There is a famous episode which features in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys From The Blackstuff set in the Green Man pub, Liverpool. It’s not a place that you would bring your Mum or sister to, being frequented by an assortment of characters verging on the edge of lunacy and/or violence. It is a black-comic and powerful piece of television. In the latter part of my time in Ireland, in 2009, I ventured into The Shipwright in Ringsend on a Saturday night. My companion that night took one look and announced ‘It’s dog rough!’ and we reversed quickly out into the night. If they ever film an Irish version of Blackstuff I have just the place for them.
That apart I grew very fond of Ringsend in the 21 months I stayed in Dublin. It’s a former fishing village a mile or two outside Dublin city centre. It has a history as a fishing port and ferry terminal, though Dublin Port now lies the other side of the Liffey. Ringsend retains a village ‘feel’ and there is a real sense of community. It has a well-appointed park and nearby you find a granite column extolling the virtues of the park – Children’s playground, tennis courts, GAA pitches...running out of virtues with space to spare the inscriptions get increasingly desperate – trees, grassy spaces, clear skies… But returning from Irishtown Stadium I would invariably be drawn into the clutches of the bars in the village. Last month I took the opportunity to see how things were going.
Well, the Shipwright appears to be going strong but I didn’t venture in 🙂 The twins which were The Raytown Bar/Hobblers End have gone the way of too many others and are sadly closed. (Raytown is the old colloquial name for Ringsend and ‘hobbling’ is an old expression for piloting vessels into harbour). The Yacht is like a comfort blanket. Once you get accustomed to the feeling that you’re sitting in someone’s front lounge you won’t find a friendlier place. The pint is delivered to your table as you examine the old seafaring prints and photographs. Strangers take themselves away to the quiet, comfy seats at the back whilst pretty much the same line up as I remember perch on stools around the bar. This particular evening there was embarrassed silence as, on the telly, Ireland’s one decent tennis player Conor Niland was dismantled by Djokovic. You could spend weeks there tucked away behind a pillar, pay for pints to be delivered, and never be bothered. A gem of a pub that I hope stays forever.
The final pub in the little square is The Oarsman, a long, dark bar with a high ceiling. There is a comfy little area underneath the window and other seats further along, but this is essentially a place where you sit up at the bar, drink your pint and gaze at the spirits and rugby memorabilia behind the bar – Lansdowne Road is only a drop-kick away. There’s a big screen for the footy in the corner and this brings in the crowds. The landlady brings me my pint without me ordering – God I must be both memorable and predictable 🙂 – and asks ‘are you back working again?’
You might travel to the ends of the earth but I’ll choose Ringsend as one of my favourite spots.