In the 1790s, the Hole in the Wall was the place to be because Kilkenny Castle’s Earl John Butler was a nightly visitor, his former valet Tom Clayton being the proprietor.
Its modern day owner, Dr Michael Conway tells the rest:
“These days, such royal patronage being history, the revived Hole in the Wall searches to relive its great past in the time of a republic.
In 2012, the Hole in the Wall designed a programme based on the Irish language and Ireland’s culture (Seacht Seachtain na Gaeilge), Germany (April’s Deutsche Woche), June’s English Week, July’s French Week, August’s Japanese Week, October’s Franz Liszt Festival, November’s Days of America, December’s Days of the Russians and Dutch Sinterfest and also the Brazilian and Barbados carnivals.
While these did not reflect the happenings at the tavern in the 1790s when the future Duke of Wellington was a habitué, they did lead to great insight into exotic cultures and were an important talking point for visitors from the relevant countries. In some cases so many visitors turned up from an individual country that a festival dedicated to them was initiated ‘on the hoof’ – for example September’s Acadian Festival celebrating the music of the Cajuns who hailed originally from Acadia (Nova Scotia), Canada and whose music has the Irish reel at its core.
While designing Deutsche Woche for 2013, the date 24-04-1916 has come into focus – especially with the discovery of the link between Fr Albert Bibby (the Patriot Priest), his sisters Charlotte and Agnes (owners of Hole in the Wall from 1900) and the 1916 Rising. In exploring the potential of a historical show, the story of Joseph Mary Plunkett and his gaol marriage to Grace Gifford in Kilmainham hours before his execution has stoked interest.
After the song was beautifully sung recently by a customer, the ghosts of 1916 seem to be visiting. Curiously, on the inaugural outing to the Book Centre recently to begin the historical research, the first book seen (facing out on the shelf!) was ‘Unlikely Rebels’ by Anne Clare (Mercier Press 2011). This provides a unique and fascinating insight into the story from the perspective of the Giffords.
Following on from that, unique footage of places in Dublin that are hardly known as being linked to the Rising and its aftermath has been recorded. ‘Arise in Revolution’ is a show that is about to be spawned which will describe aspects of Easter 1916 that link the Hole in the Wall, Kilkenny to the birth of the Republic. (Any locals with memorabilia concerning the time are welcome to loan them to the Hole in the Wall in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the momentous occasion in 2016).
The Hole in the Wall has some unique selling points for Kilkenny city – a rare and restored historic house that tells the history of the city and of Ireland from 1582, an Archer Room with some of the best acoustics around, a programme that sees regular changes reflecting its international festivals. In the period as a tavern from 1690 to the late 1800s, it was not associated with the nurturing of local musical talent.
However, with ‘Being Edith Piaf’, ‘In the Shadows of the Mine’ and now ‘Arise in Revolution’ helping to showcase local singers, the Hole in the Wall is doing something unique for the 21st Century, making Kilkenny ‘not so Lonely Planet’ for visitors and locals alike.”