The Irishman Who Dug A Massive Underground Complex Under His Gaff?

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: Today, we visit an eccentric Irishman who inherited a mansion in London and dug a massive illegal underground complex beneath his gaff…just because! William Lyttle (1931–2010) was a civil engineer, and when destiny brought him to 121 Mortimer Road in Hackney during the swinging sixties he decided his fancy new digs 20 rooms weren’t quite enough, so he excavated a wine cellar in the basement.

So far, so sane. However, Lyttle discovered that digging was strangely stimulating for him. He said he’d “found a taste for the thing”. So his little dabble with making a single subterranean room turned into a forty-year addiction. The Irishman soon mined not only his own grounds but single-handedly generated a massive, multilevel tunnel complex that would put an ant colony to shame. His labyrinth boasted lofty rooms, and grand underground avenues 18 metres (59 ft) long. Contrasting this were little shafts barely a child’s height. Most were lit with adhoc electrical lighting.

Foreshadowing the Shawshank Redemption or perhaps inspired by the Great Escape, William Lyttle dumped the dirt discreetly about his garden and local parks. However, in a possible symptom of his mental health, he also filled entire rooms of his above-ground domicile. So even as his secret project flourished his once fine mansion fell into disrepair.

Obviously, this improvised underworld was a very dangerous undertaking.

Wrecklessly the adventurous civil engineer invaded the earth beneath his wealthy neighbours’ homes too and excavated as deep as the water table. His greatest and most illegal excavation connected his mansion with the local Dalston Lane rail tunnel.

Inevitably the project aroused unwanted attention. Yes, there had been rumours the eccentric Paddy was up to something. Considering the times it would’ve been amazing if he wasn’t considered a possible terrorist by Scotland Yard. But the penny dropped when a local publican expressed concerns about his cellar collapsing. And the water supply became disrupted…and lighting a mini underground village drained local power supplies. Then the understandable complaints rolled in. Bizzare noises in the nighttime. Inexplainable sinkholes appearing in neighbours flowerbeds, gaping chasms in the leafy yuppie streets.

Incredibly (if you’ve never worked for Fingal County Council) despite Hackney Council receiving tip-offs and serious complaints they did feck all for decades. Eventually, an ultrasound inspection of the grounds of Lyttle’s gaff was carried out in 2006, and the rest is history. Sadly (for him) Lyttle was evicted in 2006. Then Hackney Borough Council began the mammoth mission of backfilling the Mole-mans tunnels with aerated concrete. Over 33 tonnes of soil and debris were removed! In 2008 the High Court made him pay £293,000 in expenses. They generously housed Lyttle in a hotel for three years. Finally, he was rehoused on the top floor of a high-rise apartment building, hoping this would put an end to his antics. A not-so-random inspection of his new “digs”. The inspector discovered he had knocked a hole in a dividing wall!

We’ll give the last word to “The Mole Man of Hackney” himself.

When journalists asked why he did it all, he said, “I’m just a man who loves to dig. There is great beauty in inventing things that serve no purpose.”

Charlie Haughey Conman, Liar, and Hypocrite

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: On this day in 1980, Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey made his notoriously hypocritical address to the Irish people live on RTE. The Republic of Ireland was experiencing a massive budget deficit, one of the worst in the developed world.

Unemployment was approaching 10% and rising.

And whose fault was it? The decadent Dáil members? The aristocratic Catholic Church. The near feudal state of socio-economic policies that the middle class were maintaining for their benefit? Nope. It was the impoverished, hungry, jobless working class.

Haughey’s insincere scolding began with: ‘I wish to talk to you this evening about the state of the nation’s affairs, and the picture I have to paint is not, unfortunately, a very cheerful one.’ However, it was the next sanctimonious admonishment which would become infamous in hindsight.

“As a community, we are living way beyond our means.”

Then, in one of the greatest acts of political gaslighting in 20th century Irish history, C.J. said ‘apportioning blame, however, is not going to get us anywhere’.

To say Champagne Charlie lived like a banana republic playboy-dictator is a gross understatement. With Irish citizens experiencing poverty and hardship at record levels, our vane 3-time Taoiseach and his cronnies were cynically lining their pockets. Whilst he was telling us to “tighten our belts” he was wearing Parisian-tailored Charvet shirts worth more than a months wages.

The hawk-faced robber baron bought a 14 bedroom Abbeville mansion and it’s 250-acre estate in Kinsealy, County Dublin. He owned racehorses and a luxury yacht called Celtic Mist. Oh, and his own private island called Inishvickillane! And these are just some of the assets he didn’t bother to hide. Neither did he ever disclose where these Midas-like riches came from. Because in his greed and arrogance, he felt completely entitled to garnish the finances of his impoverished serfs like a feudal lord.

Years later, the Moriarty Tribunal confirmed for the sucker Irish voters what the dogs in the street already knew. Whilst Haughey was lecturing Ireland’s poor for borrowing to feed and clothe their kids, he had personal debts of £1.143 million with Allied Irish Banks.

What could be more romantic than striking oil? Well, that’s what happened on Valentine’s Day


in 1903 in the unlikely location of the cellar of a gaff near Mountjoy Square!

It turns out the “black gold”, which was actually more a milky paraffin slime, had been discovered a month before. However, the discreet owners of the site at number 100 Summerhill, had kept their fortuitous find secret till the local papers got wind.

So how could this precious commodity occur in the heart of inner city Dublin? British scientists incorrectly believed that peat bogs, which were abundant in their peasant colony, produced oil. Well, turns out the whole Summerhill neighbourhood was built on reclaimed land which was once an ancient bog. This seemed to confirm their erroneous theory.

So would Dublin be the new Dallas? Before you grab your pickaxes here comes the science bit. A prominent geologist of the day, Professor Grenville Cole, sent samples for testing. Sadly for the greedy British oil industry and the fledgling Dublin industry, results showed the fluid had little commercial value and the fountain itself was finite. Thus the bog theory was a case of correlation, not causation. Sure we wouldn’t know what to be doing with all that Saudi sheik billions anyway!


Frank Hopkins, Hidden Dublin (2007) Mercier Press

C. McCabe, Sins of the father: tracing the decisions that shaped the Irish economy (Dublin, 2011)

David Monagan, Forbes Nov 1, 2012

The Irishman Who Was Buried Alive For 61 Days and Lived to Tell the Tale

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: We briefly leave Dublin today to visit a mad Irishman in London, who was buried alive for 61 days…on purpose! Mick Meaney was a brawny Tipperary born boxer-turned-labourer living in 1960’s London.

His macabre world record attempt happened in the grim car park of a London lorry depot. To make things worse, the crazy Irish lad’s poor wife and kids back home in Ireland only heard about the stunt as it happened on the radio!

The event was promoted by another Irishman, eccentric Kerry native Butty Sugrue, who owned The Admiral Lord Nelson pub in Kilburn. Sugrue was no stranger to sensational acts either, styling himself as “Ireland’s Strongest Man” he was known for stunts like pulling a bus across Westminster Bridge with his teeth!

Training for the horrific stunt began in 1968 when Mick Meaney started sleeping in a coffin in The Admiral Lord Nelson pub. Eventually, the specially modified coffin with its courageous captive was transferred with much fanfare to the lorry depot and buried.

But Meaney was not the only action man looking for glory by being entombed alive. At exactly the same time in the US, another character called “Country” Bill White was attempting to break the same record. The BBC even organised a historic satellite link to allow the competitors to trash talk each other.

Celebrities of the day visited Meaney in his temporary grave, speaking to the cheerful stuntman using the pipe through which he also got his food, liquid, and oxygen.

The live burial was even discussed in the British House of Commons. Meaney’s daily underground regime involved waking at 7am in the morning in his grave and doing some very careful exercises within its tight confines. He would be given a newspaper and breakfast down his air pipe. He defecated and urinated through a hatch beneath him, which seeped into bags of lime. Through some superhuman willpower and a lot of whiskey, Mick Meaney reached the 61-day record.

Sadly, however, his herculean efforts were not recognised by the Guinness Book of Records because they had no official monitors there to confirm his conditions! Despite that his surreal act earned him legendary status among the Irish diaspora in London, countless free pints, and when he returned home to his wife and kids he was a local hero who had risen from the grave!

The Rathcormac Massacre In 1834

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: Another day, another British atrocity. Todays is the anniversary of the Rathcormac massacre in 1834. Although this one occurred in Cork it had an immediate and series effect on Dublin. During this nightmarish dark time in the country, with the spectre of the Great Famine already falling like a dark curtain across the land, peasants were hungry and greatly indebted to their absentee British landlords.

Yet despite this poverty Catholics were forced to pay tithes to the protestant Church of Ireland parish, whose land they occupied. Adding insult to injury, this land had originally been their own but was stolen from beneath their colonial masters. The Tithe was like a tax paid to the C.O.I, usually one-tenth of the already starvation rations of the produce wrung from subsistent peasant farms. This tax was paid twice monthly. As punishing as this was many were able to scrape it together, but when the British decided they wanted a cash levy instead the burden became a booth on the throat of the Catholic Irish.

Faced with no other option they refused to pay what they physically didn’t have. This was as much an act of helplessness as it was rebellion. This desperate withholding of payments melodramatically labelled “The Tithe War”.

The particular robber baron demanding financial tribute in Gortroe, a little hamlet near Rathcormac, was Archdeacon William Ryder. On this day in 1834 the fabulously wealthy and powerful “man of god” rode in to Gortroe with a company of soldiers of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards on horseback, a unit of foot soldiers of the 29th Regiment, and the every present heavy-handed local Royal Irish Constabulary.

Imagine how intimidated the ragged, starving natives felt as these heavily armed and well fed cavalry swept in to their precarious settlement. They had gathered in pathetic little groups around Bartlemy Cross in Gortroe, wielding the crude wooden spades and sods of turf of the peasant farmer. Imagine how helpless they felt knowing they could do nothing to protect their families, hopelessly outnumbered in the face of battle hardened armed soldiers.

The Archdeacon drew his eyes across the villagers of Rathcormac. His pitiless gaze first met that of the widow Johanna Ryan, and he demanded her tithe. Much to the shock of the assembled small army a group of villagers stepped forward. There`ll be no tithe today sir. We have nothing.

Archdeacon sneered at the trembling men and women as if they were dirt on his expensive boots. He turned to the man commanding his escort of soldiers “Captain Bagley, have your men draw bayonets!”. At the sight and sound of dozens of gleaming, sharp, bloodthirsty blades being produced the humble protestors scattered, running for their lives, many retreating in to the nearby home of the widow Ryan.

Furious at these impudent peasants the Archdeacon shouted “Captain Bagley, demolish the house!”. Surprisingly despite the might of the attack, the dwelling was not giving up its terrified occupants. Frustrated by this Captain Bagley roared at his men, ‘You must dislodge the peasants from the haggart and the yard. If they do not go quietly, you must try the bayonet. If that is not sufficient you must fire!” The peasants fought back, defending themselves against hopeless odds.

After the bullets and the blades and the fire and the screaming the Archdeacon and Captain Bagley got their devils due. They returned to their warm comfortable lives and left a dozen Irish families forever blighted. And so in that little corner of our island, as has happened thousands of times before and since, on an ordinary day of British justice, between 12 and 20 people were shot dead and 45 were wounded with three more dying later that day. All because they had nothing, having had their food, land and dignity stolen by their masters, all that they had left to take was their lives.

Highest Irish Pub in The World?

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: There’s an Irish pub at the base camp of Mount Everest! Some countries colonise others (not mentioning names..) and some countries build military bases on their allies’ turf. But Ireland has a different way of invading the world. We do it with overpriced gargle, plastic paddywhackery, and the greasiest food (and dancefloors) that money can buy. They’re like an alcoholic embassy, a dating agency, and a job centre rolled into one.

At 3.45 kms above sea level “The Irish Pub Namche” is the highest and arguably the remotest Irish pub in the world. The small town of Namche Bazaar in Khumbu of north-eastern Nepal, is a tiny trading post in Nepal, on the roof of the world. It can only be reached by flying into Lukla airfield, and landing successfully at what is officially the most dangerous airport in the world! After that, there are still several days trek into the Himalayas to reach the boozy Irish enclave.

Known as ‘the Gateway to Everest’ thousands of climbers and pilgrims use Namche-Bazaar as Base Camp, a place to acclimatise to the unforgiving atmosphere before attempting to conquer Everest. The surreal town is framed by the gigantic mountain range. Its thin unadulterated air rings with sounds of religious bells, the fluttering multicoloured flags of Buddhist stupas, and the odd bang of the bodhrán from a Dubliners CD played on loop.

When not planning your conquest of Earth’s highest mountain using the massive wall maps you can work on your altitude sickness whilst playing pool or darts. It’s a minor miracle how they got the pool table, beer barrels, and everything else flown in from Kathmandu to the deadly airport, then up the mountain on the back of underpaid porters and yaks from the airport.

The settlement’s erratic electricity is provided by the nearby Thame-Namche hydropower plant. The pub even has a micro-brewery, so even Everest isn’t safe from hipsters. Whilst serving the usual smorgasbord of gargle the Irish Pub sells some local Sherpa delights including fermented yak milk, the local delicacy Yak steak, and surreally Sisha in case your lungs aren’t punished enough

The 17th-century mass hysteria called “Irish Fright”

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: A warning from history today. 17th-century English experienced a murderous mass hysteria called “Irish Fright”. They believed innocent minority communities of Paddies were conspiring to massacre English people all over their country.

It is 1688, a period known as the Glorious Revolution. Catholic King James II’s was unable to escape to exile in France and his days are numbered. Across Britain, in addition to the regular Irish worker population, there are small units of demobilised Irish Jacobite soldiers. Most are sheepishly making their way home.

Anxiety about these “sleeper cells” feeds a moral panic in England that Ireland wants revenge for usurping their sympathetic king. Rumours circulate across the massive Protestant-majority country that their Irish servants, soldiers and workers are plotting to rise up across the land and massacre their masters and English locals.

In a 17th century case of “fake news” fictional reports arrive in London that the Irish have gone on the rampage burning rural towns and putting small cities to the sword. Any unexplained disappearance, disaster or disease was blamed on the foreign scapegoat.

There was a great anxiety among many English settlements which had made their fortune on the theft and destruction of their Irish counterparts that finally a reckoning for all their sins and plunder was about to occur.

Where there is guilt there is fear. And surely the revenge for centuries of barbarism would be unimaginably bloody? This lethal propaganda naturally stirs up the terrified English locals. Anti-Irish panic sparks pograms. Lifelong neighbours torch homes and take lives. Xenophobic chaos breakout. They quickly form militias and imprison or murder every Irish civilian in sight.

The Irish Fright lasts only days but it is long enough to result in the murder of hundreds of innocent “foreigners”, uproot and destroy centuries-old communities and alliances and change the relationship between the Irish allies in England forever.

The first tangible chapter in the violent fantasy was an account from the 13th of December 1688. Bishop Gilbert Burnet in London sent a desperate warning to his peers.

“Country Fellows [Irish agricultural workers] arriving about Midnight at Westminster caused a sudden Uproar, by Reporting that the Irish, in desperate Rage, were advancing to London, and putting all before them to Fire and Sword.”

When this message was received by another parish it was relayed again. This time with the additional fearmongering order “Rise, arm, arm! the Irish are cutting throats’. A well-respected clergyman from Leicestershire called Theophilus Brookes raised a militia so massive and relentless that even days after the fog of war had lifted he could still not disband them.

This feverish rallying call raised citizen armies in their thousands as hour by hour more bizarre, bloody and entirely fictional reports arrived. The Irish had besieged Birmingham, burned Cambridge and put Norwich to the sword! They were sparing none, neither women nor children. They would be at the gates of Whitehall by dawn to massacre Parliament.

Later investigation of the source of the catastrophic lies pointed at Orangist sympathisers. These disciples of King William, particularly Marshal Duke of Schomberg, wished to seal the fate of his already deposed rival, whilst also neutralising untold masses of innocent non-political paddies along with him.

Further investigations a century later ascribed some of the scare to starving marauding Irish soldiers who, having grown mad with hunger and despised by English locals, were driven to steal food from farms and villages. An 18th-century account described their desperate situation.

“The disbanded Troops finding themselves Money-less, and incapable of subsisting in a Country where they were so generally hated, took it into their Heads to force open a Country House, to keep themselves from starving. Upon this, a Man in the Neighbourhood ran directly to London”.

Considering the despicable wanton violence and scapegoating which saw mobs of mindless thugs combine with agent provocateurs to disgrace and destroy our capital city on 23rd November lessons of historic moral panic and barbarism are more relevant today than ever. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you know is prejudice and misinformation ignorance can make a monster out of you.

Public Whipping on Dame Street in Dublin

DUBLINTIMEMACHINE:Today’s trip in the time machine will take a very sinister surprise turn, and its original purpose is dark enough already! It’s the 24th of April 1815. We find ourselves on a Dame Street utterly thronged with shouting people and snorting horses. A crudely hand-drawn poster on a wall beside us says
“Public Whipping Today. Evil Chimney Sweep Who Battered 6-Year-Old Apprentice”.
In our merchants’ disguises, we shoulder through the rabble and get a good vantage point amid the rowdy crowd on Cork Hill. We’re here to witness some violent justice carried out. But first a quick gander at the glorious collonaded building beside us. This neoclassical beauty is the Royal Exchange. But our 21st-century eyes recognise it as City Hall.
The Royal Exchange was like a clubhouse for the merchant’s guild, with the money changers and stockbrokers thrown in. There have been impressive government buildings in this area from Viking times of course. The nearby Thingmote was a centre of government for kings like aul Sitric.
The pale Exchange was built between 1769 and 1779. Before that it was the site of Cork House, the elegant townhouse of the powerful Earl of Cork. Their neighbour was the then-famous Lucas’s Coffee House. Remember cafés back then were more like dens of revolution and intrigue than sterile Starbucks. Several moves later for the Exchange ended when a shiny new thoroughfare, called Parliament Street, was created by the Wide Streets Commission. This proved the perfect location for a the cities merchants.
Now back to this blood-crazed crowd and the shock awaiting us! People are climbing lamp posts, scrambling over walls and wrought iron fences to get a look at the action. Every window on both sides of Dame Street seems to have a half dozen curious heads precariously hanging out. Some spectators even stand and push against the ornamental metal balustrades and balconies on the front of the Royal Exchange.
A trumpet sounds, the audience falls silent. DMP and civic officers emerge onto the marble stairs, a shivering blackened and bruised man is in their custody.
“John Young, chimney sweep, you have been found guilty of the shameful crime of extreme physical cruelty. The victim was William Cullen, your pitiful six year old apprentice and ward. Were it not for the civil conscience of your esteemed customers on South Anne Street bringing your Heinous crime to the Lord Mayor’s attention you may have eventually killed the poor boy!”
The crowd erupts with roars of rage and unrecordable threats and curses.
“For this, you shall be whipped from Green Street back to the Royal Exchange. You will have this same punish again in two months and will then spend two years in Newgate Prison!”.
This time the crowd around us cheers and jumps up and down gleefully. But suddenly we hear a deafening crash, followed by a chorus of horrified screaming that shatters the atmosphere on Dame Street. A cloud of dust hazes the air, the screams now replaced with shocked whispered questions and agonised moaning.
Was it a bomb or a cannon? Maybe a runaway horse? We look up at the Royal Exchange and see that the vantage point where dozens of spectators had cheered and danced just seconds ago is gone. In its place is a large chunky hole in the frontage where once a metal balustrade and tiny stone balcony stood. The balustrade at the front of the exchange collapsed because of the pressure of the crowd surging.
Beneath it on the blood-smeared, metal and rubble-strewn cobblestones lies a pile of bodies and masonry. Nine people are dead. Many more suffer serious or life-changing injuries. To our utter shock and horror, even as the grey mangled bodies are gingerly dragged from the scene, the civic officer continues the speech.
The whipping proceeds as planned. The chimney Sweep receives 421 lashes. And while the dead were covered in cheesecloth shrouds in the city morgue, starving stray dogs lap at the gore puddled on the cobblestones.
Before we leave this horrific scene let’s note that the mighty Royal Exchange will fail soon due to the adverse financial effects of the 1801 Act of Union and the amalgamation of British and Irish currencies in 1825.
It will become our beloved City Hall. But it would be over 50 years before Dublin Corporation implemented architect Thomas Turner’s safer stone design we see today to prevent future tragedies.
Maybe if you listen closely, on a dark silent winter night, you may hear the scream of some shade of those nine poor souls clinging to that fine building’s exterior still?….

The Gate of Hell Roscommon?

Halloween ,500 years ago, Rathcroghan, Roscommon. We are standing on an immense ceremonial mound, beneath a star-crowded night sky. This earthen structure is an open-air temple, studded with blood-painted altars and carved wooden platforms.
An avenue of torches, their flames flickering noisily in the wind, form a pathway toward the hilltop where an eerie light glows amid the sounds of chanting under the yellow full moon. We climb to reach a circle of standing stones surrounding a huge stone altar before an immense bonfire.
We join the crowd of local farmers and tradesmen, shaking with awe and fear, wide eyes focused on the menacing flames and the intimidating hooded figures taking their positions at the altar. They are Druids in fabulously embroidered cloaks, they encircle the central sanctuary. The bonfire seems to surge like a beast awakening to their presence. The night air reeks of burning flesh and the howls and blood of sacrificial animals.
The Druid’s dark hoods fringe their long-bearded faces whilst they chant hypnotically. From the darkness shaven-headed acolytes appear, armed with spears and ceremonial scythes, their faces and naked bodies painted with white chalk to mimic skeletons.
They begin to chant and dance and the firelight itself dances across their ecstatic faces and illuminates the sweaty tense grimaces of our congregation. There is a very tangible sense that within this sacred circle the veil between normal life and the ethereal Otherworld is lifted.
This land and sky are charged with supernatural power, forces that were already old when the first feral stone age farmers stumbled across the landbridge. Rathcroghan is the seat of the Kingdom of Connacht. A noble dynasty of warrior-poets, pagan priests, artisans, and farmers. A magical cavern nearby called Òennagcat, (the cave of cats) is an important gateway to the Underworld.
It is also the legendary birthplace of the magnificent warrior Queen Medb.
Suddenly the chanting stops.
Then the tense atmosphere is pierced by the long mournful call of a ram’s horn bugle. Now the slow mesmerising drumming of animal skins penetrates the crowd like a unifying heartbeat. To the ordinary people, who may have traveled for days to witness this rite, this night would be the culmination of days of feasting, family reunions, and catching up with local news. It was also a great opportunity to trade, including match-making and sports.
Now hoping for blessings and protection the crowd put on their disguises. They mimic wild animals, monsters, and the dead, to chase away danger and sickness and increase the land’s fertility. Adorned with horned animal skulls and pelts, faces and bare chests painted with protective symbols, this pantomime army of demons makes for a fearsome sight beneath the milky moonlight.
This night, which corresponds to the 31st of October, is the Celtic New Year festival of Samhain. Thousands of years later we call this mysterious magical day Halloween!
The dark and powerful denizens of the Otherworld will not be satisfied with the sacrifices of animals and wooden idols. They demand that most worthy and potent gift, a human life. The more handsome, beautiful, or otherwise exceptional specimen the better.
Another eerie note blows from the horn. The crowd mumbles and parts to make way for two burly warriors wearing bull skulls, and wielding impressive iron-tipped spears. Between them, they escort two young people in white hooded cloaks. The masses bow their heads as the two pale figures are led up the wooden steps to the spiral-carved stone altar.
The head Druid, raises his arms to the sky, golden scythe glinting in one hand, wooden cup in the other.
A chilling hush falls upon the audience. Slow drumming seems to possess the two youths as they are led by the acolytes before the altar. With a gasp from the crowd, their hoods are lowered to show a boy and girl of approximately twelve years old.
Although they shiver in the incense Impregnated night air, their blank intoxicated faces show no signs of fear. The chief druid, arms still aloft, walks out from behind the altar. The children kneel before him, their fair heads bowed as if in prayer. Two horse skull-masked druids break formation from the circle as the beat of the drumming speeds up.
The masked druids pull ornate daggers from their robes, the sharpened blades flash in the firelight. In the blink of an eye, the chief drops his arms to his side. The drumming stops. In a smooth fluid motion, the armed druids pull back the children’s heads by their hair and their weapons do their fatal work.
The dark sacrifice is over. The collective guts of the crowd relax and cheer. As the blood is collected and smeared on the druids’ faces and the altar, everyone is ecstatic that their farms will be fertile and their households prosperous and their dead loved ones in the Otherworld are appeased for another year.
Before we sneak off in our time machine take a moment to look at the two crimson-stained bodies being flung gently into the bonfire’s jaws. It is chilling to think the DNA in this spilled blood that seeps from the sacrificed and drips from the ceremonial knife is the same blood which runs through our modern Irish veins. Let’s be grateful now we only have sweets, fireworks, plastic masks, and bonfires to worry about at Halloween…

Dublin pubs and the original holy water they drank?

the history of dublins pubs
(c) a Rob Buchnana- DUBLINTIMEMACHINE:
Sometimes things which look modern and ordinary are actually ancient. Saint Winifred’s well on Eustace Street in Temple Bar is one such fascinating feature. This overlooked diamond amid the cigarette butt and vomit-smeared cobblestones tells a tale for those with eyes and ears for history. This humble hole, fringed with a little stone wall, lies outside what is currently The Norseman pub. It was buried for centuries before its rediscovery during roadworks in the mid-1990s.

A pint of porter wasn’t the original holy water?

Wells, and holy wells specifically, have a deep and timeless importance to the Irish. Water sources named after saints, like the Welsh Winifred, represent life and hope, both physically and spiritually. They are places where communities came together to draw water and worship. Dublin and North Wales were linked by prosperous trade routes since the 11th century, which may account for the naming. The location would imply its lifegiving liquid is drawn from the subterranean River Poddle or perhaps a shelf of groundwater.

The  deep history of the Norseman pub

It’s amazing this centuries-old feature was lost for so long, considering how this little street corner has seen frequent changes in modern times. Highly debatable official records claim a tavern on the site since 1696. But from the 20th century at least, the nearby pub started as The Wooden Man, then became The Norseman, then J.J.O’Neill’s, Monk’s, Farrington’s, and now once again is called The Norseman.

A historical site becomes a vomit strewn tourist trap

As the criminally expensive pubs came and went the secret freshwater feature was rediscovered, partially restored, and seemingly forgotten once again. The only liquids unneglected in that neighbourhood being of the alcoholic and extortionately overpriced variety. Sadly, in keeping with the general drunken, disrespectful littering in this tourist trap part of town, the medieval miracle is treated like a rubbish bin.
Next time you stagger past, hopefully en-route to a pub whose prices dont require remortgaging your gaff, spare a thought for Saint Winifred and her waters which quenched our ancestors’ thirst, body and soul.