Dublin Pub Life & Lore: An Oral History

Article excerpt

Dublin Pub Life & Lore: An Oral History. Kevin C. Kearns. Dublin, Ireland: Gill & Macmillan, 1996.

Dublin is famous for its pubs and the vibrancy of its pub life. Many of the pubs that line its streets today-nearly 800 of them in a city of about a million residents-have roots that extend back hundreds of years. The city's oldest pub-the Brazen Head-dates from the thirteenth century. Other pubs have historical or literary associations that are still palpable today. For example, the Bailey was frequented by the Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell in one era and the Sinn Fein leader Michael Collins in another; McDaid's, the archetypal Dublin literary pub, was the regular hangout of Brendan Behan and other wellknown playwrights, poets, and artists in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dublin Pub Life & Lore is an oral historical chronicle of pub life as it existed in the first part of the twentieth century. The book is divided into four sections. The first covers the history and evolution of Dublin's public houses. The second is a survey of Dublin pub culture and social life, covering topics such as the role of the publican in the local community, the presence of women in pubs, singing and literary pubs, illegal pubs, notable pub characters, and the transformation of the city's pubs in the decades since World War II. These sections provide a useful overview of the history and variety of Dublin pubs. However, the real reward for readers of this book is found in sections three and four, which contain over fifty oral testimonies by publicans, barmen (that is, apprentice publicans), pub regulars, and other observers of the pub scene. …