The Battle of Portobello Pub 1916

REBEL Charlo

There’s a great little story about the Portobello pub, known as Davy’s at the time that involves an incident with the landlord himself, Davy, and one of his staff members from Grove Road, an Irish Citizen Army member by the name of James Joyce.

At the time, Davy was anything but pro-revolutionary himself. Many of his clientèle were resident soldiers from the neighbouring Portobello barracks, and generated much of his business.

In the run up to the revolution, the Irish Citizen Army were preparing in the art of combat, with manoeuvres and training happening to fall upon Sunday.

A young member himself at the age of 35, unfortunately Joyce was left in an awkward situation involving a Pro-British proprietor who refused to give him any time off work to join in the with the ongoing military drills. More often than not, Joyce would call in sick from his twelve hour seven-day-a-week job, or just not turn up for work at all and attend the military drills.

On the day of the rebellion, the revolutionary armed forces of the Irish Republic took up strategic points throughout Dublin. One of these points was Davy’s pub. Its position was perfect for holding off any advancing British troops coming from Portobello Barracks.

As the story goes . . . upon seizing the pub, Joyce and several other comrades, led by a Sargent John Doyle, had quickly entered the premises, and as quickly as they had entered, Davy had giving Joyce his weeks’ notice, exclaiming: “You have missed one to many Sunday’s, you can take it that you are on a week’s notice.”

To which Joyce replied “You can take it from me that you have two minutes’ notice to get out. This premises are being seized in the name of the Irish Republic”

Lowering his riffle in Davy’s direction, Joyce let a shot rip over his head blowing out the mirror behind the bar, sending Davy scarpering out the door with his tail between his legs.

Not long after fortifying and barricading themselves in, a Constable Myles of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) happened upon the bridge and was immediately shot at, wounding him in the left wrist.

It wasn’t long before the British Forces were dispatched from Portobello barracks to dislodge the ICA men. Snaking their way up the canal, they set up a machine gun near the La Touché/Portobello Bridge and peppered the place with bullets.

“The infantry’s forward section opened fire on the building to keep the insurgents’ heads down, supported by fire from the gardens along Lower Rathmines Road, while a two-wheeled Maxim machine gun was set up close to the bridge where it was partially shielded by the foot-high canal wall. They did this under fire from the upper floors of the pub, before they formed themselves into two lines on the southern bank, the first lying prone behind the canal wall, while the second took up a kneeling position just behind them. This was done under the cover of the machine gun, which had shattered the tranquility of the Georgian Dublin suburb with its deafening drumming. Cement on the pub’s outside wall began to disintegrate under the hail of bullets. The remaining glass in its windows was shattered, and the shards fell on the men inside while bullets ricocheted around them. Pictures were knocked from walls and glasses and bottles were smashed on its shelves and countertops. The rebels mounted a spirited defence which very nearly killed the British officer in charge at the bridge. His uniform was perforated by several bullets but he somehow escaped without a serious wound.” – When the Clock Struck in 1916

Only after a few hours of spraying the building did the call ring out to cease fire, discovering there was no returning fire from within Davy’s pub; the Irish resistance fighters had long since made their escape.




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