The Glen Tavern is based in one of Limerick’s most historic buildings, with a captivating story that stretches across three centuries.
It was built as part of Newtown Pery, an elegant Georgian neighbourhood established by Lord Viscount Edmund Pery in the late 1700s. He named Glentworth Street – on which the pub now stands – after his brother, William Cecil Pery, later Bishop of Limerick and Lord Glentworth of Mallow. The stylish houses were designed for members of the merchant, military and professional classes, such as the Rydings, a family of dentists who made No. 1 their home in the 1850s.
In 1892 it was transformed into Limerick’s first public library, a popular and vital resource for Limerick’s hard-working citizens. Almost 300 avid readers visited the premises daily, eager to access nine rooms filled with 4,000 books. At that time, the average labourer earned just 20 shillings a week, but a book could cost as much as 4 shillings to buy.
In 1911, after the library had moved to the Carnegie Building in People’s Park, No. 1 entered a new phase, as James O’Donovan converted it into an oyster saloon. He offered quality seafood with excellent stout, a practice continued to this day, more than 100 years later.
He passed away in 1943, but the pub continued to trade, and in 1998 the Callinan family – well-known in hospitality circles since the 1930s – took ownership of the Glen Tavern. Over the last 21 years, three generations of the family have taken their places behind the bar, offering authentic, fresh Irish food, live music and every kind of beverage from the perfect pint to a rare whiskey.
The tavern is still at the heart of Limerick life, just as it was when it was a busy dentist’s home, a vibrant public library and a lively city-centre public house.
As owner Ger Callinan says, he is both a publican and a custodian, tasked with taking care of this precious old building, its fascinating stories and its treasured visitors, from near and far.