Apocrypha I and II

In a taxi recently, the driver started re-telling the story of the Blue Lion, the pub (pictured) formerly on Parnell Street and now a Chinese restaurant. For anyone unfamiliar with the Blue Lion – well, perhaps this review would be the most accurate.

The most well known tale of recent vintage is probably apocryphal. For those not familiar with this story, when the Celtic Tiger took off and Ireland began to be a destination for immigration, a large Nigerian population moved into the environs of north inner-city Dublin. The story goes that some of these decided, one day, to visit the Blue Lion, and suggested to the barman that it might be in his interests to pay a little money to make sure nothing untoward happened to the premises. “Ok,” said the barman. “But I’ve just opened. Can you come back later when I’ll have some cash?” The obliging protection racketeers agreed, left, and returned at the appointed time. The door was locked behind them, the pub fell silent, and the random patrons – all IRA men – took out their baseball bats and hurleys…

The moral of the tale being, no doubt, that if you’re going to be a criminal, then know who your potential victims are. And don’t mess with the locals.

I’ve heard the above story several times from several different sources over the years. Like all such stories, it’s just plausible enough that you can’t help feeling that if it isn’t true, it should have been.

While doing some research for the above (ok, for “research”, substitute “I Googled some terms”), I came across this story, also featuring the Blue Lion:

“Pubs are dull enough places at any time though not so dull in Ireland as they are in England. I suppose I know most of them in Dublin and I’d rather have them than the pubs in London. I remember being in the ‘Blue Lion’ in Parnell Street one day and the owner said to me: ‘You owe me ten shillings,’ he said ‘you broke a glass the last time you were here.’ ‘God bless us and save us,’ I said, ‘it must have been a very dear glass if it cost ten shillings. Tell us, was it a Waterford glass or something?’ I discovered in double-quick time that it wasn’t a glass that you’d drink out of he meant – it was a pane of glass and I’d stuck somebody’s head through it.”

Which segues nicely into the second (probably) apocryphal tale I heard on that taxi ride, that of the young Mr Behan’s family. After the family had moved from Russel Street in the north inner city out to Crumlin, Brendan’s father, Stephen, was somewhat lazy in digging their new garden. Nagged once too often by Mrs Behan, he phoned the Special Branch with an anonymous tip-off. The family being notorious republicans, the call’s information that “There’s IRA guns buried out the back of the Behan house” was taken very seriously indeed. Out arrived a whole bunch of coppers, armed with shovels – and several hours later, there was one garden, dug!


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