Every page of this hefty, handsome tome offers as much quirky, nostalgic character as its author's Wind in the Willows-worthy name. --Passport Magazine
A nostalgic and entertaining tour of the most individual and historic pubs in the country. Some will be familiar to readers but there are many forgotten gems which still somehow survive. --Irish Independent (Best books, 2008).
A superb collaboration ... Fennell's atmospheric photography captures every nuance while Bunbury's text reveals a wealth of social history, studded with nuggets of gold. A beautiful book.
--Sunday Business Post
Fans of Eire can relive damp nights warming up with a friendly pint in hand with The Irish Pub, a photo-driven tour by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury of Ireland's favorite public houses, urban, rural, venerable, contemporary. --National Geographic
Evocative pictures by James Fennell and garrulous text by the historian and travel writer Turtle Bunbury ... a fascinating record of a diminishing facet of community life. --The Independent on Sunday
“Every page of this handsome tome offers as much quirky, nostalgic character as its author’s Wind in the Willows-worthy name…. The Irish Pub will inspire some readers to finally take a long-dreamed-of trip to Ireland.” (Passport)
From the Inside Flap
IN the past few years, few aspects of Irish society have changed more than the pub. First it was the smoking ban and the invention of the Irish beer garden for outdoor smokers. Then it suddenly, and necessarily, became deeply unsexy to drink and drive. Such crackdowns came at a cost to the Irish pub. In the countryside, the unthinkable happened. The old pubs and shebeens have begun closing down. It's not all about smoking and driving. We've changed as a people.
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We haven't time to sit about in a pub all day yakking about whatever. We don't need to go for a pint to feel in touch; we can send an email or log on to Facebook. And besides, isn't it just as easy to go to the supermarket, fill the trolley with cheap grog and kick back at home?
Small wonder that about 30 of our once treasured pubs are closing down every month. And for every pub that's closing, a dozen more are whacking salt and pepper canisters on every table and putting giant plasma screens on the walls.
These are desperate times for the country pub. Traditional grocery bars are on the way out, too. Also on the line are those fundamental one-room watering holes, often owned by the same family since time began, where the drink is served from dusty bottles and the newspapers are yellower than a duck's bill.
Let's fast-forward to 2050, when a granddaughter sits me down and asks what made a good country pub. This is what I will say: "Sweetheart, back in the old days a good country pub was a place where you could gather your senses and then let them go again. The air was thick with tobacco smoke, the floor as dark as coal. We'd sit on mismatched chairs, perhaps by an open fire, and let the banter roll.
"Giddy fiddles and rattling tongues would light the darkest shadows as we dug in deep and lit the night and forgot about the morrows. Along the bar, perched high on stools, toothless old men, both genius and fool, guffawing and snoring and drinking too much, supping stouts and gold whiskeys instead of their lunch."
And she will probably wonder what could have been remotely charming about being in a confined space with large numbers of drink-sozzled, chain-smoking old codgers. It'll be a hard one to sell.
But there are many who will understand the magic and allure of these endangered establishments. The towns and cities are weathering the revolution better than the remote country pubs. The drinker is always at ease when the bed is just a walk away. God gave us pubs to get away from it all. But if a new age of country pubs is necessary, I pray it is not comprised solely of charmless venues rumbling with ear-splittingly bad music, giant plasma screens showing matches between soccer clubs I've never heard of and bar staff who scowl.
Modern Ireland is a multicultural, technologically advanced, cash-hungry whirlpool. The once dominant Catholic Church is all but redundant and many of the old institutions have gone with it. The Irish pub may survive the meltdown but many will disappear in the process. This book is about those some of those that we hope survive.