Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Evening Herald, March 2007

The Celt

Talbot Street, Dublin 1

the celt
The New York Times this week reported that the Irish and English peoples may actually comprise – whisper it – one ethnic group. Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of the University of Oxford believes that the countries’ Celtic and Anglo-Saxon identities are a myth, and that the inhabitants of both islands are descended from Spanish hunters, who settled here 16,000 years ago.

Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you something, Professor Flop-enheimer. Our deceased forefathers have had enough to contend with lately.* We will not have Livin’ La Vida Loca in Croke Park! And so it is that with a shillelagh under my arm, and a defiant twinkle in my eye, that I’ve dropped by Dublin’s diddley-iddley-iddliest bar to raise a toast to Ireland and our proud, unashamed (and possibly entirely fictional) Celtic heritage.

Well, I couldn’t have chosen better a better bar. The Celt is so Irish even the napkins are green, white and orange. And I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate time to visit either. The Irish rugby team have just clinched… some sort of rugby trophy. I’m not sure which. But it’s all very exciting. Their victory has inspired some staunch, patriotic and intermittently tuneful singing at the bar.

It’s a bar that has a homely atmosphere, with a nice mixture of natives and tourists. Joining me today, in her second outing as the Evening Herald’s unofficial teetotal pub co-reviewer, is my mother Anna Butler. Readers may recall that our first joint outing ended in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, when Mammy accidentally barged into the men’s toilets in the South William.

Sufficed to say, security staff here have been tipped off in advance of our arrival, and I will be working closely with them to help avoid any repeat of that incident. So what’s her verdict on The Celt? “It’s very nice,” she replies. Pressed to elaborate, she notes that “it doesn’t seem very clean though”.

She rummages in her pocket. For one sublime moment, I think she’s going to pull out a cloth of some sort and actually start dusting.

We order a pint of lager and a cup of tea, which sets us back €6.10. “You’d hardly have any tapas or anything like that?” I ask the barman. He looks at me as if I’ve got two heads. I heave a contented sigh. All is right with the world. We’re gringos to a man here. That Oppenheimer guy, whatever his story might have been, was clearly talking out of his arse.

We sip our drinks. Behind us at the bar, the drunken choir have run out of material. There are no more songs anyone knows the words to. They confer momentarily. What starts as an isolated chant at the far corner of the bar, quickly gathers momentum until soon the entire room has joined in.

“Ole-ole-ole-ole… Ole-ole…”

Christ, this shit runs deeper than I thought/

[* Article was published not long after the “historic” first performance in Croke Park of God Save The Queen.]