“If you’re here for the drink, you’ll have to put up with the literature.” Welcome to The Duke hotel in Dublin. It’s a cracking venue to begin the Literary Pub Crawl.
Two actors, 50 people, 4 pubs. Singing, acting, reciting, drinking, laughing, the Gift of the Gab and lots of craic. What a great few hours we ‘crawlers’ had.
Derek and Finbar, two actors of stage and television, greeted us in the upstairs room of The Duke hotel. The song Waxies’ Dargle brought us all together as we raised our pints of Guinness and sang the refrain about cobblers (who waxed their stitches for waterproofing) celebrating at their annual picnic … “I’ll have a pint, yes, I’ll have a pint with you, sir!”
The boys started with a rendition of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. They had us hooked. Pathos and humour so closely aligned.
Swift, Stoker, Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Behan, Heaney. We were to channel them all through the articulate and witty Derek and Finbar.
Back out on the street we gathered at the steps of Trinity College Library and listened to anecdotes of those writers who had attended the College. It was “a culture stop with no drinks,” said Finbar as he took on the flamboyant persona of Oscar Wilde and his travels to the silver mines of Colorado and then the poignancy of James Joyce … the grey block of Trinity … set heavily in the city’s ignorance like a dull stone set in a cumbrous ring …
More serious drinking and stories took place in the snug of O’Neill’s pub frequented by Trinity students past and present.
Meandering the streets of Dublin we stopped at another great pub, The Old Stand; the headquarters of Michael Collins during the War of Independence.
Awkward beginnings of our global group soon turned to more lubricated interactions as we drank and shared our love of literature.
At Davy Byrnes’ pub we partook in an episode from Joyce’s Ulysses and learned that Brendan Behan, one of the most colourful characters to walk the streets of Dublin, was born “a drinker with a writing problem.” He started drinking at the age of eight and equated jugs of Guinness with holy water.
At the end of the night in a dark alley with the chill wind whipping off the Liffey we huddled for the evening-ending quiz of all we’d heard through the skits, witticisms and history of this city of literature. The last two standing were a lad from Newfoundland and a lass from Australia. He beat me to the final answer, but I was happy with a bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey as my prize.
There’s a great irony in replacing the brain cells while drowning them. Pass the Guinness please. Next stop, the Irish Writers’ Centre. Perhaps you have another suggestion for getting under the skin of Dublin.