Findmypast investigates the anatomy of Ireland's "biggest export" - the Irish pub.
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In these days of iPads, 3D televisions and virtual reality, it can be comforting to experience something that feels old and anachronistic. An institution that has steadfastly resisted the onslaught of progress for generations, shining brilliantly as a rare example of people just getting something right.
In Ireland, that institution is the pub.
The traditional Irish pub is a cacophony of mirrors, brass and varnished wood. Ageing advertisements for, Powers Gold Whisky, Smithwick’s and an assortment of other breweries and distilleries – some long defunct – look down on you as you saunter to the bar and order your pint of Guinness (Guinness doesn’t travel well, it tastes better in Ireland, or at least everyone will tell you so).
Traditional Irish pubs differ from the Irish pubs in the US. A traditional Irish pub doesn’t have 20 flat-screen TVs, loud music or table service. In most traditional pubs, the décor reflects a bygone era of
dark wood and patterned ceilings, with ephemera festooning the walls that tells the story of the pub’s history.
The only music you’re likely to hear is live, as local musicians playing fiddles, guitars, accordions and bodhrans entertain the regulars – and themselves – with traditional songs, and no trip to Ireland is complete without spending an evening in the pub listening to live music.
Depending on the pub you visit, you may notice old men sitting or standing at the bar. They are likely to have been drinking there since they were 15, when they were taken for their first drink by their father, who had been drinking there since they were 14. A good pub is handed down from generation to generation in Ireland. If you need to know any local history, they’re the guys to ask, they know everything that has ever happened within a five mile radius.
Now, food. Don’t expect much. Irish bars in the US may have tricked you into believing that you can walk into any pub in Ireland and immediately be tucking into fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, chicken wings, maybe a steak. More often than not, you’ll be lucky to be able to get a bag of peanuts or some Tayto chips, which you must remember to call ‘crisps’. Luckily, Tayto make some fine crisps.
Traditional Irish pubs are part community centre, part local museum, part vendor of alcoholic drinks and all great.
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