I have a soft spot for the International Bar in Wicklow Street. It was a regular haunt of mine in my Post and Telegraph days. Wicklow Street is a busy shopping street connecting Grafton Street and Sth Great George’s Street. It was developed as part of Exchequer Street in 1776 having previously been a lane. This eastern branch was renamed Wicklow Street in 1837.
The International Bar dates from 1838 and is housed in a fine, early Victorian, gothic redbrick four storey on the corner of Andrew’s Street, which continues as South William St south of the junction. This was the venue I chose for my twenty first birthday party. Friends and workmates gathered round, and, of course, the divine Ms M. Gifts, besides copious pints, checked shirts and scabrous greeting cards, included some music of the day: Horslips second Celtic symphony the Book of Invasions, AC/DC’s debut High Voltage and Thin Lizzy’s breakthrough album, Jailbreak.
I’d imagine these were played full volume and the final verse of The Boys Are Back in Town lingers strongly in the memory.
That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favourite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won’t be long
Won’t be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again
Near enough seven years since they were formed in Dublin, Thin Lizzy had at last scaled the dizzy heights of international fame. Jailbreak was Lizzy’s first album to go gold in the USA. Phil Lynott had adapted his poetic muse to powerhouse rock with spectacular effect. The following summer, myself and M would be amongst the tens of thousands at Dalymount Park to give the heroes a memorable return to Dublin town. The Boys Are Back!
Happy days. I remember a wall poster that night in the International advertising Billy Connolly, the comedian posed in front of a Scottish Flag. Suitable backdrop, as my birthday falls on Saint Andrew’s Day, and I’m half Scottish; probably three quarters Scotch that night. The International would go on to host nightly comedy shows since the 1990s with live music downstairs. Dara O Briain from Bray is one of a generation of comics to cut their teeth there. Outside of the music and laughter, life at the International goes on as always, a jewel of an oasis, the best of times suspended in amber.
Walk in off the street to the high ceilinged narrow room. The bar is spectacularly set off by an ornate hand carved mahogany reredos. Brass fittings, mirrors and optics are set ablaze by light streaming in the large windows. When the canopies are out, high arched transom windows allow solid shafts of light to stream diagonally onto the bar.
This scene captures that snapshot of heaven, and perhaps some of the more subdued stories in the weave. There is a slight allusion to a painting by Degas, In a Cafe, in the couple seated to the right. But this painting is phrased to convey a sense of warmth, and our heroes may be enjoying a moment of easy silence. Remembering those golden days.
I loved Thin Lizzy and I’m humming Whiskey in a Jar as I write this Shane. Fingers crossed we’ll be coming over to the Emerald Isle next month, and I’m giddy with excitement. Marion
Yes! 1973 and Lizzy’s first appearance on TOTP. Yes to your upcoming visit also, Marion. If you like – we could hook up for a wee drink. Cheers, Shane
Would love to meet up with you Shane but as we will be touring the west coast I think we’ll have to leave it until another time, either in Ireland or when you are heading over this way. Something to look forward to! Marion
Yes Marion, the wild west is a bit far for me. It’s a wonderful coast and I look forward to reading your accounts. Best wishes, Shane
Borrowed a copy of Cowboy Song from my local library not so long ago, Graeme Thomson’s biography of Phil Lynott in which it was clear there was far more to him than just being the front man for Thin Lizzy. It’s a great shame he got into drugs and died so young, if you were a rock star back then it seems it just went with the territory, but at least his music lives on, with Bad Reputation probably being the best of the bunch for me.
Thanks for the pointer; I haven’t read that one. A tragedy that Phil worked so hard to make the big time, then for it to destroy him. As you say, he left some fine music behind. Bad Reputation is especially good. Dancing in the Moonlight is so in tune with growing up in Dublin. The last bus is long gone …
An excellent Dublin Bar
Yes aidan well worth a visit! Thanks for the comment.
This is some awesome thinking. I love this! Wonderful ideas!💓
Thanks very much for your comment, Asif!