Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; Michael Collins, the man and the whiskey

What would be a St. Patty’s Day Countdown without a suggestion or two for the perfect Irish Whiskey to toast in the holiday?  My personal favorite for just the right drop of the “water of life” is Michael Collins.  (Well, let me clarify that and say “one” of my favorites!  There is a reasonable chance this not the only whiskey to feature in our countdown.)

This fantastic whiskey comes from the “last independent distillery in Ireland”, the Cooley Distillery in County Louth on the northeast coast of the Republic of Ireland.  Besides being very, very drinkable, Michael Collins is best known because it bares the name of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes and someone who should be remembered by all who celebrate during the Saint Patrick’s Day season.

Collins was born in West Cork in 1890 to a family of 8 children.  He was the youngest of three sons and his father’s namesake.  The young Michael was only six years old when his father died.  On his deathbed, the elder Collins was said to have told his family the boy would one day do great things for Ireland, certainly a prophetic statement.

Michael Collins was among those who took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, the event that set in motion a pathway to Irish independence.  In the years following the Rising, Collins rose to became a leader in the Republican movement.  He led a successful underground guerilla war against the Crown, essentially crushing the British Intelligence forces in Ireland, and grew into a mythic figure in the process.  He subsequently took part in the negotiations with the United Kingdom for Ireland’s independence.  The treaty he signed, however, caused a split in the republican movement and  a brutal civil war followed.  Collins was shot and killed in the town of Beal na mBlath in his native County Cork in 1922.

Michael Collins may only have lived barely more than thirty years, but in that time he accomplished things most men could only dream to accomplish in a full lifetime.  There is so much more about the “Big Fellow” I could say, but many authors have done a far better and more thorough job of telling his story than I ever possibly could.  So instead I ask that this Saint Patrick’s Day you raise a glass with me, perhaps of Michael Collins Whiskey, and toast to one of Ireland’s great patriots.

By Dave McBride



Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; The Guinness Storehouse

Let’s be honest, when people on this side of the pond think of Ireland, many of them conjure up images in their mind of green rolling hills, ancient castles, and pint glasses slowly filling with that delicious black nectar we call Guinness.  So while we anxiously look forward to the holiday season of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s hard not to pine a bit for a toast of that legendary stout.

Take my word for it, for whatever reason the Guinness is better in Ireland.  I have heard many many theories as to why this is, but all I know for certain is that it is true.  And it is even better yet at the Guinness Storehouse itself, which is not surprisingly Ireland’s number one tourist attraction.

If you have never been to the Guinness Storehouse, prepare yourself to read an article on the American Public House Review that is certain to fill you with not only a longing to head to this epicenter of brewing history and culture, but also a little jealousy and maybe the spirit of the holiday as well.  A couple of years ago, Madeleine Best Henn sent APHR a story from her pilgrimage to Dublin and for everyone who dreams of going there, it provides all the motivation you will need to hop the pond.

by Dave McBride

Published in: on March 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Countdown to St. Pattys Day; a tribute to Luke Kelly

Today’s stop on Pub Talk’s Countdown to St. Patty’s Day takes us to the enchanting world of Irish music as we pay tribute to one of it’s iconic singers, Luke Kelly.

a portrait of Luke Kelly by Brendan Higgins

Luke Kelly was born in Dublin in 1940 and grew up in a working class family.  He spent some of his early years as a musician in England, but returned to Dublin where he met the men who would soon become the Dubliners.  The band made its start at the now famous O’Donoghue’s Pub sessions.  I was told Kelly himself suggested the band name the group “The Dubliners” after the James Joyce book, but I don’t know that for certain.  (Makes a great story though, if true)

Kelly had that combination of frustration and tenderness in his voice that somehow defines the very spirit of Dublin before the Celtic Tiger years.  His delivery was no doubt one of passion and strength.  But there was a palpable sincerity to him that few singers in any genre have ever repeated.

O'Donoghues Pub in Dublin

The Dubliners are a group that have been somewhat lost to the american Irish-folk scene, but perhaps that was not entirely an accident.  I once heard the band’s fiddler John Sheahan explain how when they came to United States to play the Ed Sullivan Show.  Sullivan refused to allow them to play their hit “Seven Drunken Nights”, a playful song with a lyric not befitting Sullivan’s famously stringent moral standards.  The band played something else instead, but the experience convinced them that the States were just too stuffy for their brand of raucous pub music and they never really tried to break into the market again.  In hindsight, it was probably the best decision they ever made because the Dubliners and Luke Kelly certainly didn’t need any restraints.

Rather than present a song from Luke Kelly himself or the Dubliners, I would like to present you with a wonderful tribute to Kelly by a great singer named Billy Mulligan.  We presented Mulligan’s “Song for Luke Kelly” some time back on the APHR JukeboxClick here and enjoy!

by Dave McBride

In Dublin’s fair city

As I mentioned in my article “Valhalla on the Liffey,”  the plan for my first visit to Dublin was to tour as many of the city’s historic pubs as I possibly could.  The idea was to eat some dinner before heading out on our “crawl”.  But as the article says, I never crawled any further than my barstool at the Brazen Head.  However, before dinner I did manage a couple of quick stops at two of Dublin’s most famous watering holes. 

The first boasts perhaps the most beautiful exterior of any pub in Dublin, O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street.  While the license dates back centuries, the present day pub was built in the first half of the 20th Century.  However, you can see the kind of influence this place has had on Irish pubs in the United States.  How many spots in the U.S. have been influenced by this place?

The other pub I managed to get in a quick visit to, and had all intentions of going back later in the evening, was the Stag’s Head on Dame Court.  You will have a hard time finding anything written about Dublin that does not mention this place.  It is a bonafide Dublin institution.

The Stag’s Head sneaks up on you, being tucked away on a street that can easily be mistaken for an alley.  But make no mistake, when it comes to Dublin’s taverns this is the cathedral.  It’s has a majestic interior, but still manages to keep the kind of warm atmosphere one quickly recognizes in all of Dublin’s great pubs.  I didn’t manage to take any photos of the interior of the Stag’s Head, so I guess you will just have to hop over the pond and check it out for yourself.  Believe me, it’s worth the trip.

by Dave McBride

%d bloggers like this: