Contributed by Léan Ní Chléirigh
It was with some trepidation that I arrived in the Duke Pub last Friday at 7.15 for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Acting like a tourist in your own city is a dangerous business. As a Dub I get frequently irked by the twin pillars of Dublin Stereotype; Ross O’Caroll-Kelly and Dicey Riley. I feared the latter might be the principal focus of this tour. The tour begins in the Duke pub (and ends in Davy Byrnes on the same street) and there is a room set aside for the group to warm up between 7 and 7.30. The first item on the agenda is a brief introduction to the tour by your guides and the caveat that they are culture enthusiasts not experts so could we leave any really heavy questioning until the end. (I imagine this is the result of previous experience) We were also informed that there would be a quiz at the end of the tour in which one lucky punter could win the world famous Dublin Literary Tour T-Shirt.
The first hit of culture comes with a rendition of a few of the 27 verses of ‘Waxie’s Dargle’ a drinking song. Hmmm. I’ll keep an open mind for now. The performances are interspersed with banter, an extremely difficult thing to keep spontaneous night after night and, to be fair to the guides, while it may have seemed slightly forced to my ear, the bursts of laughter from the ‘real’ tourists showed that it was perfectly pitched. Then came a scene from ‘Waiting for Godot’ and the strength of the tour became immediately apparent. The tour guides are actors, and good ones. Even with the jolly, almost bawdy, mood of the audience which they stoked in the opening few minutes, there was complete silence for the five minute scene. After this we moved to O’Neills of Suffolk Street via Trinity College where a brief literary history of the college was interspersed with a reading from a letter of Oscar Wilde to his mother in which he related a (failed) attempt by a bunch of Iowa miners to drink him under the table. After O’Neills we were treated to a scene from ‘The Risen People,’ a stage play based on the novel ‘Strumpet City’ by James Plunkett and then on to the Old Stand. After the Old Stand, one of Michael Collins’ favoured watering holes, we went back to Duke Street where the Quiz was held outside the Duke bar and the final drink of the night was in Davy Byrne’s on the same street.
When acting as a tourist in your own city, even if you’re not as ‘fiercely true and loyal to the town that gave you birth,’ as I am, it is important to get your headspace right. Yes some of the banter was more overstated than it would be in a pub, but after a minute or two I realized that this is in fact the perfect opportunity to watch people from other countries appreciate your city, town, country. It’s a lovely feeling. The small size of the Dublin acting family means that you may recognize the actors from a play you’ve seen years ago, which adds to the familiarity of the whole experience. (The taller of the two used to be in ‘Pajo’s Junkbox’. Remember that?) There’s also the buzz you get when you share a part of the tour with the guides which strangers might not understand. In the scene from ‘The Risen People’, both myself and my friend spat on the floor in unison with the two actors when the name William Martin Murphy was mentioned. Not because we had seen the play you understand. Then there’s the chance to learn things you didn’t know about the literary history of Dublin (as if). Oliver Goldsmith wrote ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’!