Drinking in O’Donoghue’s

O’Donoghue’s  Bar was founded in 1789. It must have soaked up the revolutionary fervour of the age, with all the rebel rousing balladry that entails. The pub is bound forever to Dublin’s folk boom of the 1960s. Most especially, it is associated with the Dubliners. Ronny Drew, Luke Kelly et al were permanent fixtures as much as the pumps and the optics. Located in Merrion Row, it hosts regular folk sessions in the long back snug. The Haggard to the side forms an extensive outdoor area. 

O’Donoghue’s is often my first port of call when I go in to Dublin. It’s been a while since my last visit. I always go there on my birthday, and other places besides. My annual treat is looking unlikely, my birthday’s on Monday. But a man can dream. This painting is a typical view, as I nurse a pint of Harp and take in the scenery, and Sally O’Brien and the way she might look at you.

One day as I rambled to Donnybrook Fair

I met lovely Sally a combing her hair

she gave me a wink with her roving dark eye

and I says to myself I’ll be there by and by

The song Ramble Away is an English folk song, from Somerset. Shirley Collins’s version is probably the best known, appearing on Anthems From Eden with her sister Dolly in 1969. For the lyrics here I’m using a version by Tommy Tourish, a Donegal sean nos singer, as the mentions of Donnybrook Fair and Sally’s roving dark eye chime with the place I’m in. You might pass this way if you were going to Donnybrook Fair, that most ancient and famous of fairs. The girl to the right I see as something of a Sally O’Brien, and the way she might look at you. There’s contact there, a spark.

Al O’Donnell sang the song with Birmingham Fair the setting. I’d have thought Al might use Donnybrook Fair, as he worked in RTE for thirty years. O’Donnell grew up in Harold’s Cross, and was a player in the folk boom. He mostly played solo, but briefly joined Sweeney’s Men, replacing Henry McCullough when he left in 1968, between the band’s two albums. Al released two albums of his own. The first eponymous album from 1972 kicks off with a fine version of Ramble Away, which is also the title of his double cd set from 2008. He passed away in 2015.