1823 saw the French invade Spain, William Webb Ellis invent rugby, and the founding of an iconic Dublin institution on Fleet Street.
The Palace Bar turns 200 years old this year, and The Hard Shoulder headed down to celebrate with the current owner Willie Ahearn.
“Over the last few years when the world was turned upside down, it dawned on me you really have to mark these occasions,” he said.
“For my family, this is a very special time – we've been here since 1946, so 77 years.”
Pub historian Eamon Casey said in 1946, Ireland had a “culture of economic stagnation” following the end of World War II (or the ‘Emergency’ if you’re the 1940s Irish Government).
“The Ireland of 1946 was austere and formal,” he said.
“But under that culture a new vibrant literary movement was beginning to take place – and it really took place in the back room of this bar.”
The show is coming LIVE from @Thepalacebar21 today, where we had a toast at exactly 18:23 to mark the year these doors first opened.
— The Hard Shoulder (@TheHardShoulder) September 28, 2023
Writers such as Patrick Kavanagh and Benedict Kiely and all the people involved in the arts began to meet at the Palace.
“Kavanagh described the Palace at the tie as the most amazing temple of art.”
“The person it all came together through - the Palace Bar King Pin – was Bertie Smyllie, then-editor of The Irish Times.
“He had a love of literature but his second and most abiding love was a love of Irish whiskey,” Mr Casey explained.
“Bertie would come in and have his large Irish, and all the aspiring writers of the age gathered around Smyllie.”
Mr Ahearn pointed out that it was also in the back rooms of the Palace Bar that Mr Smyllie and his coworkers created the idea of The Irish Times crossword.
Along with the artists within the building, Mr Casey explained much of the art in the Palace Bar comes from its authentic Victorian aesthetic.
“It’s one of the most original and authentic Victorian pubs in Dublin that has remained intact,” Mr Casey said.
“The Ahearn family decided they were going to stay loyal to the Victorian pub... the only real modifications you would have had here since then is electric lighting.”
To celebrate 200 years of pouring drinks and housing artists, Mr Ahearn and his staff went on a trip down memory lane at St James’ Gate to find an authentic porter to serve customers.
“We went through the archives of all the old porter recipes in 1823 – basically Arthur Guinness’ recipe book,” he said.
“We selected the recipe and tweaked it a bit... I think our palettes wouldn’t be as strong compared to those days.”
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