Barry Dunne: All were welcome in his family’s pub, Bartley Dunne’s

The word ‘gay’ was not used then, but there was a place for everyone in the cosmopolitan pub

Barry Dunne: July 28th, 1920-September 8th, 2016

Barry Dunne: July 28th, 1920-September 8th, 2016


Bartley Dunne’s was one of Dublin’s most cosmopolitan and atmospheric watering holes. In the 1960s it brought Montmartre to the area of Dublin between South King Street and South Great George’s Street. Most city bars were basic then, and the suburbs were being colonised by enormous lounges with patterned carpets and new mongrel forms of decor.

Bartley Dunne’s was different. “It was an Aladdin’s cave to me, its wicker-clad Chianti bottles stiff with dribbled candlewax, tea chests covered in red and white chequered cloths, heavy scarlet velvet drapes and an immense collection of multicoloured liqueurs glinting away in their bottles”, was how customer David Norris recalled it.

The clientele was eclectic: advertising “suits’’ from nearby Harcourt Street, students from Trinity College, actors and stage staff from the Gaiety theatre, doctors, nurses and porters from nearby Mercer’s Hospital.

It was popular too with couples who typically ordered a pint of stout for him and a Babycham for her, and who favoured the dimly lit nooks and recesses.

And there were gay men too. The word “gay” was not used then. Male homosexuality was a criminal offence, so discretion was essential. At Bartley Dunne’s there was a place for everyone. If there was a house rule, it was that.

They came too. Richard Burton after a day’s filming in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold at Smithfield, brought his fellow film star and wife Elizabeth Taylor in 1965.

Laurence Harvey took some time off to visit Bartley Dunne’s from filming Of Human Bondage at Ardmore Studios in 1964 where his relationship with co-star Kim Novak was famously frosty. They both visited Bartley Dunne’s, but not as a couple.

And presiding over this cosmopolitan throng was the suave and ebullient Bartholomew Dunne and his older brother Gerard. Barmen wore long aprons, waiting staff crisp white jackets, and the soundtrack was jazz, Al Bowlly, vocalist with the Ray Noble band, giving way to Edith Piaf, beginning and ending with La Vie en Rose.

Eclectic The drinks stocked were eclectic too. There you could order sake, tequila and ouzo long before

most other bars stocked them. The wine list included Bull’s Blood of Eger (11s 6d a bottle); Balaton Riesling (10s a bottle); Tokaji Aszu (19s 6d a bottle) and Samos Muscatel (11s 6d a bottle).

Much of this stock was sourced when travelling: Barry Dunne loved visiting continental Europe and could talk his way around Paris, street by street for the benefit of customers planning to visit the city. At home and abroad he attracted attention. Few other publicans sported a Givenchy suit topped off by a Borsalino trilby obtained from Milan.

Bartholomew Joseph Patrick Manus Dunne, Bartley to his customers, Barry to his family, was born in Manchester in 1920 and educated there.

His father, also Bartley, a Gaelgoir from Tuam in Galway, met Mary McManus from Leitrim in a Manchester public house. (The name Bartley is handed down from generation to generation in the Dunne family, being an Anglicisation of the Irish version of Bartholomew).

Bartley senior owned pubs in Manchester, and in 1941 bought one in Dublin on Lower Stephen Street having earlier thought to retire in Ireland. He ran the pub until 1960 when his surviving sons, Barry and Gerard, took it over.

When Barry married in 1970 and had children the family lived upstairs, later moving to the suburbs.

The Stephen Street premises remained in the Dunne family until the 1990s. It was then rebuilt and now trades as Break for the Border.


He is survived by his wife, Celine (O’Sullivan), and sons Bartley, Justin (JJ) and Marc. His brother Gerard predeceased him in 1981, five other siblings having died young.