Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Sunday, December 4, 2022



Price for UK, Europe or North America on request


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A Poem about Kevin Barry written by a Comrade

To commemorate the anniversary of the execution of Kevin Barry in November 1920, this is a poem written by Dan Tynan who spent time in a British prison and fought alongside young Kevin. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2022



For Immediate Release

Heritage Week 2022 is coming to Ringsend with the ‘From Cromwell to Today’ walking tour. This is the unique story of the history of the public houses in village of Ringsend and their colourful tales. This walking tour of approx 1hr will take you on a journey from the once 10 pubs in the village of Ringsend to today's 3. Closed and wiped out by Cromwell, the pubs recovered, they helped to ferment revolution, they survived a temperance movement and adapted as laws and habits changed. On the tour, you'll hear the real story of Ringsend's pubs, and the characters who owned and frequented them. Plus we learn about the history of Ringsend and why streets like Whiskey Row have vanished.

The tours will depart Saturday 13th (2pm) & Sunday 14th (3pm) August plus Sunday 21st (1pm) from outside the Ringsend Library and they are Free of Charge.


The Ringsend Tour follows the extremely successful ‘History of the Sandymount Pubs Walking Tour’ in 2021 and the history evening that celebrated the centenary of O’Reilly’s pub in Sandymount.

The 1916 Easter Rising Coach Tour was founded in 2011 and has guided thousands of guests through the unique history of Ireland’s revolutionary period. This award winning company has more recently developed a unique way of telling the stories of the Irish licensed trade.


Further information:


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Pubs of Ringsend Walking Tour - Episode Seven - John Clarke's The South Dock


Coming later this year, following the successful ‘The History of Sandymount’s Pub Walking Tour’ and ‘The Pubs of Rathmines Tour’, we will be bringing you ‘The Pubs of Ringsend Heritage Walking Tour’. To whet your appetite for some of the stories and tales you will hear, we will bring you over the coming weeks some of the histories of the pubs no longer open.


This time we are looking at the history of 12-16 Bridge Street, Ringsend which is today in the hands of the Clarke family who for a number of generation originally traded in nearby Irishtown. Located in the shadow of St. Patrick’s Church, the popular hostelry has had a colourful history and probably more name changes than any other pub in Ringsend. As of January 1st 2022 there are three pubs trading in Ringsend, the Yacht, The Oarsman and John Clarke’s, that is a significant decrease on the ten pubs that operated in the village (not including Irishtown) in 1853.


Now just a memory, but for many of an older generation in Ringsend and Irishtown, Peter North’s pub on Bridge Street in Ringsend brings back happy memories. Alas long gone but if you walk through the lounge door of John Clarke’s public house today you will have walked the route of many of North’s customers. Peter North was a colourful character but the pub in which he spent so much of his life also has a colourful history.


Peter North was a popular publican who received extensive coverage in Irish newspapers in October 1967. Peter was celebrating his hundred birthday and was described in the Irish Press as ‘probably the oldest publican in the country’. While still living above the pub, he had retired from serving pints to the locals just three years earlier as his health began to fail.


He had been born on Upper Baggot Street and served his first pint, aged sixteen, in the pub that had been opened by his father Morgan North in Ringsend. A lively sportsman, Peter, along with his brothers Francis and Bartle, played for the Isles of the Sea GAA hurling club and they won the Dublin County Championship in 1890. Peter later recalled,

‘it was some sight with 42[1] players on the field. There used to be some awful scrimmages.’


His brother Bartle was the first superintendent of the electricity generating station at the Pigeon House when it opened in 1904[2]. His son Bartle junior became a popular bookie in Ringsend with a shop on Fitzwilliam Street. Morgan North’s public house was located on the corner of Fitzwilliam Street and Thomas Street as it was known then, now known as Irishtown Road. The newspapers reported that in 1910 Peter North of 16 Fitzwilliam Street was fined by the courts for allowing children on his premises despite the fact that their mother was with them.

Today that former North public house is home to the National Council of the Blind shop. Morgan’s only daughter Mary Catherine married Valentine Nelson, the son of another Ringsend publican Joseph Nelson. The Nelson’s also ran a butcher shop on Bridge Street. In the early twentieth century, following a Pembroke Estate decision to renovate many of the properties on the part of Fitzwilliam Street that connected with Cambridge Avenue, by 1916 the North’s had moved their public house to a building next door to the Nelson’s on Bridge Street. Peter often fell foul of the licensing laws and was raided and fined on a number of occasion for serving outside permitted hours including on Good Friday 1940 after which he was fined £2 and had his license endorsed. The following June he was raided again for serving afterhours with thirteen customers on his premises. He was fined twenty shillings and was lucky not to lose his license. Peter North’s younger brother Patrick, who died in 1959 aged 87 years old, owned the Yacht on Thorncastle Street for over 25 years.


The pub on the Fitzwilliam Street had seen previous owners Michael Holden in the 1830’s and Edward Smith in the 1850’s before the North’s arrival. Following Morgan North’s premature death at the age of just forty five, his pub’s license was operated by Anne Lowe who seemingly employed the young Peter North as a barman until he became of age to run the pub himself. Having celebrated his centenary in October 1967, just three months later in December the popular local Ringsend publican passed away peacefully and enjoyed one of the biggest funerals seen in the south Dublin suburb.


The pub now ran by John Clarke and Family at 12/14 and part of 16 Bridge Street can trace its roots back to the late eighteenth century. In the early 1800’s the pub was run by local fisherman and ship repairer John Voysey. In 1833, one of Voysey’s boats ‘The Ellen’, a fishing smack, sunk off Skerries with the loss of all the crew except for one survivor. With John’s death in 1858, John Jnr took over the running of the Ringsend businesses. Another son Stephen is recorded as taking a lease on 2 Caroline Row from the Pembroke Estate at half a crown per week.


In 1892 the pub was sold to Nicholas Horan but it was put up for sale again in 1900 following a legal dispute between Horan and the Pembroke Council over unpaid water charges. This saw the arrival of the North’s and the subsequent union with the Nelson’s. By the 1960’s the pub was being run by Bartle and John North. Following the death of Peter North in 1967, it was only a couple of years before the pub went up for sale in 1972.

The Dwyer brothers were next to pull the pints on Bridge Street and the Dwyer name would adorn many public houses across the city. In 1975, the Dwyer’s applied for and gained planning permission to extend the pub from No.12 into Number Fourteen. Fourteen had been Nelson’s grocery business in the past. The Dwyer brothers were Michael, Patrick and Seamus.


In the 1980’s it was renamed once more as Bunit and Simpson’s, a reference to two men who had the lease of the Oyster Beds on the River Liffey near Ringsend in 1744 and supplied many of the eateries in Ringsend with fresh fish. There was the sad and strange case of Denis Coughlan in 1992. The former native of Ringsend, was wanted by Gardai following an armed raid on the pub in March 1992. Following the raid, he moved to London and while the former taximan was working as a doorman at a London hotel, he was attacked in 1993 and beaten to death. The Metropolitan police believed that he had fallen foul of some of London’s gangland criminals. It was sold in the mid 1990’s to Mudlark Limited. In 2003, it was sold by Jim Dunne, according to the Irish Independent was retiring from the business. There were several name changes to follow before the arrival of John Clarke who had originally been in business on Irishtown Road. The premises then became known as the Hobblers End, which was a reference to the men who guided ships into Dublin port prior to the arrival of pilots. Raytown Inn was yet another name over the door while the pub was called The South Dock while in the hands of the late Willie Bambrick[3] just before the arrival of the Clarke family from Irishtown.


[1] 21 per side was replaced by the current 15 a side

[2] Died September 1936

[3] Before his arrival in Ringsend the Bambrick family operated a very popular pub on South Richmond Street near Portobello.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

#OnThisDay January 26th 1922, the landmine tragedy in Terenure


I thoroughly enjoy the excellent #OnThisDay section of The Irish at War @irelandbattles, and the tweet today Wednesday January 26th 2022 looked back at an event ninety nine years ago. The phrasing of the tweet intrigued me. It read,

 ‘Terenure College, Dublin. Three soldiers were badly injured, the driver was blown 30 yards away & another had his mouth torn of in the blast. Three civilians were also injured.’

It tweaked my interest with the ‘three civilians’ report, perhaps an afterthought, unimportant to the story. The severity of the blast meant that newspapers in Britain including the Leeds Mercury reported that one soldier was killed and seven injured. The truth was that Irishmen planted a land mine to kill fellow Irishmen injuring other fellow Irish citizens. So, what was the story.


Terenure was a hot bed of activity during the Civil War with numerous bombings, shootings and raids that netted weapons and explosives. On that night two National Army Crossley tenders departed Tallaght Camp to patrol the area as they did most nights since the New Year. Shortly after 11.15pm on that Friday night as the tenders reached the walls of Terenure College opposite Bushy Park, a land mine exploded with such force that the lead tender that the bulk of the impact had its radiator thrown 30 yards from the blast and one tyre was found almost 250 yards from the scene. The landmine had been planted by anti-treaty forces operating in the city during the Irish Civil War.


There were six national soldiers on board the tender. Two were brothers Edward and Patrick Confrey. Edward had joined the National Army in March 1922, while his brother Patrick, who lived at 53 Marrowbone Lane with his young wife, joined in May 1922[1]. The Berney brothers from Bray, included a Quartermaster and the driver who was thrown clear of the vehicle after the blast. Also injured were Private Matthews and Dalkey born Sergeant Greene.  The sound of the blast was heard in the National Army headquarters at the Portobello barracks who immediately despatched reinforcements. The terrible sound that blew in many residential windows, also attracted the attention of Fathers Griffin and Gavan from Terenure College and Father Hickey from Terenure parish church who were the first on the scene to tend to the wounded.

Two women (not three civilians as reported) who were injured were sisters Annie and Lily Vaughan from Mountpleasant Square[2] although newspaper reports placed them on the Terrace. They were the daughters of a Church of Ireland school teacher and were walking home towards Templeogue when the land mine exploded. The walking wounded were taken by car to Doctor Kennedy’s house in Terenure Village while the others were taken to two hospitals by Rathmines Ambulance. Quartermaster Berney was taken to Vincent’s Hospital while the two sisters, the Driver and the Confrey brothers were conveyed to the Meath Hospital.


Edward Confrey was badly injured with serious facial injuries. He was unconscious for almost three weeks and after his discharge from hospital, like his brother he was medically discharged from the Army. In May 1924, Edward’s compensation claim was a question raised in the Dail.


‘OFFICER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM. Major Bryan Cooper TD asked the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that Mr. E. Confrey, late Lieutenant Q.M.G. Staff, was discharged from the Army without being medically examined and whether in view of the fact that this officer was injured in an explosion of a land mine at Tallaght in January, 1923, and  is claiming a pension in respect of such injuries, he will take steps to have him medically examined and the claim decided on forthwith. Mr. Duggan (Minister) I am aware that Mr. Confrey was, through an oversight, discharged from the Army without being medically examined. No claim for compensation appears to have been received from him, but if one should now be made steps will be taken to have him medically examined and his claim considered as quickly as possible.’

From the Army magazine an tOglach May 24th 1924

Edward died in 1938 aged just 36 years old, while Patrick died in 1952 with both men buried in Deansgrange cemetery.[3]






[1] Irish Military Archive Census

[2] 1911 Census


Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Pubs of Ringsend Walking Tour - Episode Six - From Ulysses to the Oarsman in the heart of Ringsend


The next pub on our travel through the history of Ringsend’s pubs will take more than one post to cover. Number Eight Bridge Street Ringsend is today The Oarsman but it has a wonderful and colourful history. The first time that alcohol was served here was in 1816. In the 1830’s the publican delivering service was John Madden. By 1837 he had been replaced by John Gilligan who was in turn succeeded by his wife Anne Gilligan up to 1860 when William James Tunney took over. Tunney lived with his family at 35 Bath Avenue and would later add to his portfolio by buying 10 Haddington Road which is now Smyths public house. His brother Michael also owned a pub in Ballsbridge. It was Tunney who installed the artistic façade and a pediment that displays a Irish round tower, a Celtic high cross and an Irish Wolfhound. The stuccoworks company of William Burnett and James Comerford created the stucco to dress up a building with the exaggerated ornamental impulse that was a feature of the Celtic Revival. At roof level on the Oarsman, within a central roundel flanked by urns, there is a stuccoed escutcheon displaying a collection of nationalist symbols – a round tower and a Celtic high cross guarded by an Irish wolfhound. A harp once surmounted the arrangements atop the now empty plinth at the apex. This is Dublin’s last surviving example of stucco art being used to portray romantic nationalism in a form that was once popular on public houses. Burnett and Comerford would also famously design and build the façade of the famous Irish House on the corner of Woodquay and Winetavern Street, sadly demolished now.

Tunney’s also found itself into one of the twentieth centuries greatest literary work, Ulysses by James Joyce first published in 1922. Set in 1912 Dublin, it follow one day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he crosses the city including a visit to Ringsend. According to the Ulysses guide,

‘Ulysses depicts several such women: the "bent hag" in Calypso that Bloom sees in front of "Cassidy's, clutching a naggin bottle by the neck"; Mrs. Dignam in Circe, "her snub nose and cheeks flushed with death talk, tears, and Tunney's tawny sherry"; Molly in Penelope, who thinks, "I’ll have to knock off the stout at dinner or am I getting too fond of it the last they sent from O’Rourke’s was as flat as a pancake." In these details Joyce shows women drinking from all the major food groups—hard liquor, wine, beer—and he shows public houses doubling as package stores. O'Rourke's is the pub that Bloom passes in Calypso, and Tunney's is mentioned twice in one section of Wandering Rocks, when Patsy Dignam thinks of his mother sipping "the superior tawny sherry uncle Barney brought from Tunney’s," and of his father's frequent visits to the pub: "The last night pa was boozed he was standing on the landing there bawling out for his boots to go out to Tunney’s for to booze more."


The pub also found itself in the records of the Bureau of Military History as a witness statement of Michael Noyk explained. It referred to a barman who worked in the pub Michael Vaughan.

‘The 4th witness, Michael Vaughan, who was afterwards killed during the Civil War at Leeson Street Bridge, said; He was an assistant in Tunney's public house. On the 21st November he went out about 9.30 to get a newspaper - "The Independent" - in the shop near him. He spoke to the man in the shop for about 4 minutes and then went back to his own shop to get his breakfast when he saw Whelan coining out of the chapel gate. (Tunney's is just opposite Ringsend Chapel). Vaughan bade Whelan the time of the day. crossed had crossed the street to speak to him and they spoke for about two or three minutes. Vaughan said he would have to be going as he had to be at Westland Row Mass at 10.30. Witness said a Mr. O'Connor introduced him to prisoner about three weeks before the 21st November. He added that the day was fixed in his memory by the deaths of the men who were killed that day.’


Michael Vaughan would leave the pub employ and join the new National Army. On June 29th 1922 he was killed in an ambush on Leeson Bridge when a grenade and shots were aimed at the car in which he was travelling. Clare born Patrick McCarthy whose address was given as The Shelbourne Bar, Bridge Street, Ringsend was awarded a military service medal for his service during the 1917-1921 revolutionary period as a member of K Company, 1st Battalion of the IRA Dublin Brigade.

William Tunney died on St Patrick's Day 1912 and for a number of years his family continued to run the pub into the early years if the new Irish Free State. It was eventually sold to Michael McCloskey, who’s later family members would run a pub for many years in Donnybrook. McCloskey called the pub the Shelbourne Bar due to its proximity to the Shelbourne sports ground on nearby South Lott’s Road.


Mr. Hugh McDermott presenting a cup to a winner owner at the Greyhound racing at Shelbourne Park

Following Michael’s death in January 1945, his widow Eleanor (also known as Ella) took over the running of the pub along with her son Michael Jnr. Ella died in 1954. The McCloskey’s then sold the pub to Hugh McDermott. McDermott was behind a scheme, who at the time was President of the Vintners association, that offered a scholarship to those who could not otherwise afford it, this included an extensive stay in the Gaeltacht. The pub was sold by the McDermott family and in the 1980’s Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan native Bob Prior and his wife Monica, owned both the Oarsman, as it had been renamed, and the Yacht on Thorncastle Street. Bob Prior had been an owner of the Boars Head on Capel Street prior to his arrival in Ringsend.

Today the Oarsman is a popular local pub in the heart of Ringsend offering a wide range of choice for both the drinker, diner and coffee connoisseur.

The Irish Newspaper Archives
The British Newspaper Archives
The late Brian Siggins courtesy of Ger Siggins
The National Archives
Hinde Postcards

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Pubs of Ringsend Walking Tour - Episode Five and the Way Sally Might Look at You


Welcome to Episode Five of our series on the pubs of Ringsend. These stories will form the basis of the forthcoming The Historic Pubs of Ringsend Walking Tour in 2022 and a book on the history of the pubs in both Ringsend and Sandymount. Today we will look at the story of another pub in the Village, 'Sally's'.

For a generation of TV viewers, the ‘Sally O’Brien and they way she would look at you’, was the tag line for a Harp lager advertisement and Sally O’Brien’s was also the familiar name of the public house located at 16 Thorncastle Street, Ringsend. Back in the 1850’s John Collins was the publican at Sixteen followed by Edward Kearns in 1859 who renamed it The Ark Tavern. His son Michael took over the running of the pub and in 1874 and after his father passed away on June 14th 1877, the pub was sold to Laurence Byrne. While the Byrne’s maintained their ownership over the pub, it was leased out to William Carpenter in 1877 before returning under the Byrne family control in 1891 when Laurence’s son Joseph took on the pub.

The Byrne’s sold it in 1901 to Peter Clowry. From Bagnalstown in County Carlow, Clowry did not have the easiest of times in Ringsend. His brother Michael was drowned in September 1901 with three other men when the boat they were fishing from, capsized and sank near the Pigeon House. His first wife Agnes (nee Byrne) died in November 1911 and was mother to eight children. He married a second time to Offaly born Anna who herself passed away in 1919 following the loss of her husband Peter Clowry on New Years Eve 1915. His death certificate listing double pneumonia as the cause of death. The Dublin Daily Express when reporting his funeral described his passing as,

‘His death removes from our midst a very popular personality and a man whose charity and benevolence will long be missed in Ringsend, where he lived practically all his life.’

Peter Clowry

As was typical of the time where the female sex took second place to their male counterparts when Peter Clowry’s death notice appeared in the newspaper and reports of the subsequent funeral, there was no mention of any of his daughters, including Laura, yet both his sons and sons-in-laws are mentioned.

The day after the funeral, a preliminary notice for the pub’s sale appeared in the newspapers. The following February the pub was sold to Robert Woodcock.


As was typical of the time where the female sex took second place to their male counterparts when Peter Clowry’s death notice appeared in the newspaper and reports of the subsequent funeral, there was no mention of any of his daughters, including Laura, yet both his sons and sons-in-laws are mentioned.


One of the little known stories of the 1916 Easter Rising was the sad death of Ringsend publican Robert Woodcock. Robert and his brother Samuel were born in Mothel, Co. Kilkenny just north of Kilkenny city. After serving his apprenticeship in a public house in Dun Laoghaire, Robert purchased his first pub on Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore in 1909 on the banks of the Grand Canal known as Murrays, where the Black Horse pub traded for many years. His brother Samuel also bought his own pub on the corner of Thomas Street and Meath Street, now Baker’s Corner. The Woodcock’s, as well known publicans in the Dublin, attended the funeral of Peter Clowry but also spotted an opportunity. In February, thirty three year old Robert purchased 16 Thorncastle Street from Clowry’s estate for £3,200 and immediately began trading. Robert was an active member, like many of his fellow publicans in the South Dublin Union.


Two months after his arrival in Ringsend, he decided to use the Easter bank holiday weekend to travel home to Kilkenny to see his elderly farmer father, a widower. He travelled down in his motorcar on Saturday and decided to return on Monday but in his absence from Dublin, rebels from the Irish Volunteers, Cumman na mBan and the Irish Citizens Army took to the streets of the capital and seized control of a number of buildings. One of the battle sites seized mainly by members of the Citizens Army was St. Stephens Green. As word of trouble spread around the country, Robert decided to drive back to Dublin to look after his businesses. He arrived first at Tyrconnell Road and decided to drive across to Ringsend but he met a DMP policeman who asked him to give him a lift to Phibsboro.


They drove down Harcourt Street onto St. Stephens Green where they were met by rebels on the road who held them up at gunpoint. The two men were taken prisoner and removed into the green itself where they were greeted by Countess Markiewicz and Michael Mallin. Woodcocks’ car was made into a barricade at the top of York Street. Robert Woodcock was tied to a tree in the park while the policeman joined other prisoners being held in the gate house in the park. At one stage after a number of hours of being tied up, one of his captors decided to release Woodcock but another rebel recognised Woodcock and harboured ill feeling towards him as he appeared to side with the employers during the 1913 Lockout and was suspected as being anti Larkin. He remained a prisoner in the park throughout the night but by Tuesday as the British troops on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel began to attack the rebel forces. The rebels, who had dug trenches in the park, had no answer or cover from the machine fire that was now focused on them.


The commander’s decision was to retreat from the park itself and take the College of Surgeons as their headquarters. Woodcock was taken across to the building but his exposure throughout the previous night had an immediate detrimental effect on his health.  Woodcock was seriously ill. He was taken by ambulance to nearby St Vincent’s hospital on St. Stephen’s Green, where he died twenty minutes after being admitted on April 28th of double pneumonia ‘brought on by exposure’, becoming a fatality of the Rising.


On May 16th the Evening Herald reported that on that day,

‘At the City Sessions, before the Recorder Mr. T.R. Holmes solicitor applied on behalf of Mr. Samuel Woodcock of 45 and 46 Thomas Street that he should be at liberty to carry on the licensed trading in the premises 16 Thorncastle Street, Ringsend until the Quarter Sessions. The licensee, Mr. Robert Woodcock, applicant’s brother, had been kept prisoner by the insurgents in St. Stephens Green during the recent insurrection and died subsequently from pneumonia brought on by exposure. The recorder granted the application.’

The Freeman Journal reported in June that Samuel had been granted permission by the Dean’s Grange Burial Board to disinter his brother’s body and have it removed to Kilkenny. The Journal did report however that Robert had been accidentally shot during the rebellion. According to the website,

‘While the area Woodcock was buried in was being cleared 2014, a headstone with the name Robert Woodcock, it is likely the disinterment did not take place because Robert Woodcock buried with others without coffins and the bodies were decomposed to such a degree the disinterment did not take place. The new headstone was erected in 2016.’

In July, Robert’s brother Samuel applied to the courts to transfer the license into his name which was approved. The pub was sold two years later. The sadness of his passing was compounded that when the at time controversial memorial wall to the victims of the 1916 Easter Rising was unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery, the memory of Robert Woodcock was somewhat obliterated when the engravers decided his name was ‘Richard Woodcock’. Surely this should be corrected immediately to honour both his memory and show respect to his family.

Following Robert’s untimely death, the pub was sold in 1918 for £4,400 to Patrick Fagan, a well-known Dublin publican. The Fagan brothers, Patrick Fagan’s brother Bernard at one time owned the Yacht pub just up the street from Number Sixteen, ran the pub until Patrick died on July 21st 1945 leaving his widow Margaret in charge until 1947 when they sold it to Patrick Smith. It then became the property of Patrick Cassidy, who had served during the War of Independence in the 3rd Battalion of the Old IRA and would later own the Summit Hotel in Howth. His father James at one time owned the public house located just up the street at number eight. He died in January 1975. The pub changed hands once again and became the property of the Colgan Group of pubs which included Toners and the County Bars. 

It would later become known as the iconic Sally O’Brien’s, then as the Shipwright and reverting back to Sally’s before it closed briefly in 2021 following the death of its owner Eoghan Breatnach and a legal case over the pubs lease. In 1987 a video was shot in Sally O’Brien’s featured the Dubliners and Shane McGowan of ‘The Pogues’ and numerous scenes in the movie ‘Agnes Brown’ starring Angelica Huston were filmed outside and inside the pub.