Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
No name is more readily associated with Ireland than the family name of Guinness.
Arthur Guinness ( who is responsible for giving the name its celebrity status) was born in Celbridge, Co Kildare, in 1725, and was by birth, circumstances and opportunity in the “right place at the right time”.
His father was land steward to the archbishop of Cashel, Dr Arthur Price, and brewed a special beer for the workers on the estate. When the good archbishop died in 1752, he left £100 each to the younger two Guinness brothers, which helped Arthur lease a smaller brewery in a community called Leixlip, in Co. Kildare. After about three years, he left this brewery in the capable charge of a younger brother, and took over a larger establishment at St James' Gate in Dublin.
He began his new venture by brewing beer or ale, and within eight years was master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers.
In 1761 he married Olivia Whitmore, and ten of their twenty-one children lived to establish a dynasty which has spread into many activities and a variety of countries.
However, all was not always well in the annals of the Guinness family records
A major dispute arose with Dublin Corporation, whose investigators concluded that Guinness was drawing more free water than his lease permitted. In 1775, the brewer seized a pickaxe to defend his supplies from the sheriff, and eventually reached a peaceful solution after protracted litigation.
“Duties” and other taxes on beer proved another problem, and in 1795 Guinness enlisted the help of the great Henry Grattan whose oratorical skills were used to persuade the government to remove the burden.
In 1778, Guinness began to brew porter - the darker beer famous in Ireland and elsewhere both for its unique taste and potency, containing roasted barley and first drunk by London “porters” . With his special business acumen, Guinness exploited Ireland's new canals to extend his market.
In 1799, he brewed ale for the last time. Sales of porter increased threefold during the Napoleonic Wars, and in time St James's Gate became the largest porter and stout brewery in the world, its 'extra stout porter' becoming known simply as stout ---an even stronger drink than had been popular before.
Guinness gradually handed over control to three sons, and spent his last years at Beaumont, his country home in Drumcondra, now a Dublin suburb. He died on 23 January 1803.