Irish Pubs, English Pubs and the Essence of Pubness, 1964

A pint of stout.

Was part of the appeal of the Irish pub in the 1980s and 90s that real Irish pubs were more like ideal of the English pubs than English pubs had become?

This fan­tas­tic arti­cle by Irish jour­nal­ist Mary Hol­land (1935–2004) pub­lished in Jan­u­ary 1964 cov­ers mul­ti­ple issues in a few hun­dred pithy words.

First, the mys­tique of Dublin pubs: ‘I’ve always gone along with the belief that any Dublin bar has a mag­ic aura which caus­es the talk to shim­mer and sparkle as fast as the Guin­ness flows.’

Then their true qual­i­ties: ‘I now think the Dublin pub mys­tique is thriv­ing as nev­er before for the sim­ple rea­son that its pubs are more com­fort­able.’

(See also a relat­ed 1996 columns from the Pub Cur­mud­geon here.)

And, final­ly, there’s a point­ed exam­i­na­tion of the state of Eng­lish pubs in the mid-1960s:

One of the most recent attempts to revamp a pub’s image in cen­tral Lon­don is a bar designed to appeal to ‘busi­ness exec­u­tives and the younger set,’ in which rat­tan cane, murals of brood­ing bud­dhas, slat­ted bam­boo swing doors and a back­ground of jun­gle nois­es are among the attrac­tions. Yet this is only an extreme exam­ple of the way the brew­ers seem bent on cater­ing to a city of pub-lovers. Giv­en that the beer is good (and I know that this is anoth­er ques­tion), I can’t believe that any­one wants to drink his pint, let alone talk the evening through with friends, in the kind of South Seas Traders tav­ern or sub-Scan­di­na­vian bar which seems to appear when­ev­er the painters and dec­o­ra­tors move in on an ordi­nary pub.

You can imag­ine how that delight­ed us, what with our ongo­ing obses­sion with theme pubs.

In gen­er­al the Spec­ta­tor archive is a fan­tas­tic resource: search­able, ful­ly indexed, with mate­r­i­al pro­vid­ed as both OCRd text and orig­i­nal page scans. Our ram­blings through it to date sug­gest that it was very much a wet office – there’s lots of cov­er­age of beer and pubs – so if you’ve got a pet obses­sion, give it a search and see what you can turn up.

2 thoughts on “Irish Pubs, English Pubs and the Essence of Pubness, 1964”

  1. I can’t believe that any­one wants to drink his pint, let alone talk the evening through with friends, in the kind of South Seas Traders tav­ern or sub-Scan­di­na­vian bar which seems to appear when­ev­er the painters and dec­o­ra­tors move in on an ordi­nary pub’.

    What a won­der­ful turn of phrase that is!

    1. And pub design­ers are still doing it fifty years lat­er.

      I’d say at present we’re very much in a peri­od of neo­phyte anti-nos­tal­gia pub and bar design.

      Cheers for men­tion, btw 🙂

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