VIPs gather for 'Arthur's Day'

 

Ireland’s most famous export got a rousing 250th birthday cheer this evening from thousands of VIPs who gathered in the Guinness brewery in Dublin to mark the anniversary.

Welsh crooner Tom Jones led the festivities at the St James’s Gate brewery by raising a glass in honour of its founder, Arthur Guinness, at exactly 17:59, and then broke into a rendition of "It's Not Unusual".

Simultaneously, the world’s most famous stout was toasted at ceremonies in New York, Lagos and Kuala Lumpur, and in pubs throughout the world.

Diageo, the multinational drinks company that owns Guinness, predicted that 50 million people in all around the world would join in the toast.

Among those paying tribute was Taoiseach Brian Cowen who described Guinness as an iconic Irish brand that we could all be proud of. Arthur Guinness was an excellent role model for today’s Irish entrepreneurs involved in building a “smart economy,” he said earlier in the afternoon.

Mr Cowen also paid tribute to the philanthropic initiatives pursued by the Guinness family and their early version of corporate social responsibility.

The events organised for “Arthur’s Day”, as it was dubbed by Diageo, included the invite only party at the Guinness Storehouse, four major gigs elsewhere in Dublin and 28 smaller gigs in pubs across the city.

In many pubs, pints of Guinness were selling for €2.50 and rumours abounded of “surprise” appearance by celebrity performances in various venues.

Earlier in the day, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood joined his son Jessie for an impromptu jam in the window of the BT2 store on Grafton Street.

The anniversary was actually staged three months early, given that Arthur Guinness signed the lease for St James’s Gate on New Year’s Eve, 1759, but history wasn’t high on people’s minds at today’s festivities.

Instead, the focus was firmly on the global, with the birthday being celebrated with events in New York, Lagos, Nigeria and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as well as Dublin.

Even the various concerts in Dublin were broadcast directly into thousands of pubs in the UK and further afield.

For staff in the brewery, today was a normal working day, at least until tea-time when 500 workers and suppliers were invited to watch proceedings on a giant screen.

The Hon Desmond Guinness – the great, great, great, great grandson of Arthur – marked the day at a low-key event in Leixlip, Co Kildare, where the first Guinness brewery was located.

Diageo has pledged to give €2.5 million to charitable causes this year.

A full programme of events is available from www.guinness.com