This evocative photograph of Phil Coyne’s Claddagh Bar was originally taken about 40 years ago. The shawled lady was Biddy (or ‘Bideen’ ) King from the Claddagh. The bar was situated on the corner of Raven Terrace, where McGuire’s shop is today. To the left of the pub was a sweet shop, which was owned by two sisters, Hanna and Sheila Gannon, one of whom wore mini-skirts long before they became fashionable. To the left of that again was John and Annie Connolly’s bar. They also kept lodgers, and one of those who stayed there was Edward McGuire who was a mechanic in Higgins’ Garage. His wife to be, Ethel Corbett, worked around the corner in George Gay’s furniture shop, and when they decided to get married, they bought Connolly’s and changed the name to McGuire’s Bar.
The building at the end of Raven Terrace was Haverty’s Pub, and around the corner, facing the Claddagh, was Beatty’s Forge. This was later taken over by Jack Mitchell who ran a motor repair shop there. Next to him was George Gay’s shop. Behind the Claddagh Bar on the Lower Fairhill side was Carroll’s Garage.
This photograph was taken by Bill Doyle, a Dubliner who loved the west of Ireland, especially the Aran Islands. He was a photographer by profession, but in his work he was much more than that; a social historian and documentarist, a consummate artist, a storyteller, a keen observer with a wicked sense of humour and an ability to capture, through a series of frozen moments, the familiar and intriguing small episodes of everyday life. He had the gift of managing to be in the right place at the right time. He was a people person and it was people he recorded in simple evocations of times that are now past. There was nothing contrived about his subjects, no posing. They were all comfortable and natural going about their daily business. All had dignity and self-respect, no matter how humble their background.
One could say these people reflected the photographer, for Bill was a gentleman of great dignity, great fun, great company, a great friend. Happily some of his work has appeared in book form, indeed, some are already minor classics, such as The Aran Islands; Another World, Images of Dublin, and Bill Doyle’s Ireland. He passed away on November 24, and he will be greatly missed. Solas na bhFhlaitheas dá anam uasal.