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The Pub

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Raymond W. J. Tarleton
My uncle Raymond W. J. Tarleton is the son of Raymond W.F. Tarleton who was the first manager of The Royal Bank of Ireland in Lucan Village which was situated on the site of the current A.I.B. site facing the River Griffeen. He was born in Kilmoylan which still is situated on the old Lucan-Palmerstown road that now leads to the entrance of the Kings Hospital College. Being the youngest of the family he had three sisters, the eldest of which was my Mother (Audrey Cromer). He worked as a qualified architect in a well-known Dublin company in Ely Place and although he lived with his wife Sandra and their family in Bray since the mid-1950s he has always maintained a keen interest in both Lucan and Palmerstown where he spent a very happy and active childhood.

When he retired, he and Sandra moved to Bristol in the UK to be closer to some of his children who had emigrated during the 2000s. Sadly Sandra dies some three years after they had settled into a lovely cottage in the more rural outskirts of the city. Not being a person to sit around, he has, amongst other interests, set about writing a series of essays relating to different aspects of his (younger) life.

I have had the privilege of reading some ot these which I have found to be both accurate and entertaining. As he has permitted me to pass on selected material to my good friend Mary Mulhall for use as appropriate in The Lucan Newsletter, I trust all who read will enjoy these articles.

Rodney W. Cromer.
February 2014.



On some of the rare occasions when we tired of exploring the woods and fields we would repair to the local pub to play handball. The Wills’ Gold Flake sign on the gable wall and the ground surface of cobblestones provided ideal facilities for us to hone our limited skills.

The pub, known as The Dead Man’s, was owned by the five Murray siblings, two men and three women, all of indeterminate age but to us children very much in the senior citizen category.

The elder brother, a large red-faced man, acted as a kind of figurehead to the establishment. He would occasionally emerge to stand outside the entrance, complete with black coat and bowler hat, rather as a model might at the entrance to a waxworks exhibition. He was never seen to, nor known to, perform any work.

The younger brother was smaller and less austere than his senior. At time he could be moderately friendly towards us, in a slightly aloof way. He presided over the unloading of barrels from the brewery dray and personally carried out the task of bottling and corking. If in sufficient good humour he would allow us to be present as observers of this rite – which filled us with immense fascination.

The sisters were a colourless trio who carried out their tasks of running the bar in a desultory sort of way. Two were tall and forbidding and viewed our occasional visits with suspicion. One was slightly more unbending than the other towards us but as she was possessed of a crooked eye we never quite knew where we stood in her presence. The third sister was a small, mousey creature with spectacles and appeared only infrequently. It was surmised that she was in charge of feeding her siblings as she always smelt strongly of the frying pan. All three were avid churchgoers and emerged daily to make the mile journey to Mass. They never walked together, nor on the footpath, but slithered along the edge of the roadway at intervals – always in the same o0rder – the mousey one bringing up the rear. For some unknown reason the order was reversed on the return journey which led some observers to wonder whether they had ever reached their destination.

The pub building was old and rundown and incorporated living accommodation to one side and overhead. There was one legal drinking apartment for customers, entered through a dingy porch and giving onto a yard at the back and into the private quarters at the opposite end. Even on the brightest day the room was depressingly dark, the only natural light filtered through a high level window above the bar fittings. Walls and ceiling had that once shiny, now dull, surface uniformly stained a dark ochre colour from years of exposure to nicotine. The floor was of large, uneven flagstones supporting a variety of heavy wooden benches, chairs and tables. Artificial lighting was provided when needed by one oversized and once rather grand pendant lamp, together with a number of small ineffectual wall lights. The redeeming feature of the room was the fireplace, a capacious opening in the end wall framed by a heavy oak surround and mantelshelf which held the usual assortment of smoke encrusted ornaments. The large turf fire was always alight and offered some degree of comfort to an otherwise cheerless place. A small untidy bar fronted y a chest high counter and two or three bar stools occupied part of the front wall under the single window. To enter this inner sanctum was to be assailed by an aura of porter and plug tobacco which remained with one long after leaving the premises.

The customers of this worthy establishment were largely of the working class, as they were known in those days, and as such, were of a far greater interest and source of information to us children than would those have been of a higher social standing. There were building and farm labourers, cattle drovers. Ploughmen and shepherds, and from them we learnt much of the natural word and the rudiments of life at their level.

And there were the turfmen. This was a band of hardy souls, not more than a dozen or so in number, who made their livelihood ferrying turn to city dwellers form the midland bogs. They travelled in convoy with their little point carts fitted on all four sides with creels packed tightly with their precious load. The upward journey was walked alongside the pong’ the homeward journey was in comparative comfort, as once the creels were removed and positioned in the flat cart, a comfortable base could be formed with the aid of sack sand tarpaulin. The return journey could be made in some style and generally only the leading driver remained awake as the reins of following ponies were tied to the cart in front and needed no additional guidance.

Located some six miles or so along the homeward trek the pub was an obligatory, first, resting place for man and beasts, the latter peacefully munching from their nosebags while their owners steamed their sodden coverings before the fire, smoked their pipes and drank their porter. When adequately fortified they would emerge, bestir the ponies and clamber aboard to resume their journey.

Our own use of the inside of the pub was limited, and if in funds, consisted of an infrequent bottle of lemonade or a packet of biscuits. The number of biscuits in the packet varied depending on the type and if the number was not wholly divisible by three the spare one or two would be shared equally with our two dogs, Roger and Ponty.

Sadly, like so many worthy establishments of its time the pub fell victim to so-called progress and changes in the way of life. The number of farm labourers fell drastically before the advance of mechanisation; cattle were no longer taken to and from market by drovers but by lorry and the humble turfmen no longer travelled the roads with their little ponies and carts. Outwardly, the building remained largely intact but suffered the indignity of a number of insensitive additions. Internally it was transformed into the standard eating and drinking emporium, complete with carpeted floors, designer lighting, piped music, etc as required by the new clientele. The one link with its past life was to retain the historical name albeit in a slightly varied form - it being known as The Dead Man’s Inn.

© Ray Tarleton