He is a ghostly apparition on the page, slightly washed out by the flash of the camera in the dark pub. An older man with a paunch and a jacket with sleeves straining to contain his big arms.
Not the image of perfect health, but a strong man with a faint smile and keen eyes returning your gaze across the decades.
The photo is captioned: “Pintman Paddy Losty. Some of Dublin’s pintmen have been known to put away thirty pints or more in a day.”
Losty’s picture was found in late 2015 by Publin.ie in a 20-year-old book of oral history about Dublin pubs, Dublin Pub Life and Lore by Kevin Kearns.
After developing a modest following on Twitter, Losty’s fame exploded. Early last month, the popular Ireland Simpsons Fans page on Facebook banned posts including Losty’s picture after a four-day rampage.
His fans set up a dedicated splinter group, which has now spun out to a Twitter account controlled by the group’s admins.
His celebrity is secure, at least for the 4,548 fans of Photoshop jobs of Losty in the guise of characters ranging from Hans Moleman to Dionysus.
Under the table
It’s a quiet one in Hynes’s of Prussia Street on Monday evening. A run of local funerals has cut into the regular crowd’s finances, according to the barman, but the traffic of betting slips and pints across the bar is brisk enough to keep him on his toes.
“We’ve a great gang drinking here, no trouble at all from them,” he said.
A trickle of Losty fans have made the pilgrimage over the last few weeks – he puts the figure at about 15 or 20. “A few extra in chatting and buying drinks.” He’s thinking about starting a Facebook page for the pub.
The pub has been refurbished since the famous photo was taken (the bar was on the opposite side of the room then), but the pace of life and the surnames of its regulars have changed little. One of them is Ruth Losty, who is the daughter-in-law of Paddy.
Paddy’s grandchildren showed her the page, and while she was a little apprehensive at first, she came around to it. “We think it’s cool. There’s no one actually slagging. It’s all quite good-natured,” she said.
Ruth is keen to point out that Losty had a life outside drinking. “He was a character. People think he set foot in a pub day in and day out, but he worked most of the year.”
In the days when livestock trotted down from Broombridge railway station to market at Smithfield, when the bus passed a sea of cattle at Hanlon’s corner, the beefy local men who herded them were rivalled only by dockers in their capacity for drink. Paddy Losty was one of them.
“He wouldn’t be up at the bar tearing strips out of anyone, but nobody made a fool out of him either. He could hold his own, as well as his thirty,” she said.
“He could drink any man under the table,” she said. But could he drink 30? “Definitely.”
30 Pints or More a Day
Thirty pints is a huge quantity of alcohol. But if the stories are to be believed, it’s hardly the record for a Smithfield cattleman.
“Forty or fifty” pints would be an impressive tally in the eyes of Mick Kavanagh, who was enjoying a pint of stout over a copy of the Herald in Hynes’s.
He’s seen it done, he says. “These would be men who died in their forties,” he said.
Kavanagh puts his own high score at 15.
Historian Kevin Kearns recorded accounts of similar excess when he was researching his book on the folklore of Dublin pubs in the mid-1990s. He met Losty in 1994 or 1995.
“I was in a pub over in Stoneybatter up by the cattle yards, chatting with two interesting crusty old drovers. I noticed this man sitting at the bar on his stool supping his pint watching me – but, of course, pretending he wasn’t! He obviously heard my ‘Yank’ accent and wondered what I could possibly be doing with a small tape recorder in front of me,” Kearns said.
“About an hour later when I was finished gathering my oral history testimonies from the drovers I walked past Paddy on my way out and said hello. He was quite pleased to meet me and we chatted for a few minutes. Then I asked him if he would mind if I took a quick photo of him. ‘Ah, not at all!’”
But for Kearns, the defining quality of the true pintman is not excess, but satisfaction.
“The reason I wanted his photo is because I thought he so perfectly symbolized the true ‘contentment’ of a ‘real pintman’. Sitting by himself, utterly contented on his own, with his ‘best friend’ in hand. Pure bliss to Paddy!”
Which is essentially a very nice way of saying “don’t try this at home”.