A fond farewell to Doyle’s
DUBLIN — It was here, in the city that, as James Joyce once observed, is virtually impossible to cross and not pass a pub, that I learned Doyle’s of Jamaica Plain is closing.
It was like hearing that a very good, very old friend had died.
Like pitchers who can go deep into the seventh inning, real, authentic neighborhood bars are harder to find these days, certainly as Boston gets richer and fewer working-class people can afford to live there.
Places like Doyle’s defined neighborhoods, and were peopled by characters who ate and drank there and were the neighborhood. The Eire Pub in Dorchester is like that. As was The Quencher in South Boston and Donovan’s in Lower Mills.
At least John Stenson at the Eire and Jerry Foley at J.J.’s in the South End are hanging in there.
Alas, Doyle’s is going the way of so many others.
The Eire is a good place to go to be reminded that, even in deeply blue Boston, there are places where people are conservative with a small C. The patrons are great people. The Guinness is good, and cheaper than here in Dublin, where they brew it.
Doyle’s, 4 miles away from Adams Village, has a very different demographic.
Donald Trump definitely pulled some votes from the Eire. I doubt he got any out of Doyle’s.
Doyle’s clientele was among the most diverse in the city. It looked like Boston. And it really looked like JP.
You’d walk into the place and in one booth there were two women, very much in love, laughing, next to four black guys talking about the Patriots, next to a couple of Dominicans, next to a bunch of hipsters, next to an Irish guy talking rubbish, next to two social workers saying they like but don’t love Marty Walsh, next to Cathy Mayo and her son Delmace, whom she adopted from Haiti.
Like the Eire, which politicians routinely used as a prop, a place to polish their regular-guy cred, Doyle’s attracted politicians like flies to . . . well, let’s just say the place really drew pols.
I was talking to a guy in Dingle, here in Ireland, a few days before the news on Doyle’s broke. Like a lot of folks in Kerry, he lived in Boston during the 1980s and 1990s before moving back home, and he described walking into Doyle’s one day to see three very recognizable guys sitting in a booth. He was there when someone took the iconic photo of former mayor Kevin White; White’s successor, Mayor Ray Flynn; and a city councilor named Tom Menino who would later succeed Flynn. That photo is on the walls, part of the furniture.
Politics infused the place. Gerry Burke Sr., who ran it for years with his brothers Eddie and Billy, and whose son Gerry Jr. is selling the place he took over from his dad in 2005, knew more about politics than any high-priced political consultant.
Except Ed Jesser, Menino’s guy, who used to regale Gerry and everybody else in Doyle’s with great stories, and who I regularly met at Doyle’s so he could tell me I was useless and that the Globe was a shell of its former self.
“Get in line, Eddie,” I’d tell him.
When he was writing his magnificent biography of House Speaker John McCormack, Garrison Nelson relied on Gerry Burke Sr. for stories, especially about Gerry’s great-uncle, Tim Callahan, who served alongside McCormack.
We held many Christmas lunches at Doyle’s to remember our pal Dave Nyhan, the toughest liberal columnist in the world, who died far too young. Jesser would get sentimental, which isn’t like him.
At one of those lunches, Jesser turned to me and said, “I loved David.”
Me, too. And I loved Doyle’s but now we’ll have to find another place to toast David.
I assume Doyle’s will go the way of The Quencher and become a condo development that none of the regulars could afford.
And this they call progress.