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Tracing the rich tapestry of the Lavery family’s history in Ireland reveals a lineage steeped in tradition, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit.  Each entry in this timeline not only dates back to the roots of the Lavery surname but also weaves through pivotal moments and establishments that have left an indelible mark on Belfast’s history, culminating in the Lavery’s Bar we know today—a symbol of endurance and a legacy preserved through generations.


John Lavery, Dromara

Born 1810 in Dromara John Lavery became a well known publican, farmer and magistrate in the village after the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829. He went on to marry and had 5 children. 2 of his surviving children Thomas and Mary Lavery were twins born in 1845. John died in 1884.


Kinahan Brothers Spirit Grocers

In 1854 Hugh and John Kinahan, 2 Belfast brothers bought the small but busy Albion Place Spirit Grocers (now Lavery’s).

Kinahan Bro.s was one of the more popular Belfast coach stops for the Belfast to Dublin horse-drawn passenger coach. Stable facilities to the rear of the property on Stable Lane (now Lavery’s stores) facilitated the rest and changing of horses between journeys. This helped cement the brothers success as they had a steady flow of travelling and local custom.



In 1870 John Lavery’s son Thomas walked from Dromara to a burgeoning Belfast to meet with his twin sister Mary Lavery Gilmore ‘Ma Guinea’, who had already established her own wholesale business in Cromac Square. With her help, Thomas began to build his company starting as a spirit dealer at 13 Corporation Square in the heart of Belfast’s Docklands, this site later turned into Muldoon’s Pub.

Thomas died in 1917 bestowing his children Charlie & Patrick with all of his holdings.

Kinahan Bro.s was one of the more popular Belfast coach stops for the Belfast to Dublin horse-drawn passenger coach. Stable facilities to the rear of the property on Stable Lane (now Lavery’s stores) facilitated the rest and changing of horses between journeys. This helped cement the brothers success as they had a steady flow of travelling and local custom.


Sale of Kinahan’s

One week before the end of WW1 the bank advised Charlie and Patrick Lavery to buy Kinahan Bros. Spirit Grocer’s.

Alcohol was in short supply following years of wartime rationing and The Lavery Brothers were buying pubs to gain access to their stock of alcohol. Around 15-20 pubs were purchased at this time, mostly to obtain whiskeys.

Kinahan Bros. Spirit Grocers is renamed The Gin Palace.

The Spirit Grocers was not seen as a lucrative investment given there was already a successful pub in Shaftsbury Square called Moses Hunter (now the KFC building on the corner).


Turn of the Tide

Charlie & Patrick had continued to build the organisation in a relatively quiet period between the two world wars, where they managed to acquire and control over 30 spirit grocers.

It was estimated The Lavery fortune amounted to over half a million pounds at this time. The Lavery’s enjoyed this period of affluence, which also included buying the famous racehorse ‘Turn of the Tide’ whose successes had earned The Lavery’s considerable wealth.

However by the time WW2 was declared most of the spirit grocers, property and holdings had been lost.

Mismanagement, large debts and gambling were revealed to be the cause, licensed premises had been wagered at the poker table and forfeited. Around this time there was also an unsuccessful attempt to move into the bookmaking business.

The remaining properties were;

  • The Braden Bar (Lower May St.) – now Ronnie Drew’s
  • Mc Grath Tavern (Upper May St.)
  • The Elbow Room (Dublin Rd.)
  • The Tramway Bar (Beersbridge Rd.)
  • The Gin Palace? (name at this time) (Bradbury Pl.) ~ now Lavery’s Bar


Family Plot

Charlie Lavery died in 1936. His sister Clare also died the same day at their shared home on Rosetta. They are both buried in Friar’s Bush Cemetery (although there is no record of Clare). Many of the Lavery extended family chose Friar’s Bush as their final resting place. It is one of Ireland’s oldest graveyards situated behind Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.


Lavery Ltd.

Taking a tram and travelling down the Ormeau Road from his home one day, Patrick Lavery had a heart attack.

Even though the tram was diverted towards the hospital Patrick died on the way. The family were forced to sell their most lucrative investment ~ The Tramway Pub to pay substantial death duties.

This was of particular concern to the family as they had all once lived in this pub and six of the eight children had been born here.

The Lavery Ltd. company was set up after this to stop this from happening again. Patrick’s five sons Tom, Patsy, John, Charlie and Donal become director’s of Lavery Ltd. Alfie Lavery (brother to Pat & Charlie) took over The Braden Bar, Lower May St. ~ now Ronnie Drew’s.



Tom and Patsy Lavery built a private bar to the rear of The Gin Palace with it’s own entrance through Albion Lane (originally Stable Lane). They name it Cobbles Back Bar as the laneway is paved with cobble stones leading to the old horse stables at the top.

There was increasing demand for bars to accommodate women during this period and Charlie O’Neill’s private bar at Robinson’s, Great Victoria Street was the first bar of its kind in Belfast.

Cobbles soon followed suit. Women could not be seen entering through the front door of most establishments and mixing with an all-male clientele so Cobbles was built primarily as a lounge for women but quickly integrated soon after.

The public bar remained a men only bar until 1962. Around 1960, a woman named Julie walked into the public bar and asked for a Guinness much to the annoyance of the all male patronage.

‘She was more than a match for the verbal abuse that was thrown at her’ ~ Patsy Lavery


The Divide

The bars were divided up among the company directors and family members.

Charlie Lavery – McGrath Tavern, Upper May Street

John & Donal Lavery – The Elbow Room, Dublin Road

Tom & Patsy Lavery – The Gin Palace & Cobbles, Bradbury Place

Uncle Alfie Lavery – The Braden Bar, Lower May Street


The Troubles – The Ashley Bar

John Lavery ‘Jackie’, owner of The Ashley Bar, Lisburn Road (now Cuckoo) died when he tried to remove an IRA bomb from his pub.

His death is remembered by Seamus Heaney, who lived at 16 Ashley Avenue and visited the bar on occasion.

‘And what in the end was there left to bury of Mr. Lavery, blown up in his own pub.
As he bore the primed device and bears it still
Mid-morning towards the sun-admitting door
Of Ashley House?ɉ۪

Route 110 excerpt – Seamus Heaney


The Troubles – Mc Grath Tavern Bomb

McGrath Tavern took its name from Master Mc Grath, the Irish champion Greyhound, affectionately known as ‘Dicksy’ who won the Waterloo Cup 3 times.. The dog’s owner Lord Lurgan stayed in the tavern for the night before the Waterloo cup and it was renamed McGraths after the win. Lord Lurgan went on to plant a tree in the garden of the tavern in memory of the dog.

Upper May street was a hive for shipyard workers and it was common practice to pull over 100 pints of single Guinness in preparation for rush hour. Customers were made up mostly of people living in the market area with rugby supporters visiting when games were being played at Ravenhill Stadium.

In 1972 McGrath Tavern in May Street was bombed by The IRA resulting in the tavern’s total demolition. John and Charlie Lavery were held under gunpoint in the antiques parlour next door to McGraths while the bomb was deposited and detonated. It was never re-built.


The Troubles – The Elbow Room Bomb

In 1973 it was bombed by the UVF while John & Charlie were held at gunpoint downstairs. Donal was able to raise the alarm and get everyone out of the first floor before the bomb went off. All survive.

It remained a bombed out shell for almost 10 years on the Dublin Road until it’s demolished in 1982.

The Elbow Room was a popular haunt for BBC employees, artists, poets, critics, politicians and raconteurs. Partly due to its location, it became a hub of cultured Belfast nightlife as early as the 1940s. Nicknamed by regulars Studio E, The Elbow Room had it’s own Public Bar (The Windsor Castle) and the upstairs lounge was the most modern and fashionable pub of it’s time in Ireland.

One of the regulars was George Galway MacCann, a Northern Irish abstract painter and Modernist sculptor who was frequently endorsed by Henry Moore. He was commissioned by the Lavery Brothers to paint 3 of the pubs. He later painted a mural inside The Elbow Rooms of a collaged scene of bars owned by the Lavery’s brothers which remained on the walls until demolition.


The Troubles – The Gin Palace Bomb

Tom (known as Mr Tom, famed for sporting a dickie bow) along with his wife lived above The Gin Palace and Cobbles on the first floor. Alfie Lavery and two other employees also kept their living quarters on the top floor ~ now Lavery’s Ballroom & Pool Hall.

In 1974 The UVF firebombed the building on Bradbury Place at night with all asleep inside. The bar was badly damaged by fire but fortunately, there was no loss of life.

Lavery’s first floor bar where Tom lived was re-named Tom’s in 2014.



Tom and Pat rebuild and refurbish The Gin Palace and Cobbles and subsequently rename the last remaining Lavery owned bar to Lavery’s Gin Palace & Cobbles.


A New Crowd

Tom and Pat’s sons; Charlie and Patrick took over the running of the bar in 1980.

Lavery’s was quickly growing into an exciting place to socialise in Belfast. A melting pot of bikers, skins, punks, students and the people of Sandy Row & Donegal Pass who were truly the fixtures and fittings of The Public Bar. During the most miserable days of the 70s and 80s people would still flock to have a pint in the dark caverns of Cobbles.

In the ’80s, the new owners decided to renovate Tom Lavery’s old flat upstairs. Business was booming for the Lavery family and the bar saw a further renovation three years later, this time rebuilding the back bar after it was badly affected by another bomb.

Other developments and extensions soon followed. Not long after, they bought the dry cleaners ~ Marlowes next door and combined it with their current property, helping to increase the bar sizes as well as adding offices.