For months I cycle past the scaffolded building every week, green mesh covering the bars and planks that denote a major job on a once-large public house. I used to live around the corner from Becky Morgan’s but my excitement at moving into an area with a ‘local’ within walking distance was short-lived. It always felt empty and brought little life to a gloomy interface between town and the Silicon Docks.
Then one day, I notice the scaffolding is gone and a new pub is emerging from the chrysalis. The Storyteller, it’s called. I’ve never heard of any other pub named so. Every man, woman and child in Ireland is a storyteller; every pub’s stool, chair and couch an auditorium. Perfect.
Early evening, one weekday in late February, I notice lights on as I cycle home from work. There’s no red carpet outside or loud music, just the sight of people inside and outside (on its long, well-covered veranda out front). On Friday of the same week I lock my bike outside it on the way home, excited at witnessing history in the making, or more objectively, a pub in action on its inaugural Friday night.
I watch a young chivalrous continental man open the main door for several women he’s arrived with, heralding the weekend, perhaps a romance kindled by a Friday night telling stories of near and afar. I think of when Becky Morgan’s opened in 1880 and how the men who worked in the nearby docks perhaps adjourned to male-dominated pubs on payday. In the siliconised, part-virtual docklands of Dublin 2 and 4, it’s important that blended workers have somewhere to interact beyond the cyber, their desks or the office beanbags.
To my amazement the pub is heaving. Young bar staff are busy keeping patrons in snug semi-circular enclaves. The crowd is young and old, with the first-floor bar filled with a younger crowd. Tasty-looking food comes down a traditional dumbwaiter before being carted away to an excited table. The pub’s interior is black – all walls are black – and has a modern look to a traditional Irish pub feel.
One of the barmen has a pub proprietor’s look: always surveying, wanting to know, a smile and a word for all. I ask him if they opened during the week. Yes but with no fanfare, he tells me. He was happy for the pub to open quietly and nothing go wrong than a big bash with something inevitably going wrong. Family and friends congregated for the opening. Jack’s his name, one of the owners. I introduce myself. ‘Steve, do you want another?’ he asks me when my drink is finished, and remembers my name again as I say farewell. I can’t rate the beers, my drink was only soft. I’m on standby for the arrival any day now of our second child. I’m surprised they don’t serve coffee.
A week later, I drive past The Storyteller. It’s much later on a Friday this time, yet the lights are still on and the signs are that it’s had another busy Friday. I wonder again about the chivalrous young man, and all the others, who’ve graced and will grace The Storyteller to begin a Friday night. Where do their stories begin and end? I’m on my way home, my head swirling with images of our newborn’s arrival, several hours earlier, in the maternity hospital three blocks away. May he always have places in which to tell his stories. May his and The Storyteller’s life be long.