A licensed premises formerly known as Downey’s on Upper George’s Street is easily the most famous bar to ever open in Dún Laoghaire, as it was renowned for a strike that lasted fourteen years, making it quite possibly the longest strike of all time.
According to an excellent book by Kevin C. Kearns, Dublin Pub Life & Lore An Oral History, it all kicked off in February 1939 when the proprietor Mr. Patrick Downey sacked a bar man called Patrick Young for no apparent reason. Downey rejected a union demand to re-instate him. When the union called a strike, and prohibited union members from working on his premises, Downey reportedly “couldn’t care less.”
The war of attrition dragged on and on and on and on…It became written about all over the globe, including a story for Time magazine, and lasted longer than both World Wars put together.
During World War II, a German u-boat stopped an Irish ship in 1943. The weather conditions were atrocious, so rather than the customary check of identity papers and permits, the Germans interrogated the Irish captain Patrick Hennessy (Patricks everywhere in this story) by shouting. When he told them him he was from Dún Laoghaire, Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Oskar Bernbeck roared, “Is the strike still on in Downey’s?”
The strike came to an eventual end when Patrick Downey died in 1953 and the union reached an agreement with the new owner. After changing hands a few times, Downey’s was demolished in 1976 to make way for the Dún Laoghaire shopping centre.
I think Downey’s is a good starting point for a series about Dún Laoghaire’s old pubs, which is inspired by the amazing series called Alphabet of Lost Pubs over at Spitalfields Life, which is one of the best local history blogs I’ve ever seen and a hugely entertaining and informative resource about East London.
I’d love to compile and collate the old pubs of Dún Laoghaire and I’m wide open to suggestions with bars of yesteryear with an interesting back story, so please place your suggestions in the comments below, or drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sláinte, and Happy New Year!