Historical facts about Irish pubs you might not have heard of

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Fascinating historical information about Irish pubs.

Did you know that pubs were once used to store corpses? Or was it illegal to drink on St. Patrick’s Day?

Here are some little-known facts about pubs, according to Kevin Martin’s book “Have Ye No Homes To Go To? The History of the Irish Pub.”

Old Irish law dictated that pubs were to be open 24 hours a day.

Under Brehon Law, local kings were required to have their own bruigu / brughaid, or brewer, who was required to have “a cauldron never dry, a dwelling on a public thoroughfare and a welcome for all faces” .

The bruidean, which was to be located at a crossroads, was to offer hospitality to all who walked through the gates and was to remain open 24 hours a day.

Ireland’s oldest pub and the pub with the oldest graffiti.

After many years of arguing, the owners of Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, and Brazen Head in Dublin took to national radio to determine which of their establishments was Ireland’s oldest pub.

Sean’s Bar has provided strong evidence suggesting the presence of commercial premises at the site dating back to AD 900, which has been verified by archaeologists and historians.

The Brazen Head, who had no such evidence and was forced to admit defeat, may have found some consolation when a signature engraved on one of their windows was confirmed to be from 1726.

The small handwriting says, “John Langan stopped here on August 7, 1726”. It was awarded the title of oldest graffiti in the country.


The Normans introduced wine bars to Ireland.

In the 12th century, the Normans, great wine lovers, invaded part of Ireland. They imported wines that were initially managed by wine merchants, or winegrowers, and delivered to the cellars of the chateaux of the Norman lords. Occasionally wine tastings were held and they eventually started selling the surplus wine locally.

Taverns, from the Latin word taberna, emerged as meeting places where food and alcohol were served.

Dublin’s Winetavern Street (vicus tabernariorum vini in Latin, meaning “the street of taverns”) was the main distribution and retail center.

Local pubs were used to store corpses.

Pubs were often used as temporary storage places, or even morgues, for corpses. In fact, the Coroners Act of 1846 decreed that a corpse must be brought to the nearest pub for storage until other arrangements could be made.

The beer cellars were cool and slowed down the decomposition of bodies. It was even common for publicans to have marble tables in their cellars for autopsies. This legislation remained in force until 1962.

The reason Irish pubs have last names on the doors.

After a law was passed in 1872, it became a legal requirement to display the owner’s name on the front door of a pub. The legacy of this law has become something of a tradition and remains one of the unique characteristics of the Irish pub.

Unfortunately, the change in legislation has resulted in a drop in the number of colorful and inventive pub names across the country.

Travelers were legally entitled to a drink.

A law from the era of coach travel allowed travelers who were three miles from home to drink alcohol or refreshments outside of normal hours. In the city of Dublin, the limit has been extended to five miles.

However, the client must have “traveled in good faith” and not just for the purpose of a drink. Many pubs took advantage of the law to stay open longer until the law changed in 1943, with the widespread use of cars.

It was once illegal to drink on St. Patrick’s Day.

The celebrations now associated with St. Patrick’s Day have started in the United States.

But in Ireland the party, which falls during the Lent season, was once a day of abstinence and the only place where alcohol was sold was in the members’ lounge of the Royal Dublin Dog Show.

The Irish were not allowed to buy a drink on the same day until the law changed in 1973.

However, today St. Patrick’s Day now sees more than 13 million pints of Guinness sold worldwide, four times the amount sold on average per day.


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