Dublin in the Rare Aul Times: Churches, breweries and more

by Lina Jans
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In the second part of a new series, our intern Lina explores Dublin and its history through new eyes, as a visitor to our fair city.

I am discovering the old Dublin with all of its old landmarks, traditional companies, unique people and everything that made the city what it was.

This week I learned about one of Dublin’s most famous former street traders, visited one of Dublin’s oldest churches and wondered why someone would lease a company for a time span of 9000 years.

Hector Grey

While the closest thing to trading I’ve ever experienced is probably eBay, negotiating used to be a big deal back in the auld days and Hector was the master of it.

He found his passion for trading as a ship cabin boy travelling around Asia in his youth and moved to Dublin in 1928 where he started selling bargains (mainly from Asia). As his family didn’t approve of his career path, he changed his name (he was born as Alexander Thomson Scott) to Hector Grey after an Australian jockey.

Having a gift for convincing people to buy things they didn’t necessarily need through his funny character, his business went quite smoothly — having shops at Liffey and Mary Street, Fitzgibbon Street and in Crumlin Shopping Centre. Even after becoming a retired millionaire through his retail business, he still loved to sell goods where it all started — at Ha’penny Bridge.

After walking over the bridge I searched for the plaque sign engraved on the ground at Hector Grey’s trading spot. Having circled around the bridge a few times, I finally found it in front of the Woollen Mills Eating House, shortly besides the statue of the two women sitting next to each other and chatting, named the “Meeting place”, also referred to as the “Hags with the Bags”.

You can see Hector negotiating live in action here.

Christ Church

I continued my journey walking up the street to visit one of Dublin’s oldest churches — the Christ Church.

Built in the medieval ages and originally roman-catholic, it has belonged to the Church of Ireland since the 16th century.

Now it is a popular tourist attraction, where you can visit the tombstone of Richard de Clare, second Earl of Pembroke, also known as Strongbow. It is only a statue though; the real tomb was wrecked when the roof collapsed in 1562. Because so many people have rubbed coins on the statue’s nose and it is now flat, he also has the nickname Voldemort.

Another popular attraction is the church’s crypt which is the largest in Ireland. There you can see the mummified cat and rat nicknamed Tom and Jerry — supposedly a cat chased a rat into the pipe of an organ and both became stuck.

As the church was closed due to Coronavirus, I just sat on a bench in front of it and took a little break in the beautiful garden before continuing my journey.

Arthur Guinness Co Ltd

If someone is leasing a company for 9000 years they are definitely serious about it — or insane. Any way, Arthur Guinness definitely was on the right path buying the St James’s Gate Brewery in 1759.

After experimenting a bit with different sorts of beer, Arthur decided to only brew the dark beer sort “porter” which was apparently originally developed in England.

Of course, even abroad everybody knows Guinness for its famous publicity, like the slogan “Guinness is good for you”. If you are interested in learning more crazy Guinness slogans, watch this highly entertaining video from the YouTube channel “Before they were famous”.

By the 20th century, Guinness had become famous worldwide, now selling beer in 150 countries. So I guess Arthur Guinness is without doubt the perfect example to prove that going all in really pays off sometimes.

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