The oldest pub and the oldest graffiti in Ireland
After a dispute had rumbled on for many years, the owners of Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and The Brazen Head in Dublin agreed to go on national radio to decide which of their establishments should be recognised as the oldest pub in Ireland. The late DJ Gerry Ryan hosted the debate. The owner of Sean’s Bar provided evidence – verified by archaeologists and historians from the National Museum – that strongly suggested the presence of a retail premises on the site dating back to AD900. During renovations in 1970, the walls, part of which are now on display at the National Museum, were found to be made of wattle and daub. The builders also found coins dating from the period, minted by local landlords and probably used as beer tokens. The owners highlighted written evidence of a rest stop for pilgrims on their way to nearby Clonmacnoise. The Brazen Head had no answers and graciously admitted defeat. They may have taken some small consolation when a signature etched on one of their windows was confirmed to be from 1726 and was awarded the title of the oldest piece of graffiti in the country. The writing – in a whorl on a bottle-glass pane – is so small it cannot be read with the naked eye, but with the aid of a magnifying glass it is possible to decipher the spidery writing: “John Langan halted here 7th August 1726”.