We were in for a toastie and soup lunch in one of our favourite pubs the other day, Fallons in The Coombe. On the rear side of the menu was a fascinating history of the pub, stretching from the initial origins in the early 1600’s, right up to the current state of the pub.
We knew that the pub was old and traditional, but we had no idea that the pub could be traced back to 1620. There was also a load of other items of historical interest relating to the pub that were news to us. We’ve asked Fallon’s if we can republish this history of the pub and they have obligingly agreed.
This delightful old relic has been with us a long time. How long? Difficult to pinpoint but, while remaining within the bounds of historical ethics, we can safely say early 1600s and possibly much earlier, as one of the oldest suburban thoroughfares passed through the Coombe.
But irrespective of the precise date of origin, you will find that this is one f the most fabled and charismatic taverns of Dublin.
By the late 1600s we find that many French Huguenots, fleeing the persecutions of Louis XIV, had settled here. Fiercely Protestant, they brought with them their love of tanning, milling, and weaving and, using the open wasters of the Poddle, developed the Irish silk and woolen industry. By the 1790s however, during Patrick McCann’s term as landlord of this house, their way of life was in rapid decline as the Liberties were then a ‘scene of abject poverty, depraved morals, deplorable sickness, and a magazine of fury’, according to a contemporary Dublin Castle source.
Dan Donnelly, Ireland’s prize-fighting champion and the only pugilist ever to be Knighted, was pulling the pints here in 1818 and knocking them back himself with an enthusiasm equaled only by the manner that he bowled over the ladies. This was Dan’s second foray into the licensed trade- having previously traded at 89 Capel Street- after he had beaten George Cooper (no relation of Henry), the champion of England, at a famous brawl at Donnelly’s Hollow on December 13th, 1815. Dan was a fine boxer but a poor publican and, although revered by the Bull Alley Yeoman, quickly found himself incurring huge debts once again due to his reckless lifestyle during which he was seldom short of female company in his lodgings across the way at the corner of Francis Street. He died penniless at his last pub in Greek Street after which his body was reputedly ‘resurrected’ by the Sack-em-ups of York Street.
But while Dan’s tenure was a short one at what was then No. 127 the Coombe, his successor Patrick Hughes and son Henry remained at this house until John Tinnelly relieved them in 1845. During these years this old house often echo to the sounds of blind ballad singer Michael ‘Zozimus’ Moran.
Next, around 1854, came James Murphy and later James Downling, Grocer and Spirit Merchant, who were surrounded by Graces:John, Builder and Timber Merchant at No. 124, Maryanne, Grocer and Druggist at N0. 125, and brother Thomas, Provisions Dealer at No. 127. No wonder it all became too much for them, but not for the next occupant of Fallons, Joseph Franklin Jnr, who in the 1800s also traded as a seed merchant here in addition to the large custom he received from the Patrick Street Market stalls, the occupants of which were decidedly scarce on sanctifying Grace.
The Davin family were here for a short time in the early 1900s before Michael O’Toole saw out the War of Independence from this place. O’Toole was a shrewd and enterprising publican, but we have no idea if he kept a diary of Dubliners like his more illustrious namesake over on Burgh Quay who, incidentally, has been spotted here on occasions. Michael Grainger and T.J. Eastwood, whose family could easily relate with the sporting world of Dan Donnell,y were here before John Fallon began a 40 year reign of the Coombe. This old pub, which has been sitting cosily at the corner of the Coombe guarding generations of Liberties culture, is today a marvel to the eyes and the sense. No nuances, no pretenses and no nonsense here! A plain and genuine Liberty pub, alive, alive oh!, with character and tradition. This place is crowded and swinging by nightfall but to see it at its best call in early morning. Order your pint and throw an eye over the old shop. Solid pitch and yellow pine all over, local Dolphins Barn brick, all original, including the back bar which has been here since Joe Franklin’s time. Look out for the collection of artifacts again, all genuine – scattered around the shelves: a well preserved hydrometer from the whiskey bonding days, a gallon of Golden Spirit whiskey colouring essence, a mirror from the days of D.W.D. Irish Whiskey and two old gas heaters which are still in use. Take a glance at the collection of old bottles and see how many you can recognise! Celebration Ale? Certainly, that was the one with the kick of a mule! And who’s that sober looking bird with two pints finely balanced on her beak?It’s the Toucan of course! Now, you won’t find too many of those signs about today.
If you have the time, stay and meet the great mix of people who regularly imbibe here! The boys from the Corpo, the professional set, stars of the screen, sport and rock and a rousing local trade. Now if you expect some gastronomic delights- forget it, you’re in the wrong house! But you will find good, wholesome, country cut batch sandwiches – and home mad soups. The ideal foundation for more porter!
On your way out, reflect on poor old Dan Donnelly and all the good times he had here and across the road at the corner of Francis Street. May his long arms now rest in peace!