Monday, 30 October 2017

Which pub is the oldest
pub in Limerick City?

The Locke Bar on George’s Quay … is this the oldest pub in Limerick City? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Here is a conundrum or a puzzle for this unusual Bank Holiday weekend.

Which pub is the oldest pub in Limerick City?

It’s a question for historians and Limerick residents alike.

The Locke Bar on 3 George’s Quay is a gastro pub that claims to be on the site of one of Limerick’s oldest pubs, dating back to 1724.

The pub is on a prominent corner beside the banks of the Abbey River, on a tree-lined quay, a few doors away from both Barrington’s Hospital and across the street from Saint Mary’s Cathedral. It is just a few steps away from King John’s Castle and the Hunt Museum.

This ‘olde world’ pub has old wood panelling and open fires. At lunch time it is popular with barristers and solicitors from the courts nearby, but it is equally popular with tourists in the evening and is known for its live music.

Because the Locke Bar is so close to I have Saint Mary’s Cathedral, I have often enjoyed lunch there. But is it the oldest pub in Limerick City?

Enjoying lunch at the Locke Bar on George’s Quay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Although the Locke Bar is on the site of a pub that opened in 1724, some Limerick people who challenge its claims say it has been opened for about 20 years as the Locke Bar, and that this does not make it the city’s oldest pub.

That approach to definition would rule out many pubs from similar claims. After all, the Guinness Book of Records says Ireland’s oldest pub is Sean’s Bar in Athlone. Not only is this not its original name, but it’s not even the original ninth century building, and by no stretch of the imagination could Sean’s Bar have remained in the same family, continuing the same business tradition.

Katie Daly’s on The Parade … is this the oldest pub in Limerick City? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Recently, on a number of social media platforms, the Locke Bar sent congratulations to Tony and Grainne who opening Katie Daly’s Heritage Pub and Kitchen last month at 12 The Parade, on the corner with Convent Square where Nicholas Street arrives in front of King John’s Castle.

But the name Katie Daly’s is modern by today’s standards, and the pub itself claims, modestly, to date from 1789, making it 65 years younger that the Locke Bar by any of the standards that might be used to date the age of a pub.

Then, there are those who say JJ Bowles at 8 Thomond Gate is the oldest pub in Limerick. This is a great rugby pub, only seven minutes’ walk and shouting distance from Thomond Park, with a riverside beer garden.

The pub is beloved by Munster rugby fans. But it seems to date from 1794, making it five years younger than Katie Daly’s and much younger than the Locke Bar, although its defenders are quick to point out that the building claims to date back to the 1600s.

If the discussion is about the oldest pub in Limerick, should the discussion be confined to Englishtown and Irishtown?

If the boundaries are extended, then how far can we go? After all, Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty was opened in 1620. But that’s not in the city.

So which pub is Limerick’s oldest pub?

Thomond Bridge with JJ Bowles across the river and Thomond Park in the distance, to the right … is this the oldest pub in Limerick City? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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