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O’Donoghues Bar


John & Joe Ryan played in O’Donoghues Pub on Merrion Row from the mid 1960’s until the pub changed hands in the early 1980’s.

They had regular session there every Friday and Saturday night. It was a mecca for traditional musicians from all over the country and John and Joe would regularly be joined by leading traditional players who happened to be visiting Dublin. All the greats like, Willie Clancy, Bobby Casey, Dennis Murphy, Felix Doran etc. would join in the sessions with them.

Details: O’Donoghue’s Pub, Merrion Row, Dublin. Date: 1978.

Credit: © Dublin City Council Photographic Collection.  Link.


Details: John Kelly & Joe Ryan. Location: O’Donoghues Pub, Merrion Row, Dublin. Date: circa 1970’s.

Credit: Personal collection of John Kelly Senior. 


Memories of O’Donoghues

“Sonny (Brogan) used have people lined up for a few bob. He had patrons that was very kind to him and used give him a half-crown here and a few bob there. He used be delighted to get the price of a few bottles of stout. But we thought, like, ‘twould never come to the day when we’d be playin’ in public houses (and we did not think we would see) the big change that came in the times. One time if you were seen in a pub with a fiddle you’d be the talk of Dublin. They’d hoosh you out of it anyway!

But I’m comin’ to the time when Joe Ryan and myself played in Donoghue’s. I suppose we were playin’ fifteen years there and we met some great people. We had some rough nights and some fine nights. And we met people from all over the globe anyway. I couldn’t mention the amount of glamour-boys that came there from all over. The music was very good at times but the crowd was very rough and a lot of noise and a lot of drunks there. I often swore that I’d get out of it. We’re out of it now anyway. It was great playin’ with Joe, he was one of the old timers. He had a great repertoire of good old reels and he had a good style. He played with Bobby Casey in London. So it used be a “Clare night” all the time although we had plenty of Kerrymen with us too. Paddy Taylor (from London) used come in when he in when he was doin’ the film up in the Dublin mountains (?). He’d come in there and he’d sit down and the next thing he’d pull up a flute up out of his trousers pocket, a big long pocket he had for the flute specially. And he’d be in action in two minutes. And we used enjoy playing with Taylor, he was a beautiful player. Then Denis Murphy … we often played with Denis Murphy there and Julia (Clifford), Seean Maguire and Josephene Keegan. I couldn’t mention the amount … (of musicians), I’m talkin’ off the top of my head now. But I’ve great memories of great nights there. You’d always have a good hour there sometimes, or a half an hour, maybe, towards the end of the night when things’d quieten down.

But we were beseiged by tinkers of all descriptions and little beggars, ach, every kind of a hobo there. But still I never saw a bad row there or anything. Johnny McDonagh used to come in. When he’d come to Dublin to the All Ireland (Oireachtas) he’d always come and he’d sing a few songs. So it was very entertaining. When Friday night’d come I’d feel like a young fella goin’ over there.

I don’t think it’s gain’ well there now, but Joe and me is back in the Four Seasons (pub) next door for the last year and a half and nearly the same thing goes on there, music and sessions and crowds. So that is this part of the story that I thought I’d recap.”

Details: John Kelly Junior interview with his father in 1979.

Life in Dublin Musical Context

O’Donoghues Bar