Knick Knack Paddy – The Comforting Clutter of the Irish Pub

Knick Knack Paddy – The Comforting Clutter of the Irish Pub

Doolin’s of Vancouver. The Blarney Stone of Shanghai. Bubbles O’Leary’s of Uganda. Silver’s of Moscow. McGettigan’s of Dubai. The Wild Rover of Cusco. The Drunken Poet of Melbourne.

You’ve perhaps never heard of any of these far-flung establishments but they all share a common mission; to bring the incomparable charm of the traditional Irish pub to their own locale.

You see, the Irish Pub is something of a prodigy. Its very soul exported across the globe and carrying with it a sense of romance and sentimental charm, it can be enigmatic. That definitive characteristic evades a label. What makes the Irish pub so alluring is more of a feeling than anything else.

The modern Irish pub, whether in Galway or Bangkok, evokes yesteryear. It’s intended to be a bit of an alternate reality. Designed to make you forget about your troubles, the outside world becomes muffled once the door shuts behind you. The interior is usually dimly lit, the wood dark and the ceiling low. A fire, fueled by turf, perhaps roars in the hearth while mismatched high-back armchairs and stools scatter the room, inviting you to have a seat, rub your chilly hands together and order a pint of the black stuff.


But perhaps most synonymous with the Irish Pub is the bric-a-brac. It’s one of the most common and most uniting characteristics of the authentic establishment. Walls adorned with mirrors and tin signs advertising now defunct Irish whiskeys, cigarettes and chocolate, shelves crowded with flagons, show cards, books and bottles, the ceiling, even, decorated with old copper cookware, tools and tack, all contribute, in no small way to the feel of the Irish pub. It is warm and welcoming. It is snug and sincere. Ceol agus craic.

LOT 583 - 1970s Redbreast John Jameson and Son Rare Irish Whiskey 12 Years Old
LOT 148 - Rare Ogden's Beano Pigtail tobacco advertising tin
LOT 498- Vanner Prests painted metal advertising clock.

It’s supposed to look cluttered. It’s supposed to be a little disorderly. It’s supposed to look like the current publican’s great-grandfather got back from the merchants sixty years ago, hung his horse’s sweaty bridle there and simply forgot about it. There it remains; dusty, curious and improbably appropriate. It’s the purposeful chaos of the décor that gives the Irish pub its personality, that says, “come on in, you’re very welcome!” and entices you to spend some time amongst the artifacts.

LOT 342 - Harp - We Are Talking ""Sharp"" advertising drinks tray.
Millar's Whiskies Ceramic Water Jug
LOT 359 - Rare Bengal Gin tiger advertising figure

The Irish pub is greater than the sum of its parts and rather unremarkable without them. The bric-a-brac is significant Each piece a curiosity, telling its own story. Each piece originated somewhere and found its way to that shelf in that pub miles and years away from that origin.

It is rarely random. Rather, these knickknacks arrive there with forethought by the publican. Forethought for their relevance, their history, their viewers. They arrive from Ireland to distant lands with a vocation to make their surroundings more authentic. They’re there, at the end of the day, to contribute to your experience.

LOT 503 - Take Some Guinness Home Today Advertising Bus
LOT 609 - Five Wooden advertising Signs - Importer, Spirits, Grocer, etc.

And that’s why we love these knickknacks so. Their often diminutive stature and sometimes weathered appearance can see them dismissed by many the less discerning as unimportant trinkets, fit only for the peripherals of their attention. But we see more. We see their eccentricities, their detail and their weight in the big picture of the Irish pub.

Of course, as an auction house, we also see their fiscal value. A value that can often make the term “knickknack” seem quite an inferior description. Because when we get down to brass tacks, some of these knickknacks are branded, rare, exclusive and old and they go to auction with estimates to send shivers down the spine.

These 19th Century chemists jars, for example, have come to us in outstanding condition considering their age. Chemist jars and bottles are a rarity on today’s market, thanks to their fragility and high collectability. These go under the hammer with an estimate of €400-€800.

LOT 32 - Set of six Miniature Guinness advertising bottles
LOT 394 - Set of Five of 19th C. chemist jars.
LOT 247 - Three early 20th C. mineral water bottle crates

Lot 469 – McConnells Special Irish Whiskey Dispenser is also set to go to an eager bidder with an estimate of €1000-€2000. Age and rarity are the two crucial factors behind the estimate on this. The Cromac Distillery where this dispenser was born, closed its doors in the 1920s meaning this particular piece is one of few surviving today and is sure to attract major attention at next weeks sale.

One of the more extravagant knickknacks on offer here this Wednesday is this extremely rare mahogany and glass Ogden’s Cigarettes dispensing cabinet. One of the oldest lots appearing in this sale (it dates to the 1890s), it has reached us in remarkably good shape and goes under the hammer with an estimate of €3000-€6000.

LOT 469 - Extremely Rare McConnell's Special Irish Whiskey Dispenser Cromac Distillery Belfast
LOT 269 - Extremely rare early 20th C. Ogden's Cigarettes dispensing cabinet

Join us this Wednesday January 29th at 5.30 pm for the Pub Memorabilia and Advertising Sale. View the catalogue and register your bids online, via email or by calling the office on 00353 (0) 4755076

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