history-of-mulligans

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(An article from 1994 that captures the essence of Mulligan’s origin)

“We now approach one of Dublin’s most revered imbibing shrines, Mulligans of Poolbeg Street, where the very soul of Dublin pub culture can be found. Generations of Dubliners, ranging from the lowest to the ‘Most High’, have attended liquid services in this old house. Today, the eternal pilgrimage continues in a pub where little of any substance has changed for over a century.

And yet there hasn’t been a Mulligan around here since 1932 but still the dance goes on. Contrary to popular belief, the Mulligan saga did not begin in this house but in a pub on Thomas Street beside the old Cornmarket in 1782. From there the family, who were to become the most nomadic of publicans, moved several times before John Mulligan leased Poolbeg Streel from Alicia Halpin in 1854 for £20 a year. But there had been a pub on this site since 1820, then known as 17 & 18 Poolbeg Street, when Talbert Fyan arrived at the congenial location where big sailing ships once found deep water.

Since 1838 publican James McEntee was doing the honours here in a pub whose address had changed once more to No. 15 Poolbeg Street. We catch first glimpse of No. 8 some six years later when Tom Halpin was well pleased with the local Dockers trade and the huge business generated from the Corn Exchange, the rere of which could be entered from No. 3. But Tom did not stick around to suffer the lean Famine Years, leaving his widow Alicia to carry the family burden until John Mulligan relieved her.

Now, contrary to popular belief , once again, John did not immediately land on his feet here. The early years were rough. He had to tough it doorsout with two local heroines on Poolbeg Street: Mrs. McGrath at No. 5 and Miss McCaul at No. 1, on the junction of Hawkins Street. It was nearly twenty years before the final Poolbeg scoreline read.. John Mulligan 1, the Rest 0.

doorsBy this stage John was also operating from 29 Nicholas Street, a premises he acquired from the fruits of the Corn Exchange. Over the next 50 years the names John and James Mulligan constantly interchanged; James the Second was here in the early 1900s when Joyce uplifted the house into literary illumination by the visitation of ‘Dubliners’ characters O’Halloran, Leonard and Farrington who had arrived here on saunter once the Scotch House had closed. A latter day scribe, whose literary fame may one day reach the same Joycean pinnacle, has been regularly observed to follow the footsteps of these early ‘Dubliner’ characters. But unlike the hot whiskey drinking ‘Dubliners’, this son of Castleisland, whose stocking feet exploits as a workhorse second row were matched only by his brilliance in the classroom, has found favour with the nobler mixture of Brandy and Milk. Who was it that said “The sensible man knows what is best and insists upon it”

Cavan born Cusack brothers, Con and Tommy, then became the guardians of Mulligans, having secured it from their uncle Mick Smyth who bought the house from John Mulligan in 1932. And along the way, with former partner Paddy Flynn, they have seen this former dockers and working mans pub become the trendy haunt of tourists, journalists, sportsmen and literati alike.

ceiling-roseThe who’s who of Ireland and beyond have fore-gathered here. John F. Kennedy was one who savoured the brews back in 1945 when he worked with the Hearst Newspaper Dynasty. The world of theatre, who starred in the Theatre Royal across the way, loved the house: Jimmy O’Dea, Peggy Dell, Cecil Sheridan, Jack Cruise and Eamonn Andrews were but a few. Add to this the horse racing fraternity of Vincent O’Brien, Mincemeat Joe Griffin, Tommy Burns and Charfle Smirke and you will begin to get a feeling for the place.

For several years now this house has been the favoured haunt of newsmen in the Irish Press, many of whom have entered this house down spirited and short of copy only to leave an hour later refreshed. inspired and cepable of winning the ‘Booker’ Prize.

Go along any time of day and be enthralled! No psychedelic innovations here! Sombre and traditional, paperlarge-s1subdued colouring; the only semblance of modernity is a green lounge carpet which is too conservative to notice. An abundance of Victorian mahogany and counter tops, which have long since lost their paperlarge-s1-215x300sheen. Plenty of divides and confessional screens, dark corners and crevices – ideal for intimacy, conspiracy and pints of cold creamy porter. The house is famous for it. Order one and slip through the narrow door into the lounge, the long way around, where you will see a magpie collection of old theatrical posters recapturing those halcyon days of the old Theatre Royal! Sample the spirit of the place,the antiquity and the solemnity. Have another one before you leave! Join the inoffensive looking guy consuming Brandy and Milk who, like Kavanagh, can ‘Still stroke the Monsters back or write with un-poisoned pen.

Full marks to the Cusacks for refusing to bow to the pressures of time. And, as you leave, say a fond farewell to this homely shrine of ages who have long since returned to dust then.”