A funny, bawdy, riotous adventure story …this tale is the ribald essence of Dublin’s sense of humour during the “Holy Hour”… that time when public houses and bars of Ireland closed their doors for one hour during the afternoon – by law. The secrets of the “closed shop” give Pete St. John his chance to reveal the mysteries of the ” chosen few brotherhood” … Dublin’s illegal drinkers. Priests, ladies of the evening, thieves, bankers, politicians are all part of Pete’s motley crew of Saints and Sinners. Not since Behan and Dunleavy has a writer captured the rabelazian wildness of Dublin’s ageless pub world. A #1 best seller – it belongs on your bedside table – so you will go to sleep laughing …. Maybe at yourself !
Dublin languished in the wintry, pagan afternoon… it was the Holy Hour, when the city’s publicans make the supreme sacrifice by closing their doors to the general public for sixty minutes. The great daily drama of clearing the house had begun. Credentials were checked in that secret, timeless way known only to the selected few. The hard core. The privileged ones. They would stay behind. All else were banished to the grim city streets. Soon the shutters went into place and the doors were locked. The inner sanctum brotherhood of drinkers reigned incarnate. At least now there would be peace. A Holy Hour when the true sense of belonging was something one experienced but never spoke about. Your acceptance in the local was in Dublin a saviour. A sanctuary. Beyond explaining. Here men knew their place and did their duty. They knew their station in life. Their value as human beings. So the great limbo of knowing descended. Inchoate. Priceless. Now it was indeed the Holy Hour. Full of nods and winks and whisper. The ticking of the grandfather clock was like a prologue to the drama. To the drink. To thinking. To rehabilitation and freedom. To letting mind run riot in safety.
The lads were drinking on the strength of Whelan’s redundancy money from Clondalkin Paper Mills, or the promise of it. As usual Gargler Keogh stood on the fringe of the action. Dublin’s all seeing eye. Diarist. A man apart. Accepted. A loner. An artist of the urban byways. His right hand, encased in a woollen fingerless glove, with its nicotine stained forefinger and long nailed thumb, holding the charcoal. Penny portraits that cost a quid. Tourists paid through the nose. Gargler was a good quick sketch mechanic. Always fluttering and deft. A member of the black economy. We had things in common.
The Government had fallen over a new tax increase on whiskey and children’s shoes. So here in Mulligans of Poolbeg Street the fellow next to me said Garrett Fitzgerald was too good for the people and we left it at that. Anyway January was a bad month to start anything. Ger Gormley began to sing softly….
Ringa, Ringa, Rosey
As the light declines
I remember Dublin City
In the rare oul times……
Johnny Dart the barber had a soft touch. A job with security and operational certainty. The fact that his cap was welded to his head had a lot to do with his early morning masses and late evening confessions. But then Johnny didn’t give haircuts in the strictest sense of the word.
Mostly he gave shaves of a personal type and the fact that the job was as constant as sin was a dead certainty. Johnny served his apprenticeship to a blind man near Croke Park and was proud of his trade and fastidious about his shaving brushes and open razors. They say he had a fine crop of hair until he lost a forune bettin’ on Jack Doyle in some boxing match. Then he went baldy over the Whit week-end and on the Tuesday bought the cap in Callaghans of Dame Street which he never took off. His relatives were professional mourners. They mourned everywhere in Dublin including the Hospice of the Dyin’. They often did three funerals a day and were’nt opposed to Jews or Quakers. They got the right information from Johnny. Now Johnny had a sister who was 7 stone 6 lbs and stood 6’2″. She was a perfect mourner and only laughed in the toilet. She was constantly mistaken by dogs for a lamp-post with dreadful results. At parties she always sang “How deep is the Night” in German. Johnny’s two brothers were rat catchers in Guinness’s and lived together in a small house on Ushers island that was condemned in 1949 but forgotten about, because it was behind a Guinness Poster. They only read the Irish Press and were virtually illiterate. Their gas masks from the second world war, which they insisted was only an emergency still hung on the walls of the kitchen showing their ultimate belief in the Fianna Fail government. Johnny had a half brother who was a window dresser in Burtons which the family generally regarded in the same vain as the dose of the pox. A social reality but not a thing to be talked about in public.
Extract taken from the book “Jaysus Wept”
© Written by Pete St. John