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.