Rody Bolands may be one of Rathmines’ liveliest venues, but it is also one of Dublin’s oldest pubs with an unusual history and strong Tipperary connections.
For over a century and a half, the pub has been celebrated as the social heartbeat of the village. Steeped in local history, it has thrived through many incarnations and owners since the 1800′s. Some of its loyal customers today recall a time when it had a different name over the door (such as Kennedy’s, the Concorde, the Hideaway, Streets etc.) before it became Rody Bolands when Ciaran O’Meara acquired it in 1994.
A Tale of Two Pubs
The township of Rathmines itself is an historical treasure trove and it has a fascinating story stretching back to royalist battles with Cromwell and also with the rebellious Irish mountain tribes who were repeatedly fought in the Rathmines area (which was then a lawless hinterland outside the city walls).
Today, the eclectic mix of long-term residents and more transient populations in Rathmines perhaps reflects its past. Indeed Rody Bolands is like a microcosm of the area, a social hub and gathering place for people of all ages and walks of life.
Sporting Celebrations in Rody’s! Over the years Rody Boland’s has hosted some of the best post-match parties attended by many famous sportspeople.
See our complete gallery here
Whilst deeply embedded in the history of the bustling south Dublin township, notwithstanding, many people now regard Rody Bolands as a kind of homely, rural type of pub! The unique ancient decor imbues these characteristics and whilst other Dublin pubs have attempted more recently to emulate its style, it is important to note that Rody Boland’s really pioneered what is now in vogue.
Moreover, it is a truly authentic ‘living museum’ of the genuine old pub tradition, rather than than the more pastiche collections of motley curios and antique reproductions to be found in some tourist-focused establishments. Perhaps that is why CNN.com recently described Rody Bolands as ‘the must-visit pub when you are in Dublin’.
In many ways the story of Rody Boland’s is a tale of two pubs. The reason for this is that the name, the old frontage, the interior timber fixtures and the horde of memorabilia now on display all orginated from a famous licenced premises called Edward Boland & Son in Nenagh, County Tipperary.
Edward Bolands of Queen Street was not only a pub but a major regional wholesaler and distributor of merchandise - from pork to postage stamps. It was orginally founded in 1878 by Clareman, Michael McMahon before being acquired sometime later by Edward Boland himself.
If you browse through the old ledgers and books now on display in Rody’s, you will see that it was a thriving business and it yields a fascinating insight into old Ireland and the purchasing habits of different classes of people.
Many of Edward Bolands’ customers were of the wealthy merchant class and indeed the old gentry, but unfortunately this did not help them settle their bills when the economic recession of the early 1930′s bit hard. As a result the Nenagh busines s ceased trading in 1933 and the entire premises and its contents was effectively mothballed and frozen in time. That is until Ciaran O’Meara (himself a Nenagh native) rescued them in 1993 and at considerable expense moved everything lock, stock and barrel to its current location in Rathmines.
It was said that Edward Boland’s brother had painted the timbers with tar in order to preserve them at least somewhat – and you will see some evidence of that today in Rody’s – but still the restoration work required was considerable. The old frontage, which now resides just inside the pub, was a particular challenge to transport and barely fitted inside the lorry. The present Rathmines Road frontage was a faithful replica of the old one, with only one small difference being that the sign now read ‘Rody Bolands’
So who is Rody Boland then?
Rody Boland is the son of the late Edward Boland and is still alive and kicking even in his late nineties! He was only a young fellow starting out in his father’s business when the aforementioned recession forced the closure of the once-thriving concern.
It is said that Rody became politically embittered at how the elites and remnant gentry of that period were far quicker to welch on their debts to his family than they were to relinquish their social standing. Perhaps as a result, he became interested in the republican movement during his early adulthood.
Rody, however, always retained the affection of the people of Nenagh and beyond, with most regarding him as ‘a bit of a character’. Many would buy a copy of An Phoblacht from him as he went from place to place “because it was Rody”, even when they may not have necessarily shared the particular republican viewpoints of the newspaper in the more recent decades.
(We have embedded a small selection of historical images below. Click on anyone of them to play the slideshow.)
Rody has visited the pub in Rathmines named in his honour a few times. He would not announce his arrival and would sit quietly with a glass in hand surveying the scene. Apparently, he however always refers to it as “my pub” and we always took this as a compliment!
(Pictured right is a portrait of the great man, Rody Boland. If anyone knows who the artist was, please get in touch.)