub' on Nationwide, RTE1, 7:00pm, Wednesday 25th February 2009.
During its first eight weeks of publication, 'The Irish Pub' has sold over 5,000 copies. The book generated considerable coverage on BBC News, BBC World, The Today Show (BBC Radio 4) and Saturday Magazine (BBC Radio Ulster), as well as Ireland AM (TV3), The Tom Dunne Show (Newstalk 106), the Tom Dowling Show (KCLR) and K-Drive with Marie O'Riordan (KFM). It is the cover story on the November issue of the Boston Irish Reporter and a review in the Irish Echo is imminent. The book has also featured impressively in The Guardian, Country Life, National Geographic, The Australian, The Independent on Sunday, The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, Sunday Independent, Hospitality Ireland, The Irish Mirror, The Daily Mail, Sunday World, The Dubliner, Passport Magazine and the Oct/Nov 08 issue of Cara. The story in The Guardian generated 60,000 hits in little over a day (as opposed to the average of 10-13,000).
Turtle's wife Ally Bunbury is looking after the PR.
by Jim Gladstone
How do we save the ailing pub trade? Bin the pint!
By Siobhan Cronin
As if the Irish pub wasn't under enough pressure with stricter drink-driving laws, the recession, and a boom in drinking at home, publicans are keeping a close eye on a suggestion in the UK to bin the pint. Some quarters of the British licensing trade reckon that a smaller measure might be one of the ways to save an industry under threat. Female customers, they claim, don't want to drink full pints, but half-pints are too small.
Enter, stage right, with a nod to Europe of course, a suggestion that the 'two-thirds' pint could go down nicely, and help boost the breweries' profits. The proposal has been made by the National Weights and Measures Laboratory, the UK body in charge of rules regarding measurements for all things consumable.
Beer and lager has been dished out in pints in Britain since an Act of Parliament made it law in 1698, but now some folk reckon a move to more Continental measures might be just the medicine for an ailing industry. Of course, if Britain makes the move, can we be far behind? Otherwise, we would be something of a novelty among European drinkers.
According to a spokesperson for the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, any change in measurement would "ultimately be an issue for Government, under the Weights and Measurements Act". "All pint and half-pint glasses must be officially stamped. Arguably, customers are already very well served by the current range of options available -- half-pint, 330ml, 500ml, and pint measurements," the spokesperson added.
There's a slight hint of opposition there, and it wouldn't be the first time the Irish rebelled against what the rest of the Continent was doing. "It wouldn't work at all in Ireland," says Turtle Bunbury, author of The Irish Pub - a coffee table tome chronicling the story of 39 of Ireland's oddest and most authentic drinking holes, with pictures capturing them in all their magnificent quirkiness by renowned photographer James Fennell. "It just doesn't make sense. We have bigger things to worry about," Turtle points out.
Listowel publican Billy Keane agrees: "What about the pint of plain? A half-litre, or whatever, of plain, isn't the same. There are certain things you can't take away," he says, obviously irritated at even the notion of it. "I would be marching to the Dail on that one, even if I was on my own," says John B's son. "We have kept red lemonade and the black pudding, we will have to keep the pint."
It seems that the pint is the last sacred element of the Irish pub and there will be little support for its demise.
Turtle Bunbury admits that his book immortalising some of the country's best known watering holes was largely prompted by his fear that many of them are now under immediate threat. While travelling around the country with James for his previous project, Vanishing Ireland, the writer noticed a lot of pubs closing down. Even the creators of The Simpsons have noticed -- they are planning an episode next year in which Homer and Grandpa buy an Irish pub but realise they were sold a pig in a poke, because the smoking ban has had a huge effect on trade.
'We were researching Vanishing Ireland, and saw that many pubs were vanishing too," recalls Turtle Bunbury. "A lot on our list to visit actually closed before we got to them. There is a dispute over the actual numbers that have closed since 2001, but some say 1,500 are gone. The drink-driving laws have had the biggest effect. Farmers and men who would have come down to the rural pub for the night for a few pints are now petrified about losing their licence, and that's across the board. I thought we would find a lot more rebels, but we didn't."
Despite the widespread gloom in the pub trade these days, Turtle's book has gone to great lengths to reflect some light. "I am not totally disillusioned," he says. "We have included a section on modern pubs and we hope these are the future of the Irish pub." He also reveals that, according to the 12th-century Book of Leinster, the first feet to walk on Irish soil after the biblical Flood were those of a brewer and an innkeeper.
So it's no surprise that not all publicans' days are numbered. "The Irish pub will last," says Billy Keane. "Socialising is part of our nature."
Just like the pint of plain.
Irish pubs and painting the smell of grass this Christmas
By Ros Drinkwater
From the plethora of titles for art lovers this Christmas, two stand out as exceptional in their respective genres. Both are of historical interest and offer a combination of visual feast and erudite text. The first title is one destined to wing its way to the Irish diaspora. The Irish Pub, a superb collaboration between James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury, chronicles our best loved institutions, redolent of ‘free-flowing banter, fireside fiddles and unforgettable nights’.
The pair have travelled the length and breadth of the island to bring us the best, from Victorian gin palaces to grocery bars, country pubs to hotel cocktail lounges.
Some are internationally known, such as Dublin’s Log hall, a one-time haunt of Brendan Behan, and Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon, the only pub owned by Britain’s National Trust. Others are simply an indelible part of the landscape: Clancy’s in Athy, where fiddles, bodhrans and flutes raise the rafters on Thursdays, Dick Mack’s in Dingle (‘a cracking good pub’), Lenehan’s in Kilkenny (‘the sort of pub that’s busy on a Monday morning for no particular reason’), and MJ Byrne’s, a one-time shebeen for Wicklow Mountain travellers.
Fennell’s atmospheric photography captures every nuance, the gleam on bronze and enamel taps, snugs tripled in size by their mirrors, Pure Irish Honey sharing shelf space with Hamlet cigars, a bacon slicer cheek by jowl with beer mats, antique Chinese tea canisters that interior designers would die for, and an Arizona number plate that could certainly tell a tale or two.
Bunbury’s text reveals a wealth of social history, studded with nuggets of gold. In Ballycastle, there’s the House of McDonnell which has been in the same family for 14 generations. In Galway’s oldest pub, Tigh Neachtain, part of the medieval townhouse built by the Martins, there’s a plaque to Humanity Dick, aka Richard Martin MP, who in 1822 cajoled Westminster into passing the first law in the world for animal welfare.
We take our pubs so much for granted there’s a danger we lose sight of their place in the national heritage. They are now closing down at the rate of one a day. If anything can halt their demise, it is this beautiful book.
(The other book was ‘Neville Johnson: Paint the Smell of Grass’ by Dickon Hall and Eoin O’Brien).
'Fans of Eire can relive damp nights warming up with a friendly pint in hand with The Irish Pub, a photo-driven tour by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury of Ireland's favorite public houses, urban and rural, venerable and contemporary'.
Milwaukee should be thrilled that as we were poking through the back of the Thames and Hudson catalog last summer, we came across this delightful book called The Irish Pub. It was hardly a high-profile book, but immediately when we saw the blad (a sort of book sampler), we knew this was a great book for our area. There are several really great things about Fennell and Bunbury’s collection. For one thing, it totally disproves the notion that all Irish Pubs look alike. If you haven’t traveled to Erin, you find that American incarnations sometimes tend toward cliché. These pubs are anything but, each one is quite different from the next. In addition, each pub tells its story—the words take the book from coffee table realm into reference, dream book, travel guide, and inspiration. Hey, after the Tuscan kitchen craze calms down in remodeling, Irish pub style could be the next big thing!
Pull These Crackers - For the Coffee Table
By Conor Pope
The delightfully named journalist Turtle Bunbury has published an equally delightful-looking coffee table book called The Irish Pub. It is a colourful tour of 39 classic pubs from across the Island of Ireland, with words by Bunbury and photos by James Fennll. Among the pubs featured are The Long Hall and The Stag's Head in Dublin, the wonderful Tigh Neachtain in Galway and the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast.
Love’s Labour Lost
By Emily Houican
While travelling around Ireland for an entirely different project, writer Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell realised that in every town and village, pubs were closing at an alarming rate. Inspired by a lifelong devotion to the Irish pub, the pair decided to chronicle this sad demise. The result, The Irish Pub, is a beautiful, fascinating record of one of our greatest industries.
“The Irish pub has played such a vital role in shaping Ireland’s once unshakeably friendly and laid-back society that they have been replicated right across the planet.” So says Turtle Bunbury, writer, historian and long-time devotee of the unique brand of relaxation and education to be found in pubs. Turtle is speaking about his latest project, which seems to unite perfectly the areas of his interest: The Irish Pub is a glorious coffee-table book, a tribute to a vanishing way of life, and a plea to hold on to something unique and wonderful before it’s too late.
Launched last month, it sold over 4,000 copies in its first four weeks out. So what inspired Bunbury and James Fennell to begin the project? “It was when we were doing the Vanishing Ireland book, a book of interviews with characters of senior vintage across Ireland. As we travelled the country, we noticed that little pubs were closing almost in front of our eyes in every town and village we came to. Being passionate pub-goers from early ages, we wanted to chronicle this – they were closing or changing, trying to modernise and adapt.”
While compiling the book, the pair visited 700 pubs right across the country, of which 39 made the final cut – at least two from every county in Ireland. In each case, what appealed to Bunbury and Fennell were those pubs that epitomised the “essential charm of old Ireland”, even if that sometimes came in the form of a brand-new or largely remodelled place. For example, the front cover shows the interior of Geoff’s, in Waterford, who painstakingly removed all traces of ugly modernity from the bar he inherited from his father, even taking away the dartboard and TV, and turning it back into the old-world wonder it is now.
Although well aware that ‘needs must’, where business survival is concerned, Bunbury admits to being “on a bit of a crusade, probably a hopeless crusade” against the relentless installation of huge TV screens. “You go into a pub where four auld fellows are sitting, all with the most amazing stories, but now, instead of talking, they’re glued to the television. Yes, they need to stay alive, but it is interfering with the character of the pub. The old Irish craic has disappeared slightly.” It is this kind of rapidly vanishing and irreplaceable social history that is at the heart of the crusade to save and document the changing times.
Although he discovered plenty of “low morale” among pub owners, particularly those in isolated spots, Bunbury also found that many of them were very gung-ho and determined to do what’s necessary to make it. Like the publican who has organised a minibus service to pick up pensioners from around the area once a week, transport them for an evening of fun, then drop them home again. Or the even more dedicated soul who does all the picking up and driving himself, dropping customers home whenever they want to leave, at no cost. These are the dynamic, creative guys, the ones who will survive.
For Turtle and James, The Irish Pub was a labour of love. For the rest of us it is a timely reminder, lest we ever forget just how much this industry epitomises the best we have to offer. Here then is a selection of some of the country’s most beautiful and historic spots.
Gertie Browne, Athlone, Co. Westmeath: In the 15 years Michael Loughman has owned Gertie Browne, he has had plenty of time to ruminate on the pub’s past. Based on Athlone’s profound history, he has determined that there is a distinct possibility people have been drinking on his site since Norman times. When former maths and technical drawing teacher Loughman purchased the business, he could have named it after any number of Norman warriors to honour this suspicion. Instead he rechristened The Hooker Bar as Gertie Browne, after the fierce and fearless wife of former owner Teddy Browne. The interior is conventional verging on stereotypical – tongue-and-groove floors, battered brick walls with wooden panelling, and Murphy’s advertisements – but with a New York spin, as an homage to Loughman’s 24 years in that city. Alongside original posters for Keegan’s Irish whiskey are framed pages from the New York Herald. In the face of a dwindling pub culture, Loughman and wife Mary have expanded their business to include a Hollywood-themed restaurant called Hatters Lane.
The Stag’s Head, Dublin City: Opened more than a century ago by businessman George Tyson, the Stag’s Head in is an outdoorsman’s dream in the centre of Dublin City. A stag is represented in tile set into the sidewalk outside the front door, a 14-pointer hangs behind the bar (though his status as a stag is up for debate), and a delicate stag in silhouette glows in stained glass windows. The first electrified pub in Dublin, the Stag’s Head is a warm and comfortable space with a dark mahogany, walnut and ebony bar, panelled walls and ceiling, done in deep-brown wood, and a red Aberdeen granite bar counter, original to the establishment. This landmark pub is frequented by a mix of Trinity students, barristers, journalists and, inevitably, a good amount of tourists. In 2005, the Stag’s Head was purchased by the Louis Fitzgerald Group, owners of Kehoe’s, on South Anne Street, and the Arlington Hotel, on Bachelors Walk.
The Sky and the Ground, Wexford Town: When Johnnie and Nuala Barron purchased the fire-ravaged Kingdom Bar in 1995, they were faced with the challenge of restoring the building from the floor up. It had been the couple’s dream for quite some time to open their own pub, and the place they had in mind was not one from the 1990s. So they took their new floors from the old townhouse of Johnnie’s late great-aunt, Kathleen Molloy. The rough wood wainscoting and geometric stained glass windows were also salvaged from her traditional home. Molloy had been a travel writer for the Irish Times, and so her piles of vintage vacation brochures were handy when it came time to adorn the walls. Lampshades were rescued from a shoe shop and shelving was stripped from an old chemist’s shop. The pub’s new name, The Sky and the Ground, was also borrowed, from the lyrics of Wexford musician and Barron relation Pierce Turner
Thomas Connolly’s, Sligo Town: Thomas Connolly purchased what would become his namesake pub in 1890, the same year he was elected Mayor of Sligo. The pub passed from Connolly to his daughter following his death from tuberculosis six years later, then to her brother, then to Connolly’s bachelor brother Dennis, but all died in rapid succession. The Fox brothers turned the Connolly curse around. In no time, Thomas Connolly’s was a successful grocer-bar and wine merchant. In 1956, Fox nephew Gerry Nicholson took over, closed the grocery side and revamped the bar with the help of Adie O’Donnell, production designer from The Field. Today the pub is barren, but not cold. Simple wood tables and stools sit atop stone and wood floors, an ancient-looking Romesse stove radiates in a corner, and timber-and-glass-walled snugs are lit by bright sunlight. The walls are decorated with pages from original ledgers and browning newspapers. The only indication that it is 2008 are the televisions. Current publican Gerry Junior reports that customers consume a barrel of Guinness per hour when they pour in on sporting weekends.
Dick Mack’s, Dingle, Co. Kerry: In Dingle, the quaint and quirky little town boasting its very own dolphin-in-residence, Dick Mack’s is an eclectic pub, run by an equally eclectic publican called Oliver Joseph Mary MacDonnell. Tea and sugar bins stamped with the MacDonnell family crest and motto, ‘As you like it,’ are relics from the early 1900s, when MacDonnell’s grandfather Tom ran a grocery and general store at the site. Tom left the building to son Dick in 1938, who established a successful boot store. Today timber floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled with shoeboxes and shoes, buckles, trimmings, tools and nails. A look around the mustard-coloured room tells the history of the MacDonnell men. Oliver’s legacy will be the Hollywood-inspired Walk of Fame outside the front door, which honours celebrities who have graced Dick Mack’s with their star power. Explorer Tom Creen and writer Jerome O’Connor, both Kerrymen, received the first stars, and have since been joined by a dozen more celebrities, including Dolly Parton and Sir John Mills, of Ryan’s Daughter.
Crotty’s, Kilrush, Co. Clare: By 1921, the year after Miko Crotty converted his hardware store into a pub, Kilrush had 68 similar establishments. What set Miko’s bar on Market Square apart from its 67 competitors were the considerable musical talents of his wife, Lizzie, who is now known as the greatest concertina player of her age. Lizzie had been performing since childhood, but until the mid-1950s, her talents were reserved for weddings, wakes and folk nights at her husband’s pub. This all changed when RTÉ broadcaster Ciarán Mac Mathúna set up a studio in the Crottys’ kitchen and recorded Lizzie playing such songs as ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ and ‘The Reel with the Beryl’. Lizzie’s rhythmic, folksy tunes lured customers and fellow musicians alike. Bands came from far and wide to play at ‘Crotty’s on the Square’ and before long, the pub had a reputation, more for music than a well-pulled pint. Today Crotty family friends Keith and Rebecca Clancy keep the pub running. As for Kilrush, the town celebrates Mrs Crotty’s musical legacy with a festival each August.
M. O’Shea, Borris, Co. Carlow: Quaint country pub M. O’Shea is done up with a white-and-red candy-striped L-shaped bar and charming artefacts from its heyday as a grocer. The space is shabby chic, worn in charming ways, and a cosy throwback to the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Based on looks alone, you might never guess that M. O’Shea has a place in rock-and-roll history, but nevertheless, the pub was the chosen ‘third place’ of Denny Cordell, who produced records for the Cranberries, Joe Cocker and Procol Harum. Following his death in the mid-90s, Cordell’s wake was held at the pub. Current publican Olivia O’Shea, granddaughter of founder Michael ‘Bossman’ O’Shea, says that more than a decade later, Cordell’s musician friends still make pilgrimages to the establishment to honour their friend. Cordell’s story is a preserved part of O’Shea’s history, as are the hardware goods dangling from the ceiling, shelves stocked with ancient batteries and light bulbs, and hulking scales left over from the grocer days.
Future anthropologists will be grateful to local writer
by William Paterson
Future anthropologists will be grateful to local writer Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell for recording what may be the last days of the Irish country pub and the cultural life within them – the smoking ban and clampdown on driving ‘under the influence’ accelerating their demise. Bunbury & Fennell’s monumental task obliged them to crisscross the island of Ireland for the last two years and rack up 16,000 miles of road travel. The result, The Irish Pub, is a book of exceptional photographs and writing which captures the character of a disappearing culture.
This is the second book on Ireland produced by the creative team, the first, Vanishing Ireland, recorded the terrible beauty of the dying ways and traditions of Irish country life. (Their first cooperation resulted in a book, Living in Sri Lanka).
Turtle Bunbury, with wife Ally and daughter Jemima, live on an estate near Rathvilly where he writes from a study shared with his journalist brother-in-law Tom Sykes. James Fennell dwells in the bucolic Kildare countryside with wife Joanna, daughters Bella and Mimi, and Benga the dog. Their teaming up was a natural progression of their parents living next-door to each other, when the two recognsed as they grew up that they were like-minded creative spirits – and it has worked well.
Describing his style of photography, James told the Nationalist that he never used flashlight, only natural light, requiring tripods and long exposures on occasion when the interiors are poorly lit. The technique results in portraits of interiors and people more reminiscent of Manet and Degas than the sparkly flash results so beloved by many fashion and food photographers. In the soft light of many of such pubs, patrons can be seen taking their pints alongside tins of canned fruit, reels of bailer twine, Barry’s tea, Brillo pads and tubs of sheep dip. Kitchen chairs and foot stools often complete the picture, kept aside for visiting musicians.
Turtle and James visited 700 or so establishments across the country in their search of the essence of the country pub – many visited from an extensive advance list they had compiled, many others happened upon by chance. Some were visited and set aside for a host of reasons, others were considered for their photogenic appeal, photographed and copious notes taken only to be rejected at a later stage. This led to a shortlist of sixty pubs and then critically reduced to the 39 pubs included in the book. Hard work and determination - and you thought that writers and photographers lived the life of Riley.
James started out by studying film and video in Ireland’s College of Marketing & Design leading to his working with a leading fashion photographer. He subsequently established himself independently and has spent much of the past decade travelling extensively. He does all post-production work on his photographs in his studio lit by north and south natural light.
Turtle Bunbury was educated in Dublin and Glenalmond, Perthshire, Scotland. After graduating from Trinity with a degree in Modern History, he spent three years in Hong Kong working as a freelance correspondent with the South China Morning Post. Like James, Turtle has travelled extensively in the Far East, southern Africa and North America and his writings have been published in many well-known journals.
According to the latest figures from the Vintners Federation of Ireland, 1,500 pubs have closed since 2001 – that’s about one closure every two days - so snapping up a copy of The Irish Pub will mean you have the chance of preserving their memory. The book can be found in most good bookstores, although stock is reported to be dwindling fast.
IN the past few years, few aspects of Irish society have changed more than the pub. First it was the smoking ban and the invention of the Irish beer garden for outdoor smokers. Then it suddenly, and necessarily, became deeply unsexy to drink and drive. Such crackdowns came at a cost to the Irish pub. In the countryside, the unthinkable happened. The old pubs and shebeens have begun closing down. It's not all about smoking and driving. We've changed as a people.
We haven't time to sit about in a pub all day yakking about whatever. We don't need to go for a pint to feel in touch; we can send an email or log on to Facebook. And besides, isn't it just as easy to go to the supermarket, fill the trolley with cheap grog and kick back at home?
Small wonder that about 30 of our once treasured pubs are closing down every month. And for every pub that's closing, a dozen more are whacking salt and pepper canisters on every table and putting giant plasma screens on the walls.
These are desperate times for the country pub. Traditional grocery bars are on the way out, too. Also on the line are those fundamental one-room watering holes, often owned by the same family since time began, where the drink is served from dusty bottles and the newspapers are yellower than a duck's bill.
Let's fast-forward to 2050, when a granddaughter sits me down and asks what made a good country pub. This is what I will say: "Sweetheart, back in the old days a good country pub was a place where you could gather your senses and then let them go again. The air was thick with tobacco smoke, the floor as dark as coal. We'd sit on mismatched chairs, perhaps by an open fire, and let the banter roll.
"Giddy fiddles and rattling tongues would light the darkest shadows as we dug in deep and lit the night and forgot about the morrows. Along the bar, perched high on stools, toothless old men, both genius and fool, guffawing and snoring and drinking too much, supping stouts and gold whiskeys instead of their lunch."
And she will probably wonder what could have been remotely charming about being in a confined space with large numbers of drink-sozzled, chain-smoking old codgers. It'll be a hard one to sell.
But there are many who will understand the magic and allure of these endangered establishments. The towns and cities are weathering the revolution better than the remote country pubs. The drinker is always at ease when the bed is just a walk away. God gave us pubs to get away from it all. But if a new age of country pubs is necessary, I pray it is not comprised solely of charmless venues rumbling with ear-splittingly bad music, giant plasma screens showing matches between soccer clubs I've never heard of and bar staff who scowl.
Modern Ireland is a multicultural, technologically advanced, cash-hungry whirlpool. The once dominant Catholic Church is all but redundant and many of the old institutions have gone with it. The Irish pub maysurvive the meltdown but many will disappear in the process.
Here are five that, thankfully, have so far stood the test of time.
De Barra's, County Cork: Thirty years ago, this was a straightforward grocery bar with a bakery to the rear. In 1980, Eileen Barry and husband Bobby took over the show and everything went left field. Bobby was adamant that music would be key to the pub's survival. Today, Irish songwriting legend Christy Moore is by no means alone when he suggests that De Barra's is a cut above Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. The pub is all about music, from the flutes, fiddles and saxophones sprawled across its walls to the purpose-built auditorium out back. But somehow De Barra's retains its sense of history and still feels like an old-world grocery bar. (De Barra's, 55 Pearse St, Clonakilty, County Cork. www.debarra.ie).
Brennans at the Criterion Bar, County Donegal: Built in 1823, the Criterion Bar was one of the earliest guesthouses on Ireland's raggedy Atlantic shores. The Brennan sisters were born in a bedroom above the bar and have lived here all their lives. They take it in turns to serve from behind the pitch pine counter. Everything is immaculate, traditional and unfussy, inviting customers to take time out from the seasonal mayhem of the streets outside. While criterion means a standard by which something can be judged, the Criterion can certainly be judged as one of the few pubs unsullied by the advent of modern times. (Brennans at the Criterion Bar, Main Street, Bundoran, County Donegal. +353 71 984 1810).
M. Finucane, County Kerry: Michael Finucane's great-uncle bought the drapery bar in 1898 from a passionate young man known as The O'Rahilly. During the Easter rebellion of 1916, O'Rahilly was gunned down on Dublin's Moore Street, becoming the only leader of the uprising to die in action. The pub inevitably became a stronghold for Republican get-togethers during the formative years of the new state. Customers formally sat at the bar and drank a pint or two while their tailor proposed different colours and cloths. "People had more time then," Finucane explains. "It was very civilised." The rise of superstores in the 1960s brought an end to the drapery, and the grocery section came to a similar conclusion a decade later. Nonetheless, Finucane has ensured the pub remains an aesthetic delight as well as central to the life of the surrounding community. (M. Finucane, Quay Street, Ballylongford, County Kerry. +353 68 43 243).
McConville's at the Mandeville Arms, County Armagh: Tradition claims that the Russian oak fittings in McConville's bar replicate a design used on the Titanic. This classic Victorian bar is one of the most stalwart survivors of the Ulster pub scene, right down to its crack-riddled sky blue and dusty red tiled floor. In 1981, the windows were blown out when a nearly 200kg car bomb exploded outside the pub. The surrounding streets were subsequently flattened to make way for a vast shopping complex. Inevitably, the troubles caused property prices in Portadown to tumble. In 2006, the listed pub was bought by Andrew Robinson, an enterprising farmer's son. He had been eyeing the property since he was 15. He promises that the pub is open for all, "whatever age and whoever you are: anything goes, religion makes no odds". The pub is certainly an inspiration for all thosewho want to move on from the troubles and enjoythe 21st century, not least from within one of the 10 impeccably charming leather-bound snugs. (McConville's at the Mandeville Arms, Mandeville Street, Portadown, County Armagh. +44 28 3833 2070).
Bermingham's, County Meath: During the late 1850s, a fanatical Irish priest named Patrick Bermingham left Navan for Sydney, where he made a bold attempt to depose the English Catholic hierarchy in Australia. Bermingham subsequently made quite a name for himself, with extensive tours in Italy and Ireland, warning his listeners how the vast infant colony was being run into the ground by useless English bishops and that good, solid Irish bishops should be sent to the rescue without delay. Regardless whether his accusations were just, Bermingham was dismissed from Australia in 1867. Fifteen years later his namesake and cousin bought a two-room grocery bar in Navan and converted it into perhaps the most splendid Victorian pub in County Meath. The pub is now run by the Marmion family, cousins of the Berminghams, who have kept the original name proudly gilded on the exterior, framed by stone walls,wrought-iron rails and dark oak panelling. (Bermingham's, 7 Ludlow St, Navan, County Meath. +353 46 9029 829).
By Rory Knight Bruce
THE traditional family-run Irish pub was once the last haven from Ireland’s rain, a place where a peat fire and conversations, about racing, farming and literature, mirrored the very nation. Sadly, such pubs are now in decline, with more than 200 closing every year. Still, more than 10,000 pubs remain in Ireland, and top photographer James Fennell and writer Turtle Bunbury (who produced the best-selling Vanishing Ireland) have selected just 40 of the finest. As the historian son of Lord Rathdonnell, Mr Bunbury’s text brings great depth to what may be described as the longest pub crawl ever. Together, they have visited all of the 32 counties of Ireland.
The selection (with advice on where to stay to visit them) contains photographs that bear hours of wistful inspection. Flagstone floors, tongue and groove panelling, simple banquettes, high stools and brass doorknobs worn bright by time and man typify these homely places.
Yet the sad evidence is that these pubs, with their old advertising plaques for Guinness or Fry’s chocolate, often ornate stained-glass windows and gaily painted fronts, are fast disappearing. Landlords blame the smoking ban and drink/driving laws, but the truth is that Ireland itself has changed, and the emphasis is now more on food and family outings.
This makes The Irish Pub all the more important. ‘For centuries, they have been sanctuaries for the soul, synonymous with fireside fiddles and free-flowing banter,’ writes Mr Bunbury.
This book is a brilliant history of the Irish pub, and an encouragement to the reader to visit them before they are lost forever. For, in a changing Ireland, they still offer an authentic window into a nation’s past and character.
‘The Irish Pub’ with evocative pictures by James Fennell and garrulous text by the historian and travel writer Turtle Bunbury, is a fascinating record of a diminishing facet of community life. A companion piece to their earlier ‘Vanishing Ireland’, it surveys décor and architecture from the rustic to the Rococo, and from cavernous city retreats to country pub shops that double as grocery stores. But the most striking photographs include an element of portraiture. Pictured right is Annie McGinn, in the family pub in Newbliss, Co Monaghan, in which she has lived and worked her whole life. (The New Review)
Last Orders - Top 10 traditional pubs in Ireland - The traditional Irish pub is now an endangered species, with one closing almost every day. Turtle Bunbury went on a pub crawl around all 32 counties in search of the best.
Two Kildare pubs featured in new book
By Chris Fingleton.
TWO Kildare pubs have made it onto the pages of a new book which depicts the allure of Irish pub culture.
Clancy’s on Leinster Street, Athy and Butterfield’s of Ballitore are both featured on the glossy pages of The Irish Pub which was launched which was launched in Dublin recently.
Over the past two years, photographer James Fennell, who is originally from Burtown just outside Athy and author Turtle Bunbury, have been scouring the country for classic, old style pubs across the country in a bid to preserve some record of what they believe to be ‘an extremely endangered species’.
And an endangered species the Irish pub may well be, because, according to the book, only last week the Vintners Federation of Ireland confirmed that over 1,500 pubs have closed since 2001, which makes this beautiful hardback book, a very timely read indeed.
The Irish Pub is a is nostalgic and entertaining tour of 39 of Ireland’s best hostelries, whisking readers on an enchanting journey in search of the spirit of old Ireland.
In this cheerful celebration, 201 exceptional photographs by James Fennnell capture the essence of pubs from every part of Ireland.
A lively text by Turtle Bunbury captures anything and everything of interest about each featured bar, from the local history and the tales surrounding each establishment to the drinks typically served and the colorful characters who gather there. Clancy’s Pub also featured on BBC 4’s news last week after the radio station’s Ireland correspondent, Mark Simpson visited the pub.
The Irish Pub is is available in the Gem, Duke Street, Athy, Barker and Jones, Naas and all good book shops nationwide. It is published by Thames & Hudson and is priced •30.
Rolling Back the Beers - Book Reveals Best of Irish Public Houses
By Des Ekin
FIRST the bad news: the traditional warm Irish pub is vanishing even faster than the traditional warm Irish summer. Turf fires are a thing of the past, and changing tastes, tougher drink-driving laws and the smoking ban have combined to make the oldstyle pub an “extremely endangered species”. So fast are our pubs disappearing - legend says at the rate of one closure every day – that a top travel writer and photographer have joined together to record the best examples of Irish pubs for posterity.
However, the good news from writer Turtle Bunbury and cameraman James Fennell is that there are still plenty of magnificent taverns out there just waiting to weave their magic spell on you… if you’ll let them. Bunbury and Fennell, the authors of Vanishing Ireland, have chosen nearly 40 pubs from all four provinces for their lavish book The Irish Pub (Thames & Hudson).
And they had a little bit of help from Sunday World’s Pub Spy, one of the patrons of this book.
“Traditionally, the pub was the focal point of community life,” the book says. “For some, alcohol encouraged joyful moments, an emigration of the soul from sometimes unhappy realities. But for most people, the pub was there for sheer delight.”
The book is so sumptuously illustrated that one fan, writer Victoria Mary Clarke – who got a copy for boyfriend Shane MacGowan – has jokingly described the pictures as “masterpieces of pub porn”.
A classic example is the famous Dublin pub The Stag’s Head. The story is that the stag’s head overlooking the bar was a runaway beast destined for dinner at Dublin Castle when it ran its head into the original bar back in the 1770s. However, it doesn’t look like a stag.While there are rumours that it’s actually a moose, shot in Alaska in 1901 (and not by Sarah Palin, either) the authors point out that “nobody’s about to rename the place The Moose’s Head”.
Another good choice is E. J. Morrissey’s in Abbeyleix, built in 1875 on the site of a swinging shebeen. In 2004, the pub was sold to Carlow publican Tom Lennon, who retained its traditional interior right down to the white grocery coats sported by the bar staff. The book enthuses: “The shelves are packed with the sort of products that would have abounded in a village grocery half a century ago: huge jars of sweets, an old slicing machine, an Edwardian cash register, a tin of Bourneville cocoa from the Boer War…”
In contrast, Dick Mack’s in Dingle is full of reminders of its shoemaking past. Shelves are stacked with shoeboxes, rubber boots, leather shoes, runners and leather trimmings. The present owner, Oliver J. MacDonnell, was born in an upstairs room there. He remembers serving brandies to Robert Mitchum during breaks from filming Ryan’s Daughter. The pub has its own “Walk of Fame” outside. Dolly Parton walked it… and once sat on the counter, too.
Gartlan’s in Kingscourt, Cavan, is another grocery bar. It has hardly changed since George Gartlan, grandfather of present owner Paul, opened it in 1911. “Well,we’ve dusted it once or twice,” says Paul. The doorbell jingles as you enter, and its tightly packed shelves are stocked with Brillo Pads, tissues, Barry’s Tea, sugar and sardines.
In Greenane, Co Wicklow, the family pub that Pa Byrne inherited a quarter century ago was given an oldfashioned revamp when director Neil Jordan used the local bridge as a backdrop for the movie Michael Collins.The decoration is minimal and untouched.
Somers Pub in Clogh, Co Kilkenny, was closed with the death of owner Eddie Somers last December. Eddie’s customers came from the mining families who worked the Castlecomber mine. “They’d come here every Thursday,” Eddie used to say, “drink three small bottles of Guinness, and take six large ones home to have, one a day, with the dinner.”
There is history of a different kind in M. Finucane’s pub in Ballylongford, Co Kerry. The bar was briefly owned by the 1916 hero The O’Rahilly, whose portrait hangs on the wall, surrounded by photos of his De Dion-Bouton car and memorabilia.
H. L. McGinn in Newbliss, Monaghan, is a charming small pub and a mine of tall stories and banter. Owner Annie McGinn has lived and worked there all her life, and has left the pub as it was in the time of her parents, Michael and Bridget: small,warm, and simply decorated.
Fifteen years ago, Tipperary teacher and part-time New York bartender Michael Loughman and his wife Mary, also a New York veteran, had earned enough money to buy their own bar. They bought a three-storey Georgian building in Athlone and created Gertie Browne’s bar. It’s the sort of Irish pub you’d expect to find in New York, with its tongue and groove walls, pitch pine counters and framed pages from the New York Herald
Author raises a glass to Kerry pubs
By Mary Murphy
THREE unique Kerry pubs, their history and heritage were celebrated this week at the launch of a stunning new book, "The Irish Pub". The eye catching hardback, written by Turtle Bunbury with photographs by James Fennell, will hit bookshelves around the county this week and features chapters on three well-known Kerry landmark pubs. The three, Dick Mack’s and J Curran’s in Dingle and M Finucane’s in Ballylongford, are among the county’s best known hostelries, and all it seems have story to tell.
Dicks Mack’s is the first to get "The Irish Pub" treatment, and owner Oliver Mac-Donnell shares a few stories that even regular visitor may not have heard before. Billed in the book as a "cracking good pub, still full of reminders of it’s shoemaking past", Dick Mack’s dates back to 1899 when owner Tom Mack branched out from his job in the railway to open a grocery and general store. The store was taken over by son Dick in 1938. Dick, a man with a vision, soon established himself as the town’s foremost boot merchant. "Today the dominant feature in Dick Mack’s pub is the timber shelving rising from floor to ceiling. "Each shelf is packed to the brim with tobacco-stained shoeboxes, rubber boots, floppy runners, boxes of buckles and trimmings of old tawny leather," the book reveals."To the eternal gratitude of innumerable newcomers to Dingle over the past 20 years, Dick’s son has kept it all precisely as it was," he added. Author Bunbury is bountiful in his praise for Dick Mack’s from it’s rattan stools to it’s counter described as "the perfect height for elbows".
The second historical Kerry pub to take centre stage is J Curran’s. It is another well-known Dingle watering hole, an "old-fashioned grocery-bar". Here it is links with the indomitable Peig Sayers that strike a cord with Bunbury. Well known to most Leaving Cert students of a certain age, Peig spent two years with the Curran family, her father’s cousins. Though mainly helping out in the house the 14 year old Peig was also known to have worked in the Main Street bar and grocery store on occasion. Peig is not the only famous person to have made an impact on J Curran’s over the years, according to current owner James Curran. "When David Lean’s production team came to Dingle in 1968 to film Ryan’s Daughter they tired in vain to buy his Valentia slate floor, offering to replace it with any floor her wanted," author Bunbury reveals. Another US visitor in more recent times offered a substantial sum to have the pub transported in it’s entirety to the states as a ‘genuine Irish bar’.
From Dingle the book moves north to Ballylongford, where despite changing hands back in 1898, history still harks back to one of it’s most famous sons. Now named M Finucane, the bar was the birthplace of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, the only leader of the Easter Rising to die in action. "The O’Rahilly" as he was known was born upstairs in the pub in 1875. His father Richard inherited the pub and was known locally as a real entrepreneur, apparently even owning the first refrigerator in Ireland. His son however had little interest in the business and sold it to the great uncle of the current owner Michael Finucane. A life sized portrait of the republican leader still hangs in the bar, which was also a regular haunt of another famous Kerry veteran Dan Keating before his death in 2007. Nowadays the current owner is one of the powers behind a host of local activities from the Ballylongford Oyster Festival to the Brendan Kennelly Festival.
A rich record of a disappearing part of Irish history and culture, The Irish Pub is published by Thames & Hudson and is now available in good bookstores around Kerry priced at €30.
Over and Stout for the Irish pub??
By Mark Simpson, BBC
With an estimated 200 bars a year closing in Ireland, is the country's love affair with the pub coming to a bitter end?
Some believe the traditional Irish pub is an endangered species, and the credit crunch is now placing it in greater jeopardy. That's the sad conclusion of a travel writer who has just completed one of the longest pub crawls in Irish history. The author Turtle Bunbury went to all 32 counties in Ireland, and visited more than 700 pubs. Although he couldn't manage a pint in every one, he got a real taste of Irish pub culture in the new millennium.
"It's an endangered species - the traditional old-style Irish pub," he says. "A lot of the ones which have closed are the ones in the middle of nowhere, and they're the ones where actually the best craic was probably found in days of old. So in the country, the Irish pub is struggling."
According to figures from the Licensed Vintners' Association and the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, 1,500 pubs have closed since 2001. The future looks pretty gloomy too. The Republic of Ireland is officially in recession, and as prices go up, disposable incomes come down. It's a sobering thought. However, the problems afflicting traditional Irish pubs cannot be blamed on the credit crunch.They began during the economic boom years, when Ireland's economy was so strong it was nicknamed the "Celtic Tiger".
Some believe there has been a cultural change within Irish society with people becoming increasingly selfish rather than sociable, and more interested in saving money than drinking beer.
As Mr Bunbury put it: "The inclination to go off and sit down in a pub and drink 15 pints over the course of a day doesn't sit easily with making a fortune."
Stricter drink-driving laws and the smoking ban haven't help the booze trade. Not just in Ireland, but in parts of the UK, there is an increasing tendency to drink at home rather than in a bar. As the credit crunch saying goes: "Staying in is the new going out." You can still smoke at home, supermarket alcohol is cheaper and if you can't afford a taxi, there is always the couch.
This is the sort of social life that haunts publicans like Ger Clancy. His family has been running Clancy's pub on the main street of Athy in County Kildare since before World War II.
The riverside market town is an hour's drive south of Dublin. It used to have more than 40 pubs, now it has just 16. Mr Clancy says: "Years ago, you could open the door and expect people just to come in. Not any more. Customers are a bit more demanding than they used to be. And they have reason to be more demanding, because they're paying more for their pint. It's expensive. And therefore you have to give them value for money. You have to go that extra mile for them."
A few publicans are literally going the extra mile, by buying large vehicles - people carriers - to ferry customers to and from the pub.
After his nationwide tour of the country for his book The Irish Pub, Mr Bunbury is in favour of a community bus scheme in isolated, rural areas. "It would take people to and from the pub - maybe not every night, but some nights. And maybe a tax-free bus that the publican himself runs." Speaking of taxes, publicans believe they already pay too much on alcohol and they'll be hiding behind the sofa fearing the worst when Ireland's Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announces his budget next week.
Whatever happens, the pub trade is bracing itself for a tough winter. Tourists to Ireland may find fewer pubs, and dearer beer. Even so, there is still plenty of alcohol to be found around the country. Those who arrive with a thirst are unlikely to leave unquenched.
According to a new book launched this week, 'The Irish Pub', Fermanagh does not have any pubs which live up to this description.
And the omission of one of the county's oldest and most famous pubs, 'Blakes of the Hollow' in Enniskillen has not only baffled some of the Hollow's regulars, but has also left pub owner, Pat Blake somewhat bewildered.
Mr Blake explained: "I suspect he (the author) has inadvertently missed the Victorian bar in 'Blake's of the Hollow', which is one of the most famous bars in Ireland and has remained untouched since 1887.
"It looks as though he went in the side door, the access to the new series of bars in the building, and by-passed the Victorian bar.
"Otherwise it is inconceivable he couldn't find a bar to his liking in Fermanagh with the 'Hollow' being available."
In fact Fermanagh is one of only two, along with Longford, which does not have an entry in this book.
The author, Turtle Bunbury, along with photographer James Fennell, travelled the length and breath of Ireland to try and find the country's most quintessential Irish pubs.
He explained what exactly they were looking for: "We were after places that still retained the fundamental spirit of charm - of opening to genuinely entertain the community rather than to fleece them, of seeking to develop creative thought and kinship between pub patrons, of not simply relying on plasma screens to draw the crowd."
And it is against this criteria he failed to find a pub to his liking in Fermanagh.
When questioned specifically about Blake's of the Hollow, Mr Bunbury was unrepentant about his decision to by-pass the 121 year-old pub. He explained: "I think it's very impressive what they are doing there, but it's five stories high or something, and there are a lot of plasma television screens and we were kind of trying to avoid these sort of pubs. It just wasn't the style of pub we were looking for."
However, Mr Bunbury failed to confirm if he had visited all parts of the Blake's Complex, and in particular if he had found the old bar in the pub.
Top of his list in Fermanagh is 'The Linnet Inn' in Boho, where he said he spent 'a lovely afternoon' and he revealed it would have made it into his book if there had been more slots available than the 39 which are included in the guide.
Mr Bunbury did admit however: "These are not necessarily the best of pubs. It's just a sample of nice old-style pubs across the Country."
Why I, a teetotal ex-drinker, mourn the passing of the Great Irish Pub
By Tom Sykes
My brother in-law, the noted historian Turtle Bunbury, has a new book out. It’s calledThe Irish Pub and it’s a homage to the joy of the classic Celtic hostelry, lavishly illustrated by the highly regarded Irish photographer James Fennell. The book features forty unique and individual boozers from all four corners of the island of Ireland. Some of the pubs have grocery counters selling milk and rashers at the front, others have coffins out the back because they double as funeral parlours (well, I suppose its handy for the wake) but all the featured pubs have one thing in common – no damn TV in the corner to hypnotize the patrons.
It’s a glorious tribute to a vanishing strand of what was once assumed to be the ineradicable DNA of the nation – an assumption that now needs to be revised following the recent disclosure by the Vinter’s Association that a staggering 1500 Irish pubs have closed down in the past seven years.
Turtle’s book is also the closest I am going to get to immersing myself in Irish pub culture, because, having become somewhat too fond of the drink, I myself foreswore the booze a little under four years ago.
As an ex-problem-drinker (and that’s underselling it, really), some might think I would greet news of the imminent death of the Irish pub with, if not joy, possibly relief, or at most a disinterested shrug. But the truth is far from that. I may not have taken a drink for a few years, but I happen to think this country’s pubs are one of its greatest delights and their passing should be a cause for concern for all who rejoice in the company of their fellow man.
If, as a sober man, I seem an unlikely advocate for the cause of the Irish pub, and unusually well-versed in the dangers and challenges facing its future, then blame Turtle (I regret to say that despite extensive enquiries I have been unable to definitively establish where that glorious name actually comes from, by the way).
You see I have actually shared an office with Turtle – well, adjoining draughty garrets really - in the eaves of the Bunbury family home for the past year. And as Turtle was cracking his knuckles and referring to his drink-stained notes to create the opening chapters of The Irish Pub, I was next door finalizing the paperback drafts of my own book, What Did I Do Last Night?, a record of my drunken youth and slow journey to sobriety.
The contrast in our raw materials certainly made for some interesting coffee breaks. But it’s fortunate for our working arrangements that despite renouncing the booze I took to heart the slogan, “Live and Let Live” and have never become an “anti-alcohol” bore. Alcohol, as the pages of The Irish Pub make clear, is an incredibly important part of the social fabric of this island. I think that if you read both mine and Turtle’s book in quick succession, you’d be forced to conclude that a) alcohol plays a vital role in the life of Ireland and b) that if ‘drinking me’ had been writing The Irish Pub it would have been a pretty short tome as I’d never have got any further than The Stag’s Head in Dublin.
I must confess, though, that leafing through the glossy pages of The Irish Pub, looking at James Fennel’s lovingly reproduced photographs of Morrisey’s in Abbeyleix and reading Turtle’s bantering, anecdote-laden text it was hard for me not to feel a pang for my former existence. Most of my drinking was done in London and New York, and while I genuinely have no desire to go back to the dark night of the soul to which drink ultimately took me, it would be dishonest of me to pretend that whenever we came back to Ireland the craic in the pubs was not a big part of the fun and the holidays.
The reason pubs were such fun was because of the people in places like De Barra’s pub in Clonakilty, where front page newspaper cuttings recount the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. In the book, owner Bobby Blackwell recalls an occasion when two American tourists were silently reading the stories and an old man seated beside them coughed slightly and said quietly, ‘I’m a survivor.’
Astounded, the Americans plied him with drinks while he “talked cryptically” of life on the Lusitania.
“When the Americans left,” Turtle writes, “Bobby went up to the man and said, ‘Con, you were never on the Lusitania in your life.’ ‘I never said I was,’ replied the 96-year-old Clonakilty postman, ‘I just said, “I’m a survivor”. And I am a fecking survivor.’”
You’d have to buy the man a drink really, wouldn’t you?
I don’t tend to actually hang out in pubs anymore – because the simple fact is that if you sit in a barber’s shop long enough you will eventually get your hair cut – and I obviously don’t plan trips to them but half a dozen times a year I find myself in pubs. Somewhat to my amazement, I have found myself having every bit as grand an old time as I ever used to when I was six sheets to the wind seven days a week.
The last such occasion was Thursday night – and the event was the long-awaited launch of Turtle’s book. We started off in the Gravity bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse – this for me is the equivalent of a spy being dropped deep behind enemy lines - and then the party wended its way to the Long Hall on George’s Street.
Ironically, being a non-drinker helps me really appreciate what splendid places truly great pubs really are. The Long Hall – with its fun-loving patrons, gleaming glassware stacked proudly behind the bar and giant clock with the confident legend CORRECT TIME printed underneath it - is surely a prime example. I must confess that I got a little antsy to be off towards the end of the night. I was definitely the first person to start giving voice to the idea of ‘making tracks’ as the crowd’s blood-alcohol level climbed. But as we set off for home – with me driving of course – the real reason I still love the Great Irish Pub dawned on me at last.
The real Irish Pub is not just a place to drink. It’s a place where all life meets.
If we let the last of these places disappear, we will greatly impoverish our national heritage. A drink with friends replaced by a six-pack from Aldi and a night in front of the TV? How could we.
But lads, really, I’m sick of Coke. Do you think you could ever get some decent soft drinks in?
Why my heart still lies in a warm pub
by Victoria Mary Clarke
It's not often I feel proud to be Irish. One's nationality is an accident, not something one chooses in the way that one selects a handbag or a car, and therefore is not a reflection of one's good taste. But having just picked up a new book called The Irish Pub (by a man with the classically Irish name of Turtle Bunbury), I have to confess an unfounded sense of national pride did sneak up on me. For there can be few creations on Earth as wondrous as the really good pub -- and it may be a dying breed, but the Irish pub is the best in the world.
I really got this book for Shane, because he adores pubs, and as I suspected, he has drooled over the pictures (which, I might add, are masterpieces of pub porn) so much that one can barely read the information.
But the book had an unexpectedly profound effect on me, too. Because, having also admired the majestic interiors of the likes of the Belfast Crown (to my mind, the most beautiful pub in the world), I realised that it's been ages since I went to a pub. I am turning into one of those types who hang out in Starbucks, decimating my soul with trashy magazines while ignoring my fellow beings, rather than an old-fashioned Irish person who drinks in bars, cheerfully spouting philosophy to all and sundry. Continued here.
SOCIAL HISTORY: The authors of 'Vanishing Ireland', Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell, have turned their attention to pub culture in a handsome new book, 'The Irish Pub', just published by Thames & Hudson. See full version on 'One for the Road'.
Link coming soon.
New book toasts best of old-style watering holes
by Margaret Canning
Could plasma screens be one of the reasons why the Irish pub is now just the dregs of its former self? Margaret Canning reports
BARFLIES in Co Fermanagh will be spluttering in their stout on hearing that none of the county’s pubs have made it into a book toasting the best of Ireland’s pub culture. Author Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell embarked on a road-trip-come-pub-crawl to record classic public houses which embody the best of drinking culture north and south. The idea came to the pair as they criss-crossed the country researching an earlier picture book, Vanishing Ireland, and found that many pubs which had once been the centre of their communities were no more. So they set out to document and photograph two remarkable venues in each of Ireland’s 32 counties from a longlist of 400 recommendations.
Lest the focus of their work become too gloomy, The Irish Pub features many that are stillthriving – and in the case of the Crown in Belfast, been recently revamped. But alas, no pubs in counties Fermanagh or Longford made the grade.The pub-probing pair also beat a hasty retreat from Tomneys in Moy on realising there was a wake in progress in the quirky Co Tyrone bar.
Researching the book was a labour of love, Mr Bunbury confirmed. “You could say I’ve been researching it since I was 16,” he said (though he admits to first tasting liquor at 13, at the behest of his two older brothers).
As far as Co Fermanagh goes, he acknowledges that Blakes of the Hollow in Enniskillen has an inviting exterior, but his heart sinks when he notes it is five storeys high with seven plasmas on one floor. “It has a really charming entrance but when you get in, it’s just a superpub.”
In general, Mr Bunbury rails against what he regards as the homogeneous features which are undermining the Irish pub as an institution – “disinterested staff, flaccid seating, glossy counters and obscenely big TV screens”. But there are bigger factors at play than the minutiae of fixtures and fittings, he finds. Young people want to spend money on cars, property and holidays, not in their nearest pub. Nor is their local a focal point when they are in constant contact with friends by text and internet.
In many cases, a pub is also only as good as its bartenders and the famed Irish friendliness has often turned to frostiness. As Mr Bunbury puts it, “cead mile failte has gone faulty”.
A whirlwind tour of Belfast’s pubs, from The John Hewitt to Kelly’s Cellars, earns the city comparisons with the energy and bustle of Dublin in the early 1990s, with the latter providing “a suitably stark contrast to the glitz of the Crown”.
By staying out of these alehouses, it’s not just the opportunity for bacchanalian excess in the company of strangers we’re missing out on – we are increasing our own isolation, Mr Bunbury maintains. “I think there’s a danger that we are losing out. The pub played a very important role as a centre for the community, getting people up the lanes, off the farms and down from the hills and into somewhere they could interact with people.
“It wasn’t a place like the church – no-one would bark at you, though it was a man’s world and somewhere you could escape the family. It’s somewhere to meet neighbours on neutral ground without having to worry about entertaining them.”
He has a daring solution. “I think the government should protect the pub – perhaps a bus to pick up members of the community and making the bus tax-deductible.”
Although Mr Bunbury is among the many to have given up cigarettes as a result of the smoking ban – perhaps the biggest factor in the decline of the Irish pub – he struggles to find a silver lining.
“I don’t think there are positives to pubs closing down in villages. I don’t think it’s a good thing that people will sit drinking at home and getting depressed.”
As for how often he makes it down the pub himself, the busy father admits “it’s not as often as I’d like to”.
The traditional Irish pub hasn't disappeared but it's certainly been undermined by cool bars with resident DJs and mojito menus. James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury's bookThe Irish Pub is a rich celebration of 40 of Ireland's most historic hostelries, which range from the Victorian bars of Belfast to country shop bars-cum-grocery stores selling boxes of Lyons tea. A book to sit down and savour a pint of the black stuff with.
THE BEST BAR NONE -New Book Celebrates the Great Irish Pub.
by Stephen Dunne
In every snug and lounge, loose lips whisper of last night’s shenanigans. A small one is watched over until the winter chill leaves the bones and a pint is nursed while scanning the racing pages.
The pub has been the centre-piece on which Irish culture hangs, a place where generations have gone to drown our sorrows, put the world to rights and join in the craic. Now these great institutions are facing extinction because of changing attitudes towards drink-driving, smoking and not forgetting the recession.
But a wonderful new book is spearheading the revival of the good old local boozer. The Irish Pub is a glossy celebration of the best of the bars this tiny island has to offer. Travel writer and historian Turtle Bunbury joined photographer James Fennell to uncover some of the hidden gems around the country where you can still enjoy the ‘craic agus ceoil’.
The book is packed full of yarns, picture and tales from fine establishments all across the land. From Ballycastle in Antrim to Clonakilty in Cork, from Dublin city’s hidden ale houses to Dingle’s grocery bars, it has it all.
One publican in Geoff’s bar in Waterford blames the TV for destroying the atmosphere. And Pa Byrne and George Thomas from MJ Byrne’s in Greenane, Co Wicklow, recall the rules of engagement from yesteryear. ‘There was no such thing as stabbing or kicking at that time. If you pulled a knife or kicked a man when he was down, the rest of the lands would turn on you. But the boys would always shake hands after half an hour and have a drink’.
Many people speculate about the origin of the giant stag’s head behind the bar in the Dublin pub of the same name, according to the book. Manager John O’Toole said: ‘I don’t think it looks like a stag, but he must have been a powerful brute whatever he was’.
There is no longer the sweet waft of Woodbines running through the oak-panelled old public houses of Ireland. No longer the dark and cosy snugs where stories were spun by great story-tellers. And no longer is the lone fiddler sitting in the corner playing a lonesome refrain.
Most pubs now are now very different places to the places The Irish Pub explores. However, as the book reveals, there are a few establishments around the country where the drinker can remember how it used to be.
Maybe 18th century Irish literary great Oliver Goldsmith has the right of it: ‘Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain with grammar and nonsense and learning, good liquor, I stoutly maintain, gives genius a better discerning’.
Bunbury to launch newest book
by Georgina Brennan
A Carlow author’s countrywide guide to Irish pubs is brewing up a storm ahead of its launch next month.
Turtle Bunbury’s The Irish Pub published by Thames & Hudson, offers a poignant and colourful tour of 39 classic pubs from across all four provinces of Ireland.
The book with photos by James Fennell and words by Turtle Bunbury is having its official launch in Dublin on October 2 but more launches will hit Belfast, Waterford and Kilkenny through the month of October.
The Irish Pub will be available in all good bookstores for €30. A special offer of 10 per cent off is available from Dubray Books at www.dubraybooks.ie/offer with the promotional code: irishpub.
Turtle Bunbury is a best-selling author, scriptwriter, travel writer and historical consultant who was born in Rathvilly and is now based in Tobinstown, Tullow.
Turtle's previous book 'Vanishing Ireland' was shortlisted for the Eason's Irish Published Book of the Year Award 2007. He is presently working on ‘Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’.
Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell are at it again, with the pending launch of their latest book 'The Irish Pub' following on from their 2007 bestseller 'Vanishing Ireland'. They might have considered calling it "Vanishing Pubs", considering the inexorable dwindling of patronage from which pubs continue to suffer.The new book is illustrated with a unique collection of two hundred evocative photographs and recounts the colourful history of forty of the best loved pubs across Ireland, north and south. There is twist. You can become a listed patron of the venture, receiving a signed copy of 'The Irish Pub' and posted to you ahead of the book's launch in September 2008. "Vanishing Post Offices" next? Soon there will be nothing more to vanish than the smile of the Cheshire Cat. To become a patron of 'The Irish Pub' or order advance copies of the book, contact Ally Bunbury on 086-384-2376 or firstname.lastname@example.org Turtle and Ally Bunbury live near Rathvilly.
'Terrific' - Mark Simpson, BBC World News.
‘Timely … a gorgeous glossy book’ - John Toal, Saturday Magazine, BBC Radio Ulster.
The very best of luck with another great project, you should be very proud - what you are doing is a credit to you and raises standards for Irish published work generally' - Eoghan Corry, Dublin.
'A must read for any American visiting Ireland. I only wish I had read your book prior to my 3 trips over. It would been helpful in gaining a better prespective on pubs in Ireland. The insight and true human conditions that you and Mr. Fennell managed to capture was a breath of fresh air. Through the read, I could only imagine my Great-Great Grandfather sitting in one of the pubs, pondering his next move. It is a shame that the traditional Irish Pub has lost its luster with the people due to governmental intervention and such. I too think the advanced TV age is happering the pub experience and interaction among people (If the government wanted to create a law, don't allow a cell phone to be turned on in a pub). Anyway, thank you for a very nice book, great stories, great photographs and great daydreams. I will recommend it to all I know' - Jim O'Toole, Michigan, USA.
'Many congratulations on the publication of "The Irish Pub". I have to comend you both on a job extremely well done. You have certainly captured the essence of the place with your text and we cannot get over how well the pub looks in the photographs and hope you will pass on our gratitude to James. On behalf of the Houlihan Family, management, staff and customers I want to wish you every success with the launch of 'The Irish Pub' this evening and thank you again for your portrayal of The Long Hall' - Marcus Houlihan, The Long Hall, Dublin.
'This is a great book! I have puchased a number of books on irish Pubs and this one is one of the best! If you have someone who loves pubs this one is for them!!!!!' - John O'Brien, Massachusettes.
'I just finished reading "The Irish Pub". I was particularly delighted to see O'Shaughnessy's in Glin featured, having met John and Dody while cycling in Ireland years ago.Thank you for writing the book - it is a treasure' - David Holmes, Annapolis MD, USA
'Having just finished your wonderful book on Irish Pubs I wish to congratulate you on another splendid piece of literature. This particular book was of great interest to me as it includes my local public house PF Smyth?s of Newtown. I visited the bar last night with your book under arm and I truly believe that it made the year for Michael Smyth who was overjoyed at the review and pictures that filled the pages. Once again Sir I applaud you for your dedication to the historical insights of Irish Life' - John P Murphy, Co Carlow.
'I am currently enjoying your wonderful book The Irish Pub, which my brother very kindly gave to me as a Christmas present (after many subtle hints). It is such an enjoyable read and the photography is so beautifully understated it gives you a true sense of the atmosphere of each pub. It has rekindled my interest in touring around and finding some of these wonderful places and revisiting some that I had stumbled across in my college years so I feel it will be a travelling companion of mine on the road around Ireland for many years to come' - Melina Magourty, GOOD FOOD IRELAND
'A great book, well done!' - Romek Delimata, Dublin.
'Really well done and gets me thirsty every time i look at it' - Stephen Dunne, Irish Mirror.
'A beautiful book' - Michael Collins, Dublin.
'Just a short greeting of thanks turtle from myself simon and coyle family for your publication of the irish pub book .well done on a smashing publication and i hope it has been successful for you. It has been very uplifting and proud for me and my family to be included in such a book' - Simon Coyle, Four Roads, Co Roscommon.
'Sitting at home with Edmund (aged 4 months), educating him on the Irish pub - lets hope there will still be some around for when he comes of age - or sooner. A brilliant book' - Lu Thornley, Co Meath.
'Another fab publication on the shelves ... well done!' - Sasha Sykes, Co. Carlow.
'Well researched and well written!' - Dr Brian Mercer Walker, Professor of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast.
'Got delivery of the books yesterday - FANTASTIC !! Well done. I want to take a few weeks off to explore them all !! Just back from visiting George and gave him a copy - when he got to the Byrne page he said "That is me !!" He loves it and I imagine he will spend the next day reading it from cover to cover' - Denis O'Reilly, Wicklow.
'Wonderful' - Nigel Tynan, Editor, Licensing World & Off Licence.
'Excellent' - Jasper McCarthy, McCarthy's Bar, Fethard.
'This stunning book on The Irish pub is sumptuous and gorgeous - if you have an interest in pubs, Ireland, history, interior decor or indeed anthropology then you should get this book for your self as well as for as many others as you see fit - engaging text - seriously beautiful photographs - this is a very important book that will become a collectors must. I can't recommend this more.' - Tony Sanchez, USA.
'Beautiful' - Fiona Doherty, Belfast.
'Ihe book is a ripper! It has pride of place in my lounge room! I love it' - Justin Bock, Australia
'The book is a good book, conceived and executed professionally, in a spirit of service to the Irish people. Well done to all concerned'' - Ronan Sheehan, Dublin.
'Your new book is fantastic and should be THE Christmas present for everyone' - Gilly Butler, Co Kilkenny.
'I have to say having spent last night poring over the book, I really adore it. I am going to purchase a few as Christmas presents - perfect! The mind boggles at the amount of time and research that went into it. I actually got quite weepy reading about a few of my old favourites featured in it, and was delighted to see my current 'local' - Clancy's in Athy - ranking so highly!' - Siobhan Cronin, Co. Kildare
'MARVELLOUS' - Catherine Anne Heaney, Co Dublin
'I bought this for my Irish father who now lives in England. He visits Ireland regularly and knows some of the pubs in this book. Would make a great present for anyone with Irish roots or also if you're planning on going on holiday there it would be a handy guide of places to stop off at for a pint! A lovely freeze frame of Irish pubs' - B. Evans, UK.
'It's brilliant - must have been hell to research' - Paul Zissermann, Dubai.
'Great work! Were all delighted. Congradulations on all youre hard work, the book is great and we are really enjoying it' - Bobby, Eileen, Ray & all at Debarras, Clonakilty, Co Cork.
'Congratulations on a great book' - Sharon Sheenan, Gartlan's, Kingscourt, Co Cavan.
'As we sat in Fitz’s this afternoon escaping the mist with a Mayo News and a pint, the owner sent his wife out to meet us and tell us she had read the story about us. I kept envisioning pages from your book as the TV blasted news from their private sitting room in the back. It was dark when we came in and we thought it was closed. But no, they turned the lights and the fire on for us and invited us in with their hospitality. I wouldn’t have had that insight without having read your book. Where do you find the curious facts you include? Like the Shannon is the longest river west of the Loire I think you said???? I love all the stories about the people who started the ventures and kept them going over the centuries. It would be interesting to hear the stories of the ones who left and went to the far reaches of the globe to establish the ubiquitous Irish pubs in all the corners as you point out.' - Daria Blackwell, Co. Mayo.