Who wrote Jack and Jill? Find out on a literary pub crawl in Dublin
July 19, 2015
The literary pub crawl is popular with tourists in Dublin
By Eileen Ogintz
DUBLIN, Ireland (Day 1 of 2) — Hickory, Dickory, Dock….
Mother Goose, right? We learn on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl that famous Irish author Oliver Goldsmith was right up on the deadline for an anthology of Mother Goose in the mid 18th century so he penned Hickory Dickory Dock and Jack and Jill. Who knew?
About 50 tourists from Australia, Canada, China, and the US among other places turned up for the Literary Pub Crawl in Dublin the night we did. It’s been attracting crowds of tourists for 27 years. It was started by an actor , said Derek Reid. He and Finbarr Doyle entertain us interpreting readings from Oscar Wilde, James Joyce , Samuel Beckett and other famous Irish writers while offering amusing anecdotes about their lives (like the time Oscar Wilde turned the tables on some Leadville, CO miners and drank them under the table).
This is a pub crawl, of course, so we’re getting the performances and anecdotes as we make our way to four of the Dublin pubs the literary crowd frequented through the centuries, stopping for a pint of Guinness at one or an Irish Whiskey at another.
There are over 800 pubs in Dublin—in the 18th century when Guinness opened his brewery there were over 4000–and they have always been a big part of social life here. As far back as the Middle Ages, women were brewing beer at their homes in Dublin—and drank as much as men, we learn. If a woman got a reputation for her ale, she’d sell it to locals, opening her house to them thus the term “local” to refer to a pub. But ironically, before the Second World War, women didn’t enter pubs, according to Colm Quilligan’s Dublin Literary Pub Crawl book.
No wonder the Guinness Storehouse –where Guinness has been brewed since the mid 18th century—is such a huge tourist attraction (Where else can you learn how to pour a Guinness properly?)
A tip: If you plan to hit most of Dublin’s major attractions, including the Guinness Storehouse, consider the Dublin Pass which gives you discounted entry to more than 30 top attractions and allows you to bypass the lines.
Today, says well-known local historian and author Pat Liddy, creator of Walking Tours of Dublin, you’d stop for a pint after work in the city or around your neighborhood; on a weekend, you might grab a quick bite first before meeting your mates at the pub for the evening. Every pub we ventured into was packed on a Thursday night.
Meeting up at The Duke for the Literary Pub Crawl
We start our tour at The Duke (9 Duke Street, just off the famous Grafton Street). This place has been a pub since 1822! Our two actor hosts perform a scene from Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot
The Bailey on Duke Street was one of James Joyce’s watering holes but has been in business since the mid 19th century, long before Joyce’s day. The pub and restaurant attracted plenty of politicians too including Charles Stuart Parnell who was the leader of the Irish Party. Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein also spent time at the Bailey
There is a plus to a tour like this for solo travelers: “You get to meet other people,” said Katie Howard, a grad student from Washington DC on her way to London.
“I like this because it is different and the actors are hilarious,” agreed Hayley Ballieiet, from Florida.
“I have a close friend from Ireland and they said I had to do this,” said Kelly Brown, here from Australia. “You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise.”
There are bars where newspapermen would hang out like the Palace Bar – the joke was it was where journalists went to cook up their stories!
“In Dublin you are never more than 20 paces from a pint,” joked Derek Reid.
During the War of Independence (1919-21), pubs were safe houses for revolutionaries. Michael Collins, for example, would meet members of the outlawed Irish Republic Brotherhood at the Old Stand. If you don’t know your Irish History, Michael Collins signed the treaty that created the Irish Free State and was famous for his disguises so he would hang out here in the back room, gathering information about the British Secret Service. Today, this is a popular place to watch rugby matches and is also frequented by bankers, brokers and those in the fashion business (including many women) who work nearby.
Derek Reid and Finbarr Doyle of the Literary Pub Crawl
Davy Byrne’s may be the most famous of literary pubs in Dublin because James Joyce set a scene of his masterpiece Ulysses in his novel, sending his character Leopold Bloom here for a cheese sandwich and glass of wine while he is wandering through Dublin. When Ulysses was published in 1922, the pilgrimage began to this pub and it hasn’t stopped since. Good thing the food is as good as the whiskey and brews!
Samuel Beckett also drank here as did other famous writers.
The Victorian pub Neary’s (check out the cast-iron arms holding up the lanterns outside!) is right near the stage door of the Gaiety Theater so it has long been a haunt of entertainers.
The list goes on and on…You just have to choose where you want to drink. Let’s raise a pint to all of the writers, politicians, actors and dreamers who frequented these pubs.
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