HELP US: Irish Theme Pubs

Flanagan's Apple: The Original Irish Pub, photographed by Adam Bruderer.

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.

20 thoughts on “HELP US: Irish Theme Pubs”

  1. Drank in a Scruffy Mur­phy’s a few times. Bare floor boards, Oirsh tat. It’s now back to being the Bri­tan­nia. And there’s still an O’Neil­l’s in Wok­ing if you feel you’ve missed out…

  2. I spent most of my uni years in Brum drink­ing at one of 2 O’Neil­l’s pubs, the one on Broad Street, which is still there, and one which was near a cin­e­ma that I can’t remem­ber for the life of me where it was in rela­tion to Bris­tol Street and the Small­brook Queensway.

    The one on Broad Street was every­thing you’d imag­ine an Irish eth­no-pub to be, wood­en floor boards, sol­id wood­en fur­ni­ture (the one that can’t remem­ber the loca­tion of had a mas­sive wood­en table that could eas­i­ly seat 15 peo­ple), the occa­sion­al wing backed leather arm­chair, of the kind I wish I had in my own house these days. Fri­day nights were always hum­ming there so I would be there rea­son­ably ear­ly to get my pre­ferred seat, at the bar, with a wall to one side so I could watch the throng. A ran­dom thing just popped into my head, there was a col­lect­ing tin on the bar with two cheru­bic Anglo-Sax­on look­ing angels and an African child with the slo­gan being some­thing like ‘help the poor pagan child’.

    On the drinks front it was main­ly Caf­frey’s, Guin­ness, and Car­ling, I was more of a Caf­frey’s drinker back then, though in the unknown loca­tion I had my first shots of poitin while singing the Fields of Athen­ry cel­e­brat­ing Celtic win­ning the Scot­tish league in the first time in ten years (1998). When­ev­er I ate there I had the beer bat­ter fish and chips, and some­times the trea­cle pud­ding – sim­ple tastes real­ly.

    In many ways those pubs are still the arche­type of the kind of place I love drink­ing in, even if they are painful­ly cliched and almost car­toon­ish.

      1. Thanks, Al – use­ful stuff, and you’re not alone in hav­ing a soft spot for these kinds of places.

  3. So-called Irish pubs were at best patro­n­is­ing of the Irish peo­ple and at worst down­right racist, as in Scruffy Mur­phy’s. Some of them pro­vide a liv­ing for local musi­cians who can play jigs and reels at 90mph, inter­spersed with Black Vel­vet Band, Wild Rover and The Fields of Athen­ry. A friend of mine, who is a respect­ed local tra­di­tion­al singer and musi­cian, plays this kind of music in such venues pure­ly for the mon­ey, but he does­n’t regard it as real Irish music.

    I don’t recall going into an ‘Irish’ pub that sold a decent pint. I often walk past Flana­gan’s Apple, but it’s some time since I’ve been in there as it does­n’t inter­est me.

    1. Nev – we’ve picked up on some of the con­tem­po­rary kick back around racism and stereo­typ­ing, notably from a nice long arti­cle in the Irish edi­tion of The Sun­day Times (“Don’t Eng­lish peo­ple ahve any­thing bet­ter to wor­ry about?” says one Dublin bar man­ag­er) and a sim­i­lar report from What’s Brew­ing that sum­maris­es local CAMRA groups’ com­plaints and cam­paigns. There was near­ly one called Beast­ie O’Shag­g’s in Nor­wich but they thought bet­ter of it at the last minute!

  4. I said some­thing rather favourable about them – or at least their design – near­ly twen­ty years ago:

    But some of the bet­ter exe­cut­ed con­ver­sions, in par­tic­u­lar the var­i­ous Scruffy Mur­phy’s out­lets, actu­al­ly have a lot to be said for them as pieces of pub design. They may be pas­tiche, but it’s a pas­tiche of some­thing with gen­uine char­ac­ter and atmos­phere. The design­ers have obvi­ous­ly tak­en a lot of care to obtain authen­tic mem­o­ra­bil­ia and to build in cosy snugs and box­es, par­ti­tions, black and white tiled floors, wood pan­elling and impres­sive mir­rored back­fit­tings. The encour­age­ment of live tra­di­tion­al music in “Irish” pubs is anoth­er big point in their favour.

    In short, what they’ve cre­at­ed, under­neath the Irish veneer, is real pubs, and, unless they’ve destroyed an inte­ri­or of char­ac­ter in the process, which has not gen­er­al­ly been the case around here, there’s noth­ing you can real­ly object to in terms of the fab­ric of the place. If only half as much effort had been applied to many of our “Vic­to­ri­an” pubs, which so often are no more than a few Vic­to­ri­an trim­mings applied to a mod­ern plan – who­ev­er heard of a raised seat­ing area in the last cen­tu­ry?

    With a bit of luck, once the vogue for Irish pubs has passed, they’ll be able to turn them into some very nice Eng­lish ale­hous­es with­out need­ing any struc­tur­al work at all. ”

  5. There was both a Rosie O’ Grady’s and an O’Neil­l’s in Oxford. I fre­quent­ed both around 1996. In O’Neil­l’s, “failte” was spelt in about 6 dif­fer­ent ways on the walls. I also remem­ber that the staff were trained to trace a sham­rock into the top of a head of Guin­ness with the last trick­le from the tap – trendy cof­fee bars do sim­i­lar things to their flat whites now.

    1. In O’Neill’s, “failte” was spelt in about 6 dif­fer­ent ways on the walls.”

      That’s a nice detail!

    2. There is still an O’Neill’s on Oxford’s George Street, on the cor­ner with New Inn Hall Street. I believe that it’s now a chain with­in Mitchell and But­ler.

      Rosie O’ Grady’s was orig­i­nal­ly a Mor­rells pub on Park End Street, and has been through sev­er­al name changes since. It still trades, although I’ve no idea of its cur­rent name.

  6. I think I’ve been in two Irish pubs in my life, not count­ing drink­ing joints that are actu­al­ly in Ire­land. One was a chain, the oth­er was­n’t – it turned into the Road­house IIRC (although noth­ing I can find online about the Road­house con­firms this). I remem­ber it had the line about “no strangers here” above the door, on the out­side of the build­ing. It was qui­et the night I was in – it was a week­day evening – so when a fight broke out & two guys start­ed rolling around the floor bat­ter­ing each oth­er it was hard to ignore. You can’t buy that kind of atmos­phere.

  7. I can’t sep­a­rate my mem­o­ries of the pubs from my mem­o­ries of Caf­frey’s, which was a tru­ly awful beer

  8. I seem to remem­ber Waxy O’Con­nor’s hav­ing some sort of tree in the mid­dle of the pub. It may still be there, or I may have made that up, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in there.

    In the late nineties O’Neil­l’s in Black­heath would have some sort of table ser­vice, which was par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful on busy Fri­day nights if you want­ed to avoid the scrum at the bar. This may have been a gen­er­al O’Neil­l’s thing? It cer­tain­ly felt nov­el at the time.

    1. That’s inter­est­ing – thanks, Steve. Part of a gen­er­al sense, per­haps, that, being For­eign, Irish pubs had lee­way to mess with the essen­tials pub for­mu­la.

  9. Jes­si­ca & Ray.
    There seems to be very lit­tle info on the net re: Ward’s Irish House Pic­cadil­ly’ i first drank there in 1967 & worked there from 1972 for a few years on & off. We sold a stag­ger­ing 120 keg’s of draught Guin­ness a week + 150 Cas­es of New­cas­tle Brown Ale [ 12 Pint bot­tles per case], the St James’s Tav­ern on the cor­ner of Wind­mill Street sold rough­ly 10 Kegs of Guin­ness. It was a right dump but had a great atmos­phere’ in fact an Amer­i­can came in one day & said it was his first time back in Lon­don since WW2 [rough­ly 30 years] he was glad to see we had­n’t both­ered to wash the con­crete floor. Though not off­i­cal­ly an ear­ly morn­ing house’ the taps were run­ning from 06:oohrs till 23:00hrs 7 days a week. There were 4 pubs around the Cir­cus at that time, when i cycle through there now the neon signs & pubs have all gone’ i sup­pose it’s progress.
    Best wish­es, Conn.

  10. I used to sup­ply wine to Minogues. It was owned by Paul Lawen­son and Ethel Minogue. Great brunch­es with oys­ters and Guin­ness and Cham­pagne. Yup­pies were just start­ing and the sur­round­ing streets were begin­ning to fill up with Porch­es.

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