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Over the years

Meagher’s of O’Connell Bridge, established in 1827, is a historic pub located at 3 Eden Quay, Dublin. The pub has witnessed significant historical events, from its early development linked to Eden Quay’s commercial boom, through the Easter Rising’s devastation, to becoming a social landmark. Over nearly two centuries, it has hosted notable figures, featured in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, and evolved through various ownerships. Today, under the Meagher family, it retains its traditional charm while serving as a vibrant part of Dublin’s heritage.

Take a look at some of the highlights through this buildings history below…

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Meagher’s of O’Connell Bridge – Heritage Pub

3 Eden Quay, Dublin 1, D01 W896

Tel: +353 1 8148608

Est: 1827

Origins

The creation and development of Eden Quay is consistent with how the Ascendancy powers of that age controlled urban expansion. The name Eden Quay owes its origin to Sir William Eden, Chief Secretary to Ireland, 1780-82. In 1782 Eden lobbied the Right Hon. John Beresford for personal recognition. He wrote to Beresford, “if our great plans should go into execution for the improvement of Dublin, I beg that you will contrive to edge my name into some street or into some square, opening a bridge, bank, or the four courts.”

Eden Quay was subsequently developed and paid for by a levy on shipping. Following the construction of Carlisle Bridge (O’Connell Bridge) in 1794, clusters of ships sailed right up and anchored beside the bridge. It was no longer possible to sail further along the Liffey to the west, and consequently the quays immediately east of the new bridge became the immense commercial beneficiaries, as the economic axis of the city moved to the east.

The development of Eden Quay commenced in the early 1800s, the main function of which was designed both to enhance the access and the appearance of Dublin’s architectural jewel, the Custom House. The new quay was laid out in a rectangular and uniform manner with plots of equal size for house building, which rapidly became business outlets owing to commercial demand.

James Bracken Tavern Keeper – The First Licence 1827

As daily footfall and bustling commerce grew along Eden Quay, the demand for social facilities increased much to the annoyance of the authorities and City Fathers. Eventually, in 1827, a youthful and very ambitious publican, James Bracken set up business here at no. 3 as a Tavern Keeper. This was quite an achievement on Bracken’s part as the authorities were not at all keen on having licensed premises in prestigious areas. But James Bracken had a spotless reputational record, having previously operated as a Spirit Grocer at no. 77 Abbey Street. Bracken was astute enough to avoid the critical eye of the authorities as he fulfilled the legal requirements of a tavern keeper in that this was a house that served both food and drink. The food fare would have consisted of various roasts, especially ham and bacon, chesses, breads, with herring and fresh fish supplied daily from the nearby fishing boats. 

By the 1840s, James Bracken had built up his tavern business to the extent that he now had an RV (rateable valuation) of 70 Guineas. Johnston & Co, British Express agents for all foreign and British Newspapers, traded two doors away from Bracken’s Tavern at no. 1. But the years ahead would bring greater fiscal joys to James Bracken as the coming of the railways and better highways heralded an era of greater travel, necessitating a huge demand for lodgings and boarding houses. Because of its prominent location at the junction of Sackville Street, Carlisle Bridge and the gateway to the Custom House, Bracken’s Tavern became a social landmark both for the local business populace and the countless daily visitors to the capital. Along the way, this house served as a boarding house and, for a time, as James Bracken’s Hotel and Tavern. By the 1860s, James Bracken is listed as financially comfortable, having purchased a fine Sandymount residence, Tritonville Cottage. 

James Bracken to Mark Crowley, Wine and Spirit Merchant

Having devoted a lifetime of service to the Dublin licensed trade, James Bracken passed away in 1872 and his widow then ran this premises for almost two years. The ageing Mrs Bracken passed the pub to Mark Crowley in 1874, who had served as General Manager for a number of years. Crowley had but a short tenure here before selling out to Patrick Doyle, a member of a well-known Dublin licensed family.

Patrick Doyle, Wine and Spirit Merchant

Patrick Doyle, the new man behind the counter, arrived here in 1878 at a time when Dublin’s horse trams were the leading modes of transport in Dublin City Centre. By now, there were eight licences along Eden Quay whereas back in 1827, this was the only one. But once again, location was the primary driving force behind the success of this old tavern. Doyle undoubtedly benefited from the workers of the Bristol Steam Navigation Company at no. 1, and Lanigan & Co, Rope and Twine Manufacturers, at no. 2, beside Harbour Court. Through the years, the popularity of Doyle’s pub grew and grew as a new wave of optimism, adventure and prosperity swept through the once austere and sterile Dublin. In 1891, when Ireland mourned the loss of its ‘uncrowned king’, Charles Stuart Parnell, Patrick Doyle decided to move on, putting this old hostelry up for sale. There was no shortage of potential buyers.

Gerald Mooney Arrives in 1891

The name of Gerald Mooney, Wine & Spirit Merchant, was first seen above the door here in 1891. Immediately, on taking possession of this house, Gerald Mooney commissioned a lavish Victorian refurbishment of the entire building. Once completed, the entire character of the pub was transformed and the volume of business massively increased.

And just as massive transformation had taken place within the pub, massive transformation was also taking place in the life of Gerald Mooney. Gerald was the son of James G Mooney, founder of the famous Mooney pub empire. Initially, Gerald Mooney bought this pub as his own stand-alone outlet, and not part of the Mooney Group. But all this changed later in 1891 when his father died and Gerald was elected Chairman and Managing Director of J.G. Mooney & Co.

James Joyce and Mooney’s Sur Mer in Ulysses

Under the stewardship of Gerald Mooney both the Mooney pub group and Mooney’s of Eden Quay went from strength to strength. This pub, similar to many London pubs of this age, enjoyed a diverse patronage of businessmen, shop workers, tradesmen, city shoppers, tourists, newsmen, academics, and university students from nearby Trinity College and UCD. James Joyce, one such student, propelled this pub into literary illustriousness in the pages of Ulysses. In Sirens, Chapter Eleven, Lenehan quips about Stephen Dedalus:

“Have you seen him lately?

He had.

“I quaffed the nectarbowl with him this very day,” said Lenehan. In Mooney’s en ville and Mooney’s sur mer.”

The reference here of Mooney’s en ville refers to Mooney’s in the city, i.e. the Abbey Mooney, and Mooney’s sur mer (by the sea) refers to Mooney’s of Eden Quay. This reference is again repeated in Circe, Chapter 15, through Philip Sober:

“Philip Sober. Take a fool’s advice. All is not well. Work it out with the buttend of a pencil, like a good young idiot. Three pounds twelve you got, two notes, one sovereign, two crowns. If youth but knew. Mooney’s en ville, Mooney’s sur mer, the Moira, Larchet’s……”

The Passing of Gerald Mooney

The noughties and teens of the 20th century had been spectacularly successful years for the Dublin pub as a new generation of Dubliners lived their social lives to the full. But all this began to change in 1914 as the stormclouds of war descended on Europe. That year also brought devastating news for Mooney’s of Eden Quay as Gerald Mooney passed away at the relatively young age of 50. During his 23-year tenure as M.D. of the Mooney Group, Gerald had made numerous acquisitions, propelling the group to become the premier pub group in Ireland. But a new generation of Mooney’s would soon be on hand to drive both the group and Mooney’s of Eden Quay forward.

The Easter Rising – Mooney’s Destroyed

Shortly after 11.50am on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916, a group of young men from the Irish Citizen Army marched past Mooney’s of Eden Quay, turned left at Sackville Street junction and marched up the street towards the GPO. Within 30 minutes, the peace of this sleepy, sunny and restful morning had been shattered as the Easter Rising had begun. Sheer devastation ensued in the following days as the British forces, keen to suppress the Rising, began shelling the GPO and other rebel positions from two 9-Pounder guns, placed on the roof of Trinity College, and from the HMS Helga, which had sailed up the River Liffey to Butt Bridge. The accuracy of the British fire was uncontrolled, inaccurate and destructive to practically every building except the GPO. Mooney’s of Eden Quay and adjacent buildings were hit on a number of occasions, and eventually a massive fire broke out on Thursday April 27th, engulfing and destroying nos. 1-14 Eden Quay.

Mooney’s Compensation Claim

The aftermath of the Rising was horrendous both for Dublin’s buildings and citizens alike. Mooney’s pub was but a smouldering carcass for days afterwards. Eventually, the British consented to reimburse businesses and individuals affected by the Rising, and a compensation committee was set up to assess claims. We are indeed fortunate that authentic records of these events have been preserved to us courtesy of the Irish National Archives. This was made possible because Louise Mooney of Vartry Lodge, Killiney, widow of Gerald Mooney, made two claims to the Property Losses (1916) Committee for compensation, and the original claim documentation has been stored in the Irish National Archives ever since. (See Records)

The first claim for damage to the buildings amounted to £3659 of which she was awarded £2500, a figure that translates to €340,650 today. The second claim, which included contents, amounted to £5665 and was awarded £3207, a figure that equates to €437,000 today. The total payout amounted to €777,650 in today’s currency. And so the wonderful Victorian pub, created by Gerald Mooney in 1891, was destroyed by fire and rebuild in the same traditional vein circa 1918.

The Irish Civil War and the Murder of Michael Neville

It may have felt by 1922 that 1916 had never happened here at Mooney’s of Eden Quay. Under the auspices of Raymond Victory, Company Secretary and General Manager, this new pub was swinging along, and becoming more popular by the week. But all was not so rosy, for Ireland was at war with itself and the two factions, who had secured Irish independence, were now in bitter combat over the terms of the Treaty agreed with Great Britain. Spiteful, mean and retaliatory killings were taking place on a daily basis.

Michael Neville – Mooney’s Barman

In September 1922, a National Army lorry, (Pro-Treaty) was attacked by grenades while travelling down Eden Quay, and a soldier, James Kennedy, was fatally injured outside Mooney’s. Some two days later, Michael Neville, an Anti-Treaty IRA man, originally from Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, who worked as a barman here at Mooney’s of Eden Quay, was abducted outside the pub on finishing his shift. Michael Neville was then manhandled into a car and driven to a disused cemetery in Killester, where he was shot four times in the hand, arm, jaw and head. It was a savage and brutal retaliation by the Pro-Treaty forces for the death of James Kennedy. Further insult was added to this horrible act some days later when Free State troops intruded on Neville’s grieving relatives in the City Morgue, who had come to retrieve his body. They ordered the family to put up their hands and come outside for one hour. In Dáil Éireann, Labour Party Leader, Thomas Johnson, raised this outrage.

“A certain man was taken out of his place of employment, taken into the country, and shot. An ordinary murder, motive unknown, one might say. He lies in the Morgue; his friends come to visit him; they pray, and military forces come up in lorries and armoured cars and arrest these men and denounce them, and threaten them, and say: ‘If that man had not ever handled a gun, he would not have lain where he is.’ That is what happened in the case of this man Neville.”

Mooney’s Golden Years of Boom

The dramatic irony of these troubled times is that while Ireland was in bitter conflict, the business transacted at Mooney’s of Eden Quay was never, ever better. Turnover was booming, courtesy of the Corinthian Picture House, which was situated next door at nos. 4-6. The Corinthian had opened on Dublin Horse Show Week, August 8th, 1921, showing a silent movie, Torn Sails. Dubliners’ love affair with the movies had begun, and the main beneficiary, outside of the Corinthian, was Mooney’s of Eden Quay. Indeed, it was stated that a visit to the ‘silent flics’ in the Corinthian was incomplete without a visit to Mooney’s.

Week by week, year by year, the punters flocked to the Corinthian and to Mooney’s. The turnover here simply exploded and the RV, which had once been £70, had risen to £400 by the 1940s – the highest figure for a Dublin pub in this era.

Further Growth for Mooney’s

Desmond Mooney, was now M.D. of the Mooney Group, which had made three prime pub acquisitions in London, in addition to diversifying into other areas of economics and electronics. By 1953, when contemporary Dublin pubs were feeling the pinch in Ireland’s stagnant economy, Mooney’s was continuing to increase turnover thanks to the opening of the Astor Cinema, next door to the Corinthian. The silent movie days were now over but Dublin’s love affair with the movies grew stronger as the years passed. In many respects, an evening out at the movies, and drinks before and after the show at Mooney’s seemed to lessen the overbearing gloom of church and state, which was casting a long shadow over Irish life.

The Decline of An Empire and the Arrival of the Horse & Tram

By the 1970s, the Mooney empire was incurring heavy losses on the stock exchange and in 1973 shares were suspended. By 1975 the Mooney portfolio of pubs was for sale, and the company was eventually liquidated in 1982. Cavan-born publican, Eamonn Brady secured this pub at public auction for £75,000 and rebranded this old hostelry as The Horse & Tram, a throwback to the era when horse trams passed this door in Victorian times.

Later Years and the Arrival of Meagher’s of O’Connell Bridge

The Brady family enjoyed excellent patronage here for over a decade before selling to John McConville for £400,000 in 1989.

Nowadays, this old shrine of antiquity is in the capable hands of the Meagher family, who have both tastefully rebranded and refurbished the premises in the traditional idiom, very much in keeping with the former heritage of this pub.

A big thank you to Eamonn for all of his heard work on compiling this for us.

© Eamonn Casey

     Licensed Trade Historian

     Email: eamonncasey1@gmail.com

     Tel: +353 87 2637054

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