The Original Irish Theme Pubs?


For now, the only bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion we have about Patrick Fitz­patrick, founder of God­son’s, Lon­don, c.1977, is in some old cut­tings Ian Mack­ey kind­ly shared. One arti­cle, from 1978, says that Fitz­patrick, at 23, was ‘one of the third gen­er­a­tion of the Mur­phy fam­i­ly who have run a string of pubs in East Lon­don for 50 years’. We knew we’d seen the name Mur­phy in con­nec­tion with Lon­don pubs and dug through the old paper­backs until we found this is from The Evening Stan­dard Guide to Lon­don Pubs by Mar­tin Green and Tony White (1973):

Since the demo­li­tion of the Duke of Cam­bridge on the oppo­site cor­ner, the White Hart is the only remain­ing old-style Mur­phy’s in the East End, apart from the tiny Man­ches­ter Arms in Hack­ney Road. (The Old Red Lion, Whitechapel Road, and the Mack­worth Arms, Com­mer­cial Road, have both been dragged strug­gling into the Sev­en­ties.) Mur­phy’s is not, as some peo­ple think, a brew­ery, but a firm which was orig­i­nat­ed in 1934 by a Mr J.R. Mur­phy from Co. Offaly who pio­neered draught Guin­ness in the East End of Lon­don… Mur­phy’s, Mile End, remains an hon­est-to-good­ness East End pub… where you can hear Irish music and choose from a wide range of draught beers, includ­ing… what is prob­a­bly the best kept pint of draught Guin­ness in the East End.

That bit about ‘old-style Mur­phy’s’ sug­gests they were quite an insti­tu­tion. That’s sup­port­ed by the fact that mod­ern pub review web­sites also say that the White Hart is ‘known local­ly’ by that name. And yet there is sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle (eas­i­ly acces­si­ble…) infor­ma­tion about the pubs or J.R. Mur­phy & Sons. Com­pa­ny list­ings sug­gest that the White Hart was the group head­quar­ters, at any rate, and that it was for­mal­ly dis­solved in 2010.

What we’re espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in is whether the ‘fif­teen or so’ pubs the Mur­phys owned con­sti­tut­ed the orig­i­nal Irish theme chain – or was it a chain of pubs that just hap­pened to be found­ed by an Irish­man? We’d need to see pho­tos or read descrip­tions of the inte­ri­ors to get a sense of how much set dress­ing there was, but the Guin­ness and Irish music men­tioned are clues. If these pubs were self-con­scious­ly Irish, to what extent did they pro­vide a tem­plate for the chains that fol­lowed in the eight­ies and nineties?

Do you remem­ber Mur­phy’s pubs? Or know Patrick Fitz­patrick? If so, let us know below. UPDATE 10/7/2014: we found Mr Fitz­patrick and inter­viewed him.