HELP US: Irish Theme Pubs

We’re keen to hear from people who drank at, worked in or were otherwise involved with Irish theme pubs in England between the 1980s and the early 2000s.

Here’s a list of specific pubs and chains we’re interested in:

  1. Flanagan’s Apple, Liverpool — converted from a warehouse by local entrepreneur Bob Burns it opened in 1984 and is still trading.
  2. Minogues, London N1 (Islington) — formerly the Islington Tup/Tap it was converted into an Irish pub in 1986; it became the Pig & Butcher in 2012.
  3. Mulligan’s, London W1 (Mayfair) — an Irish pub from c.1991.
  4. Waxy O’Connor’s, London W1 (Covent Garden) — opened in 1995; still there, still massive.
  5. Mid-1990s chains: Scruffy Murphy’s (Allied-Domecq), Rosy O’Grady’s (Greene King), J.J. Murphy (Whitbread) and O’Neill’s (Bass). We’re really interested in what they were like in their prime which ran from about 1994-1998.

Guinness promotional clock, South London.

And, going back a bit further, because it can’t hurt to ask…

  1. Any of the Murphy’s pubs that operated in London between the 1930s and 1980s, e.g. The White Hart on Mile End Road. (More info.)
  2. Ward’s Irish House, London W1 (Piccadilly Circus) — in the basement of the London Pavilion where you will now find Ripley’s Believe it Or Not.
  3. Any branch of Mooney’s, found across London up until the 1970s, e.g. at 395 The Strand.

Comment below or, even better, email us at contact@boakandbailey.com if you can help.

PS. We’re also still after reminiscences of theme pubs (especially the Nag’s Head, Covent Garden) and prefabs.

Main image adapted from ‘Flanagan’s Apple’ by Adam Bruderer via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Pub History: Field Work in West London

After spending an afternoon reading about pubs in the National Archives at Kew we were keen to actually visit some and so decided on a crawl through the West London heartland of Fuller’s.

We started, as the sun began to set, at The Tap on the Line which is, handily, right on the platform at Kew station. A converted railway buffet bar inspired we guess by the Sheffield Tap, it’s also a bit like a mini version of the Parcel Yard at King’s Cross with which it shares a tendency to vintage tiling and scrubbed wood. There was lots of eating, not much seating, and a row of keg taps on the back wall. The ubiquitous Edison bulbs were also present and correct. It’s easy to admire the good taste with which it’s been put together, and pubs at stations are A Good Thing, but it did feel, frankly, a bit like drinking in the kitchen department of John Lewis.

Window at the Old Pack Horse, Chiswick.

On the tube to Gunnersbury we pondered what we did like in a Fuller’s pub and, rather to our own surprise, found ourselves thinking, wistfully, that we hoped the next one would be one of the mid-2000s refurbs with shiny orange wood and the full range of cask ales. With that in mind, The Old Pack Horse on Chiswick High Road was a sight for sore eyes: a grand, vaguely-art-nouveau exterior from 1905 with frosted windows full of gleaming light, advertising Public and Saloon bars. Though the interior was spacious there seemed to be lots of corners, cubby-holes and screens making it feel quite intimate. An antique metal sign advertising The Empire Bar lurked in the shadows above the bar evoking the period of pomp when the pub was built. The beer offer was cask-led… just — a new craft beer menu (mostly in bottles) was in the process of being rolled out, and was being pushed fairly hard by staff. The Thai restaurant at the back was a genuinely pleasing reminder of a decade ago when every pub in London seemed to have the same.

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Draught Guinness in the 1960s

1970s photograph of two men in horn-rimmed glasses inspecting beer.
Tommy Marling takes the temperature of draught Guinness watched by Mr Bill Steggle, licensee of the Cock at Headley near Epsom.

When we picked up a few editions of Guinness Time, the brewery’s UK-focused in-house magazine, one thing that leapt out at us was an account of the roll-out of draught Guinness after WWII.

It appears as part of an article called (rather long-windedly) ‘The Men Who See That Draught Guinness Runs Smoothly… The Service Representatives’ from the Spring 1971 edition.

First, there are some helpful numbers:

In 1970 we sold more than 16 times as much draught Guinness as in 1956. Fifteen years ago the number of outlets could be counted in hundreds. In 1962 there 3,200 and now in 1971 there are over 40,000 pubs and clubs where devotees of draught Guinness can get their favourite brew.

By way of context, in those mid-1960s Batsford pub guides we’ve been trawling through draught Guinness is frequently mentioned as a sign of an interesting pub in much the same way, say, BrewDog Punk IPA might be today. That is, by no means obscure, but still noteworthy, and a welcome sight for many beer geeks.

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Shades of Grey

Most people aren’t stupid and don’t think in cartoonishly simple ways.

It’s quite human to feel a little sad when a hip independent brewery like Camden Town is taken over by a multi-national, as was announced today.

Furthermore, when a brewery has built its brand on the proposition that people who buy its beer are ‘fans’ and ‘friends’, those drinkers are surely entitled to feel aggrieved when that relationship — something they have valued, for right or wrong — seems to be changing.

It is even reasonable and rational to say, ‘A fundamental quality of the product has changed so I won’t be buying it.’ That needn’t be petulant or mean-spirited — they’ll almost certainly understand why the decision has been made, probably empathise with the owners and shareholders, and wish no-one ill.

They get it, OK?

But, still, its not what they signed up for. (Literally in the case of crowd-funding investors.)

Many other consumers, however, will find their emotions at odds with their pragmatism: yes, it’s another step towards the grimness of monopoly, but, still, won’t it be nice to buy their favourite beer for a few pennies less, in more outlets?

Even the most highly sentimental boycotters might weaken when they’re faced with a can of what has become their ‘ex’ on a train, or in a provincial hotel bar.

This specific case is an interesting one, by the way: everyone kind of knew it was coming and, anyway, it’s not as if Camden ever made a big fuss about being purist about the Great Ideals of Craft Beer.

Main image adapted from ‘Brewery Tour @ Camden Brewery’ Dafydd Vaughan from Flickr, under a Creative Commons Licence.

BOOKS: London Night & Day, 1951

London Night & Day, edited by Sam Lambert and (the headline act) illustrated by Osbert Lancaster, was intended to help visitors to London during the Festival of Britain and, of course, contains a section on pubs.

It is written for complete newbies and so explains in minute detail things which would probably have seemed obvious at the time. To readers 65 years on, however, this detail is extremely helpful. For example, though the pint is very much the default measure these days, our anonymous advisor says:

You order… by asking simply for a bitter, a mild or a Burton and you will be given a half-pint. If you want a pint you must say so.

The default type — what you get when you ask for just ‘beer’ — was, apparently ‘mild ale, which is also called “wallop” and is the cheapest and weakest… and maybe not what you expected’.

There is the usual breakdown of the main types of bar within a pub (public, saloon, jug-and-bottle) and of the most commonly found beer in bottles (light ale, brown, Guinness, Bass, White Shield Worthington).

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