What a deal!
Synonymous is defined as ‘having or expressing the same idea’ and Guinness has most certainly been that with Dublin for over 250 years.
On the 31st December 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease, at £45 per year, for the 4-acre Rainsford brewery at St James’s Gate that had been on the market for almost ten years. The brewery now covers an area in excess of 60 acres, and having bought the original property the long-term lease is now redundant. A copy of the lease can be seen under glass on the floor of the atrium of the Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness is one of the most successful brands in the world, and is brewed in 60 countries and available in more than 120. Recent figures show annual sales of 850 million litres (1.5 billion pints!) and that is a long way from 1769 when Arthur first export of six-and-a-half barrels to Britain. Soon afterwards, in 1778, he started selling his dark beer. The most famous, porter or single stout (sometimes called ‘plain’), is remembered in Flann O’Brien’s The Workman’s Friend as ‘A pint of plain is your only man.’
That says it all!
Famous for its advertising campaigns that gave us ‘My Goodness, My Guinness’, and ‘Guinness is Good For You’ the opening of the Guinness Storehouse in December 2000 offers a unique experience that has made it Ireland’s top visitor attraction. Housed in the former fermentation plant the seven-storey building was the first multi-storey steel-framed construction in Ireland when it was completed in 1902. It surrounds a glass atrium that is shaped like a giant pint of Guinness. And on each floor visitors can learn about the history of Guinness; details of Arthur’s life; brewing; transport and, of course, advertising. There are numerous interactive exhibitions that really bring the ‘story of Guinness’ to life. You can even learn how to ‘pull the perfect pint’.
On the top floor, or ‘Seventh Heaven,’ is the famous Gravity Bar with its 360 degrees view over Dublin. It’s a wonderful way to end a visit, and by the noise and chatter I heard while sipping a pint it was easy to understand its popularity. Same again!
Ah, the Black Stuff – magic!
Anne & ‘Flann’
It’s not often that you can get a chance to meet one of your heroes, but Val O’Donnell’s one-man show about the life and times of Flann O’Brien was pretty close. His performance in the United Arts Club was informative, lively and throughly entertaining. The setting, in a large upstairs room, had the feeling of an evening in a friendly parlour, would definitely have met with the great man’s approval. And as it happened, his sister-in-law Anne O’Nuallain was in attendance, lending an air of authenticity and continuation to proceedings. After his introduction ‘Flann’ entered the room with a bicycle pump (think The Third Policeman!), a few books under his arm…and, of course, a pint of Guinness. As theatrical props go it has to be the best ever – slainte. Dressed in a black, three-piece suit and the obligatory black hat, ‘Flann’ looked the part and gave a wonderful performance that had the audience grinning and laughing out loud at some of the stories. We heard about O’Brien’s early life, college days and work in the Department of Local Government from where he was forced to leave in 1953.
‘Flann’ & Bicycle Pump!
This was due to his barely veiled observation of his boss who demanded his early dismissal. He had published his first book, At Swim-Two-Birds, in 1939 to great critical acclaim. It was praised by the great British writer, Graham Greene, who recommended it to hs publishers, Longmans. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Dylan Thomas, among others, thought highly of it, but sadly, it never made the mainstream breakthrough that his writing has since done. ‘Flann’ recited pieces from various books, The Dalkey Archive, The Hard Life, his Irish Times column An Cruiskeen Lawnand other satirical work. They were challenging at the time of their writing (part of the reason why they never received the acclaim they deserved) and still have a resonance today. Altogether it was a tour-de-force and left me (and others, no doubt) wondering where my Flann O’Brien books were and that I should really dip into them again. Just before he finished ‘Flann’ recited with perfect rhythm and feeling what is probably O’Brien’s most famous piece The Workman’s Friend, otherwise known as A Pint Of Plain Is Yer Only Man, and if you closed your eyes for a moment you could almost feel that the great man was in the room. A special night – I’ll drink to that.
‘Flann’ & Don