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Just as France has its cafes, Japan has its sushi bars and Holland has its, eh, tulip emporiums, our fine little country’s international emblem has long been The Irish Pub.
If you could get a picture of Michael D. Higgins sporting a shamrock whilst standing on a shillelagh drinking a pint of Guinness and mildly ripping into a fellow drinker, well, you might just have captured a glimpse of Paddy heaven.
And if there was anywhere that picture deserves to be taken, it’s The Horse & Hound in Delgany.
Is this the oldest pub we have around these parts? The sign says 1790, which would mean we’re looking at a pretty remarkable survival story here. That young pup, Dann’s, first opened its doors in 1858. And unlike its nearest rival in the golden oldies stakes, The Horse & Hound didn’t panic in the 1980s and become a disco bar.
Dann’s. A disco bar. Be the Holly Johnson.
Yep, this Delgany landmark has never wavered or wobbled over the years, maintaining its simple structure and interior, and its simple role of offering people a home away from home, where deals could be struck, and, on occasion, so could eejits.
Given just how little The Horse & Hound has changed over the years, its history is something of a straight line. It just seems as though this pub was always there. It’s probably somewhere in the Bible too. Where Jesus goes missing for 30 days.
The earliest records show the rooms were rented to the workers building the across the road in the 1850s, whilst the Delgany flagship has enjoyed quite a few dance partners over the last two centuries.
Going full Columbo on the official deeds, the 20th century game of musical chairs at The Horse & Hound (or, as it was first known, The Seaview Hotel) started with Peter La Touche leasing it out to one Catherine O’Rourke in 1902, followed by Patrick J. O’Connor soon after. By the 1920s, David Frame of Bray Head House was in the, eh, frame, later leasing the premises to Manus O’Donnell in 1943, who was followed later that same year by Patrick Farrelly (30th November 1943 to April 9th, 1945). From there, the landlords were Mary Nolan (April 5th, 1945 to February 26th, 1946), Frederick J. Mayberry (February 12th, 1946 to August 3rd, 1961), Leonard Riley (July 31st, 1961 to September 25th, 1963), George White (June 28th, 1963 to April 23rd, 1964), and couples George Dunbar and Mary Hunter-Dunbar (April 11th, 1964 to April 23rd 1964) and Gerald and Ida Cullen taking over on April 11th, 1964, the former lasting 11 days (sure there’s a technical explanation), the latter, seven years.
Having survived and thrived in the Horse, Gerald and Ida then passed on the business to Malachy and Mary Bradley in 1971, who in turn passed it on to the bould Noel Belton in 1981. Next up on the Horse & Hound merry-go-round were Brian and Sandra Gorevan, in 1984, followed by Mick Salley and Brian Boulanger, whilst the much-loved pub was saved from a major financial wobble in 2011 by local hero Ross McParland, and brought back to its former glory by the mighty Shane and Caroline McNamara.
One of the few pubs around that has never really changed, beyond the occasional new lick of paint and stronger, more comfortable furniture, that the Horse & Hound can house weddings, birthday parties and divorce jamborees as well as a quiet night out, a life-or-death pool championship or the infamous summer Spud Festival just goes to show this is a pub of many colours. And culchies, and cowboys, and comely colleens.
The Irish pub is where great days end and even better nights begin. It’s where lifetime friendships are forged and grudge matches are finally, firmly settled. It’s also where the entire world is put to rights, if only just for a few hours.
So, here’s to the greatest little pub around, unpretentious and yet eternally cool, where all the wrongs of the world can be put to rights. Just for one night.
You can check out more about the home of Horse & Hound down through the centuries right about here, and more about the pub itself right here.