We made it to Howth. After a few days confined within Dublin’s city limits, we decided we had to take the advice of the nice man who sold us our train tickets to Greystones. He took the time to fetch a printed map and circle the coastal towns he recommended. He gave Howth (that’s H-long O-th or -t) high praise, “a beautiful fishing village,” he said.
So we bought another ticket. Once again we found distances on public transportation misleading. Howth is 14 kilometers from Dublin, less than 9 miles. Seemed like 30 miles! Of course, our train was a local, not an express.
Anyway, we arrived and immediately felt at home. We’re from the Oregon coast, so we savored the smell of fishy salt air, the chattering of scores of seagulls circling the trawlers’ daily catch, the pier lined with seafood shops and restaurants (we sampled the wares in one of them), and walked the jetty for a better look at the coastline. He was right: “a beautiful fishing village.” It was also very windy and quite chilly even though the sun was bright. Just like home, we agreed.
Then calamity struck! Joy couldn’t find her credit card. When she went to pay for our lunch (yes, she buys the groceries—it’s a great policy) she felt that awful panic we’ve all experienced. She emptied every pocket. No card. (That meant I had to pay for lunch. That wasn’t in the contract.) We checked with every shop along the pier, even the information center blocks away. No card. Everybody was nice, wanted to be helpful, but we left Howth without it sooner than we had planned to. It’s not fun to be cardless in Ireland!
When we returned to Dublin we split up temporarily, Joy wanting to pick up a couple of items, Roy wanting to get to our flat for a serious search for the card. No search needed. There, on the kitchen counter, were not one but two credit cards. It was then that I realized the whole drama was a ploy to make me pay for lunch.
And I fell for it.
In the spirit of Jesus’ parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost prodigal son, when the lost was found we celebrated. We ate at a highly recommended restaurant on Dawn Street (the city’s main artery) where I enjoyed grilled cod (still thinking of the fishing village) that was as good as any I’ve ever eaten. And Joy paid.
As you probably already know, Dublin is Guinness territory. The Guinness success story—and it’s a phenomenal one–is told and retold on every tour, the guide pointing in the direction of the Guinness Storehouse. There they not only walk you through all the stages of brewing but they throw in a free pint in the offing.
Not wanting to be taken in by the propaganda, I bought Stephen Mansfield’s biography of the family and business and was in for a surprise. The title gives it away: The Search for God and Guinness. Guinness is about beer and God? Turns out that’s right. The founder of the dynasty was God-fearing Arthur Guinness (1725-1803), almost equally devoted to the beer business and to God. He developed his brewery not only to make money but as a means to love his neighbor as he loved God, carrying out Jesus’ Great Commandment. That devotion helped rescue the impoverished and alcohol-damaged people of Dublin. He brewed beer as a healthier alternative to the much stronger drinks—gin, whiskey and the like—that had become the scourge of Ireland’s working class in the 1700s.
From the beginning of his enterprise Arthur devoted himself to making the best beer possible and to philanthropy, especially the well-being of his employees, whom he paid above the normal wages and set a higher standard in labor relations. He saw to their medical needs, arranged better housing, took care of their old age needs, and more. Surprisingly for the times, he spoke out boldly for religious tolerance (in Ireland, that was a big thing), and in general worked to make Dublin a better place to live—and to set the example of Guinness benevolence for his descendants. He took his Christian faith seriously. (To someone of my teetotaling upbringing, this union of beer-brewing and God-serving is an eye opener.)
A little fact that has nothing to do with the theme here: Arthur signed a 9000 year lease for the brewery property. The owner demanded 100 pounds and 45 pounds a month in rent money—which the company still pays. I suspect the rent will go up in the year 10,759. Inflation, you know.
Arthur’s wife Olivia bore 21 children. Several died at birth. From those who grew to maturity two distinct lines can be traced: the brewers and the ministers, representing the two themes of Sir Arthur’s life. I was unaware that popular evangelical author Os Guinness is the great-great-great-grandson of Sir Arthur; the family interest in the faith continues, as does the brewing.
There’s even a statue of Benjamin Guinness, the founder’s grandson,
brooding on the lawn at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He donated millions of pounds to pay for refurbishing the crumbling structure (1860-1865). The city still remembers.
Stephen Mansfield also wrote biographies of George W. Bush and Barak Obama. I’m glad he included the Guinness family among his subjects.