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The Oldest Pub in Ireland

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The Brazen Head Pub and Hotel is situated on Bridge Street in Dublin 8. It is famous for being the oldest pub in Ireland and dates back to 1198 when it first became a drinking hole for the Cambro-Normans who had just invaded Ireland two decades earlier in 1169. The Normans had been invited by Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, to help him seize Leinster. The soldiers were here in Dublin on the King’s orders and would have been very thirsty men who were very equipped castle and tavern builders. In May 1171, Strongbow had seized the Norse-Irish city kingdoms of Dublin, Waterford and Wexford which lead to celebrations of  their victories at the Brazen Head.

The old walls of the Brazen Head is covered in pictures, postcards and memories of its many visitors and the events held there through the years. It has been a favourite among Irish writers, poets and musicians for many centuries. Jonathan Swift, who used to be a Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, was one of the patrons of the Brazen Head; so one can imagine him taking himself down the road for a walk to his local pub after a service, what better exercise for a mad man.

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Originally The Brazen Head was used as a coach house for housing horse carriages. It is generally accepted that The Brazen Head first open in 1198, but some sources say it was only established between the dates 1613 and 1775. They were only given a licence to trade in 1613. But some have claimed that archer and swordsman Robin Hood used to have a drink here and he was first spoken of in late 14th century ballads, therefore the pub would have existed in the 1300’s already. Robin  Hood was the outlaw who was famous for “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”, much the same madness you would have found in Swift’s “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to their Parents, or the Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public.”

The Brazen Head was also mentioned in Ulysses, the novel by James Joyce, where he wrote “you get a decent enough do in the Brazen Head”. I had to go find out what he meant by this, and discovered that it had nothing to do with the pint they served him, but he was of course referring to the food. Fortunately the Brazen has changed much since that brazen comment of Joyce was made and has earned for themselves a well-deserved reputation for fine traditional Irish and Guinness stews.

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The Brazen Head Hotel was home to Robert Emmet for a while, who grew up around the corner at 109 St. Stephen’s Green. Himself and Theobald Wolfe Tone (one of the founding members of the United Irishmen and a close friend of his brother’s), were both locals at The Brazen Head. Here the Irish revolutionaries who paved the way for an Irish Republic came together, with Daniel O’Connell (Irish political leader) and Michael Collins (Irish revolutionary leader) making their way there in later years, for the same reasons we assume. The ideal place to discuss the next plan and steps to be taken to take their Leinster and Ireland back one day; but maybe they just needed a good pint of local Guinness.

The Dubliners, Tom Jones and Van Morrison have all played at The Brazen Head. Musicians like playing here, the cozy design and small amphitheatre an ideal venue for instrumentalists and singers. The pub is a favourite among travellers and tourists visiting Dublin and their evenings with live Irish music and Irish Story-telling are also very popular. This year would be an ideal time, with the commemorations in full flow now, to relive the past and enjoy the secret tavern that was once a venue of comfort and friendship for the most famous men that have ever lived in Ireland. You never know, you might hear the walls tell you a few secrets from its past and discover just how it came about that Ireland was once again given back to its people.

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