Over the past 200 years, a veritable shrine of antiquity, Harry Byrne's, has had more than its share of famous neighbours.
In its infancy this premises would have been visible to Lord Charlemont of Marino House, who in 1776 had commissioned Sir William Chambers to design Marino Casino as a perpetual memorial to his love of all things Italian, where he had enjoyed such memorable years as a young boy.
Some years later, a builder named Frolliot, who after a dispute with Lord Charlemont, decided to erect the present Marino Crescent on a site that would obstruct his Lordship's view of Dublin Bay. Charlemont was outraged and reacted by increasing the toll charges on his turnpike gate in Fairview, attempting to severely penalise Frolliot for his audacious behaviour, as all his building materials would have to pass through this gate. But the wily Frolliot proved that he was master once again, he avoided all toll dues by floating his goods across by barge from East Wall Road.
The novelists William Carleton and Bram Stoker were born at no. 3 & 15 Marino Crescent respectively. Stoker came to fame in later years as the creator of Dracula. Both would have been very familiar with Harry Byrne's, as was the famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde.
An Insiders Tour
From the exterior Harry Byrne's is a most `un-pub-like' edifice, appearing more like an affluent red bricked Victorian dwelling of the last century. But on entering the premises you are greeted by a living museum of culture.
Nothing has changed, except the light fittings, in almost 100 years. Standing out before your eyes is an interior of yellow pitch pine, which is perfected by sumptuously carved high Victorian ceilings - the hallmark of the Victorian era. A number of pitch pine partitions segregate this old pub, adding an atmosphere of comfort, privacy and charm. A mixture of mosaic tiles and original wooden floors add a dimension to the premises that exudes genuine traditional values. You will find nothing artificial in this pub - everything before your eyes has been around for 100 years.
The Snug Bar
Sauntering down the narrow corridor, you next enter the Snug Bar, a name which on visual contact appears quite misleading for this large haven of austerity.
This is again a bar that exudes solid
Victorian values, except in this case, the Snug Bar is the product of Tom Byrne's restoration project of 1993-4. But you will find nothing of neo-Victorian substance here. All the materials used are 100 years or older. On the walls you can survey the original plans for the Clontarf and Hill of Howth Tramway, which were published in 1898. And the beautiful back bar could once be seen in a retail shop in Gloucester.
Leaving the snug behind us now, we enter the Courtyard, which is one of the most popular and stylish beer gardens in Ireland. Stroll about at your leisure and survey the beautiful terra-cotta archways which will remind you of a distant wondrous age —sadly now forgotten in the mists of time. All the artefacts here are authentic including the cast iron gutters and pavement slabs. Relax here and savour your favourite brew!
The Corbett Bar
Rambling inside now to the Corbett Bar, you are confronted by an entity - again part of the restoration project - that has been assiduously assembled with painstaking attention to detail. This bar, which took over a year to complete, has been constructed using all the same materials that were used in the original pub. Have a gander about and survey in detail the splendid craftsmanship! Look at the beautifully carved mahogany wood of the back bar, over 100 years old, and still wearing the patina of its years superbly.
The floorboards on which you walk were salvaged from a Napoleonic Barracks in Burgundy, having been first used nearly 200 years ago. And if you cast your eyes upwards, away from your pint of Beamish, you will see that the light defuser and dome are true Victorian artefacts - having been constructed in 1896.
Yes, 200 years on, Harry Byrne's is a true showcase of antiquity - one of the genuine cultural jewels and heritage pubs of Dublin. This history of the pub was written and compiled by Eamonn Casey. A good friend of Harrys.