Pubs and bars are generally seen as crowded, smoke-filled places where you elbow your way in, get a drink, and then elbow your way out. However, living in Dublin has taught me that, that’s not all there is to these establishments. There are the bars or pubs that you go to for a quick drink after work. Or for the ambiance. Or for the food. And then there are pubs like The Oak in Dublin which you go to because of its interiors.
The history of The Oak goes back to 1851 when it first opened its doors but changed ownership a few times. In the 1920s, it was bought by the Humphrys family, evidence of which can be seen on the eponymously embossed tiles at the entrance to the pub. In ~1945 it was taken over by Terence P. O’Donnell, “licensed grocer” and “wine and spirit merchant.” The very next year the pub’s interiors were refurbished with oak panelling rescued from the remains of the great cruise liner RMS Mauretania, part of the British Cunard Line. Once the biggest passenger ship in the world, the Mauretania’s maiden voyage was in 1906, and very soon also held the speed record for executing the fastest transatlantic crossing. The Mauretania played an active part in World War I, ferrying thousands of soldiers as a troop ship, and tending to the wounded as a hospital ship later on. After the war, it returned to its civilian duties until 1934 when the Mauretania, along with a few other ships, were retired from service against the protests of its distraught regular passengers including US President Franklin Roosevelt. The ship was soon dismantled, and most of its furnishings were auctioned.
Other than The Oak, parts of The Mauretania can be found in pubs across Britain. I didn’t know a lot of this while I was sipping my rum and coke, sitting at the bar counter. But I did know that I was sitting amidst oak panels that had seen a lot of history. And that was enough to make my evening special.
*The Oak image courtesy of Totally Dublin
** Humphry’s image courtesy of The Humphry family