Believe it or not, it is only in recent years that that the consumption of alcohol has become socially acceptable. In the 1800s there was a degree of shame associated with being seen entering or leaving a public house, such as McCusker’s Pub. Yet ironically, the public house was a centre of social life in many Irish towns.
In spite of various temperance movements of the 1800s, the great religious revival of 1859 among Protestant denominations, the Catholic religious revival of the 1880s and 1890s and the founding of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association in 1901, many public houses continued to trade and to make a living.
For many folk, the pub offered a welcome, if temporary, escape from the grind of daily life. It meant relief from long hours working in arduous and often dangerous conditions, or the terrible overcrowding in some inner-city areas and the generally miserable living conditions of working people. Spirits, especially gin and whiskey, were consumed in large quantities.
Periodically great concern was expressed at the high level of consumption by the working classes. Of course, the middle and upper classes were by no means teetotal - they could drink in comfort in their clubs or at home, although the quantities they consumed tended to be much smaller.
Replica, location of original: Upper Irish Street, Armagh, County Armagh.
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