The Original Irish Theme Pubs?

Guinness.

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.

Craft Fish Guts

Sturgeon by David Torcivia, from Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
There was a bit of a to-do the oth­er week when a UK TV show about food pro­duc­tion sug­gest­ed that isin­glass fin­ings rep­re­sent­ed some kind of ‘dark side’ of the brew­ing indus­try. (We did­n’t see it – we gath­ered this from the minia­ture Twit­ter storm that ensued.) Isin­glass is made from the swim blad­ders of fish, so we’ll acknowl­edge that there is a cer­tain ‘ick’ fac­tor, but it’s been used in British brew­ing for a long time and isn’t some­thing we have any prob­lem with at all.

This 1978 arti­cle from CAM­RA’s What’s Brew­ing, how­ev­er, sug­gests that not only is isin­glass harm­less, but that brew­ers could be going a lit­tle fur­ther and mak­ing it part of their ‘craft’ schtick:

On the first floor of God­son’s Brew­ery… head brew­er Rob Adams takes what looks like a large flat sea shell from a side­board draw­er… It is the dried blad­der of a stur­geon fish… Mr Adams makes his own fin­ings from stur­geon blad­ders, bought at £7 a pound and mixed with water in a large plas­tic dust­bin.

Do any brew­ers these days make their own isin­glass from scratch? And would a real­ly ‘crafty’ brew­ery per­haps go a step fur­ther and have a salt­wa­ter pond full of fish in the back yard…?

Ian Mack­ey, author of this very use­ful book, has very kind­ly pro­vid­ed us with a trea­sure trove of use­ful clip­pings from this peri­od, so expect a few more nuggets in weeks to come.

Pic­ture by David Tor­civia, from Flickr, under a Cre­ative Com­mons License.