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by Eamonn Cassey
Though an earlier license had existed on part of the current site of The Temple Bar, we can directly trace the existing license back to 1835 when enterprising publican, Cornelius O’Meara, Grocer, Tea, Wine, and Spirit Merchant acquired the blossoming location at the corner of Temple Lane and adjacent to Samuel Figgis, Porter Merchant, who ran his thriving brewing business here. The city of Dublin was experiencing something of an economic renaissance at this time and Temple Bar was idyllically laced between the river and the administrative centre of Dublin.
O’Meara was a committed publican intent on spreading his wings. He also ran another pub at No. 1 Wood Quay. This was then at the epicentre of Dublin 19th century rag trade. O’Meara’s two nearest neighbours were Christopher McCauley, Hat Manufacturer, and Edward Loman, Hatter.
O’Meara served almost a decade at the Temple Bar Pub before he sold out to James Farley, Grocer and Spirit Merchant in 1844. James Farley knew the business here very well, having made but a short journey from 38 East Essex Street where he had operated as a Provisions dealer. James Farley’s reign at this old hostelery was of brief duration.
The Great Famine was raging across the country with unprecedented horror and devastation when William Cranston, a much respected Dublin publican, took the wheel in 1847. Temple bar was doing quite well at this point and Dublin’s commercial narrative as new businesses such as wholesale Wine Merchants, Glass Merchants, Paper Hanging Merchants, and General Merchants had moved into the street. Cranston was an enterprising publican who was here for the long haul by working diligently at his business.
At this time, Dublin was awash with money and a great new spirit of adventure and enterprise was abroad. Kingsbridge Railway Station had recently been completed and all the benefits of the steam age were at large. Hotels, guest houses and new businesses sprang up about the city in a real construction boom. But more industry and greater disposable income spelled trouble for the pub trade and for William Cranston.
During the middle to late 1850s, a new wave of Provisions, Dealers and Dram Grocers had infiltrated the Temple Bar area. They operated the practise of ‘dram-drinking’. The Dram Grocers allowed customers to buy spirits in an off-sales liquor store capacity and illegally consume them on the premises behind screens and makeshift partitions. This practice created much financial hardship for the authorities and regular or legitimate vintners (wine merchants).
William Cranston was a member of the License Trade delegation who traveled to lobby the British Parliament in Westminster, London, in 1863 to have this practice forbidden by legislation. Within two years, the practice was outlawed and in 1865 the Vintners and Grocers emerged to form a stronger new trade association, the L.V. & G.A. (Licensed Vintners & Grocers Association).
The Fenian Brotherhood were preparing a revolutionary armed protest against British rule in Ireland in 1865 when John Lambert, grocer, wine and spirit merchant, bought this public auction from the now retiring William Cranston. Lambert was an experienced Dublin publican who also traded at 38 City Quay. He was also a thrifty one and within three years had sold out for a handsome financial profit to John Joseph and Ann Cranwell.
A lot of tenant buildings now existed in the street and this larger football may have enticed the Cranwells to set up business here. However, luck was not on their side as some five years after acquiring the pub, John Joseph passed away on the premises in 1873. His widow struggled on, bravely at first but this was a difficult business in the 1870s for a woman on her own.
The name P.J.Hartnet was first seen above the door here in 1880 and what now become a prosperous Victorian street of Booksellers, Bookbinders, Iron Manufacturers, Printers, Goldsmiths and all the respected merchants that provided a service to affluent Victorian society.
Temple bar was not a dominant high street shopping location like Grafton Street in this era, but still a much sought after commercial location that visibly reflected Dublin’s privileged position as the second city of the British empire. P.J. Hartnet benefited richly from this economic windfall remaining here for 11 years.
In 1891, P.J. Hartnet was succeeded by Josephine Purcell, who arrived in time to see 100,000 Irish people on October the 11th, throng the city streets and silent reverence to follow the funeral of Charles Stewart Parnell, Ireland’s ‘uncrowned king’.
Josephine had barely settled in at the Temple bar when she was out again, having sold the premises in 1892 to James Byrne who himself was to stay but two years.
Patrick and Bridget Ramsbottom made their debut here in July 1894. Bridget was as busy as a bee in the years that followed and she needed to be for the Irish beekeepers association had their headquarters at number 44. Patrick Ramsbottom died suddenly in 1898 and the bold Brigid traded on a loan for another 7 years until the Gaffney Brothers relieved her in 1905.
By 1909 we find Edward Welch & Company, Grocers, Tea, Wine & Spirit Merchants trading here from what was then a typical Victorian-era pub grocery.
The Chinese have a proverb expressing the wish that we may live in interesting times. This most appropriately sums up the fortunes of Edward Walsh who was pulling the pints behind the bar here on Easter Monday 1916 when the firing broke out on nearby Dublin’s Sackville Street, as this city erupted into armed insurrection against British rule.
Edward saw out the War of Independence from this pub and later saw British troops marching down the city quays for the last time. As this country gained his freedom, he also witnessed the gloom and despair of the Irish Civil War as brother fought against brother until Charles Archer succeeded him in 1923.
Within 2 years, Charles Archer witnessed the emerging automobile industry come to Temple Bar as Stanley, Smith and Co. traded from number 44. For the remaining 26 years of his long 10 year here, he saw little adventure and little economic enterprise in a country ravaged by the economic war, World War II, mass immigration and unemployment.
The Fitzgerald family, whose descendants now operate the Joycean Pub, Fitzgerald’s of Sandycove, arrived here in 1951. They remained for a decade until they were succeeded by William Flannery in 1961.
Your current hosts, the Cleary family are second-generation Dublin publicans whose family previously owned the famous Dropping well pub in Milltown, county Dublin, which was first licensed as a community morgue during the Irish famine in 1847.
They acquired the Temple bar in 1992 and painstakingly began the long-term goal of creating a licensed emporium that reflects all the historic value and traditionalism of a heritage pub, simultaneously incorporating the energy, the vitality and social requirements of a new, vibrant and contemporary culture.