By Lisa-Marie Griffith
While nosily peering through the Dublin Civic Trust window on Dublin’s Castle Street on Monday I noticed a collection of beautiful stucco figures in eighteenth-century dress and much to my amazement a poster in the window informed me that they were the motifs from the Irish House pub. I was already running late so only returned to the building with my fellow Dublin historian Ciaran Wallace today to discover the treasure trove inside. Formerly located on the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay, ‘the Irish House’ O’Meara’s pub, was home to an unusual exterior stucco exhibition of Ireland’s patriot figures and symbols.
A popular Dublin image, photographs of the building are featured in Elinor’ Wiltchire’s If You Ever Go to Dublin Town exhibition at the National Photographic Archive, the panels that crowned the Irish House pub included Henry Grattan addressing members of the Irish parliament, Daniel O’Connell, the Maid of Erin and six Irish wolf hounds. The building stood for a century, with it’s patriotic symbols looking out towards the Liffey, until it was demolished to make way for the controversial Dublin Corporation offices. The site where the pub stood was of course the area that sparked the most controversial archeological dig in Irish history when the Viking settlement at Wood Quay was uncovered. This binds the pub’s history even more closely with Dublin’s civic history. The Irish House stood out among the Quays buildings for a hundred years, as it proudly displayed the nineteenth and twentieth-century symbols of nationalism while protecting the remains of Dublin’ s Viking settlement beneath it and this exhibition brings back to life this wonderful Dublin pub, by show casing the images that made it so unique. One of my favourite parts of this exhibition is the pub doors that are hanging on the walls of the Dublin Civic Trusts offices. It’s amazing to just imagine how many Dublin men and women passed through those doors over a century and how the city changed in that time. This is well worth a visit!