In July, 2012, the South China Morning Post published an article on Dublin pubs by Andy Gilbert in which he made a peculiar observation about Mulligan’s.
In Dublin, authenticity comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s the seething folksiness of O’Donoghue’s – walk in, hold up the requisite number of fingers and the pints of stout are already on their way.
There’s the Brazen Head on Bridge Street, which dates from the 17th century and is probably the city’s oldest pub, Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, which was once reputed to be so – ‘Is this the oldest bar in town? No, but it has the oldest staff!’
There is a genuine romance to these old places with their many connections – factual and fictional – to events and people and characters.
Fifteen years ago, the journalist Sean McElwee paid a visit to Mulligan’s and wrote this review of it for the Anglo-Celt.
Poolbeg Street is tucked between Trinity College, the Liffey, under the shadow of the high office buildings of Apollo House and Hawkins House in nearby Hawkins Street.
When I paid a visit to the premises recently, it was quite obvious that those who value the unique quality of a traditional Dublin pub were well aware of the existence of Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street. At 8 o’clock the place was buzzing with an abundance of joviality.
This was the favourite haunt of the staff of the Irish Press from nearby Burgh Quay, and even today you will find many of them still frequent it in the company of journalists from other national media. One of the country’s most celebrated journalists, Con Houlihan, is held in special esteem in Mulligan’s for a plaque has been erected in his honour in the lounge.
Tourists from all over the world come here to sample a real pint of Guinness in an authentic Dublin pub.
During my visit to the premises I was approached by a visitor from Newcastle asking if this was one of James Joyce’s favourite haunts. Joyce, of course, was a regular visitor and ensured that Mulligan’s would remain forever etched in the social and literary history of the city by mentioning the premises in one of the stories from Dubliners.
Its ambience has changed little from the days of Joyce at the turn of the last century. It is still a haven of conversation free from the intrusion of any of the modern means of entertainment or communications. In the bar, there is no piped music, no radio, no television, no telephone and prominent notices on the walls remind drinkers to refrain from using mobile phones on the premises. Television is tolerated in the lounge area only for major sporting occasions.
Food is never served on the premises. This is strictly a drinking pub and has changed little since it opened in 1782.
Thomas Cusack arrived from Lavey to serve his apprenticeship as a barman in Mulligan’s nearly sixty years ago and has worked there ever since.
Today he still retains an interest but plays a less major role in the business serving only for short shifts in the mornings in order to meet some of his regulars of many years.
Still in good health, he lives on the old Navan Road, but management is now in the capable hands of his two sons, Gerald and Gary. They continue to foster its old ethos and charm and ensure that Mulligan’s will retain its reputation as one of Dublin’s finest pubs.
In 1985, the Observer-Reporter newspaper of Washington, Pennsylvania, reported on St Patrick’s Day festivities in Dublin.
The reporter referred to industrial action that had left many pubs short of a popular product. However, the journalist found that Tommie Cusack was unperturbed:
Stocks of Irish whiskey, which have been in short supply for several weeks because of a strike, dried up in most pubs along the route [of the St Patrick’s Day parade].
‘I’ve half a bottle left and I’m keeping it for myself,” said Tommie Cusack, who runs Dublin’s Mulligan’s pub, a favourite tourist haunt. ‘Maybe a nip or two for the regulars. But there’s plenty of Scotch whisky.’