Remembering Hughes’s pub: Irish trad icon’s farewell


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The Irish Traditional Music Archive and Keynote Productions have joined forces to create “Farewell to Hughes’s,” a new film that pays tribute to a popular Dublin pub that championed traditional Irish music for over thirty years. Hughes’s Pub, situated near the rear of Dublin City Centre’s Four Courts, shut down in 2021, marking the end of an era.

Traditional Irish Music Legacy

For more than 35 years, Hughes’s Pub served as an unpretentious yet iconic hub for musicians, singers, dancers, and enthusiasts of traditional Irish music. It was a venue where sessions took place naturally, without any need for planning or publicity.

In an interview with The Liberty, Martin Hughes, son of Michael Hughes, the last owner of the pub situated on Chancery Street, reminisces about its memorable history. Martin expresses that his grandfather, also named Martin, bought the pub in 1953.

At the tender age of 19, Michael Hughes took ownership of the pub after his father’s demise due to tuberculosis. The era of traditional music flourished in 1985 when Brendan Begley from Kerry commenced performances with a small group of friends. Michael Hughes managed the establishment all through his lifetime until his demise in June 2019.

Hughes’s Pub: A Hub for Traditional Music

Martin Hughes mentioned that the pub witnessed a diverse clientele throughout the day. It had a bustling market crowd in the morning, legal professionals during lunchtime, and music fanatics in the evenings. Therefore, the pub created a vibrant mix of patrons. He also mentioned that finding traditional music in Dublin pubs was a rarity during that era.

Gradually, Hughes’s Pub transitioned from hosting traditional music one night per week to seven nights. Therefore, the pub established itself as a central gathering venue for musicians of different backgrounds and expertise.

Martin mentioned that the pub was never a ‘venue’ but was left as an open space, allowing people to come and enjoy music. The Sunday night session persisted for 30 years, reinforcing the pub’s status as a leading destination for traditional music enthusiasts.

Gleeson and Music Legends Honour Hughes’s Legacy

Actor Brendan Gleeson is renowned for his acting talents and skilful fiddling. He conveyed his deep attachment to Hughes during a recent interview on the “Late Late Show.” He characterized the pub as a “balm for my soul,” and he mourned its closure. The premiere of the documentary was hosted by the Irish Film Institute. It featured musical performances by Gleeson alongside Gay McKeown and Liam O’Connor. The premiere evokes the ambience of the cherished establishment.

Significance of Safeguarding Traditional Music

The documentary honours the rich heritage of Hughes’s Pub. It also highlights the importance of safeguarding traditional music for forthcoming generations. Liam O’Connor, holding experience from the Irish Traditional Music Archive, plays a key role in the film, offering insight into Irish traditional music. Ciarán Ó Maonaigh’s expertise in music and film production guided the documentary. Hence, it provides an authentic perspective on Irish traditional music.

In January 2022, Brendan Gleeson and fellow performers assembled at the pub to honour its legacy and preserve the distinctive ambience created by Hughes. The documentary boasts contributions from the Brooks Academy Set Dancers, musicians from the Fanny Power Sessions, and participants of the Sunday Night Sessions. It further enriches its depiction of the pub’s vibrant community.

With the launch of its new website, the Mid-Atlantic Region of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is primed to develop a booming platform for the proliferation of Irish traditional music, locally and internationally.

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