Our contemporary story of Gleeson’s or the White House established in 1812 as a Winery starts with Eamon and the late Ita Gleeson, the wife of the journalist Michael Fitzgibbon, editor of the Limerick Chronicle/The Limerick Leader.
It is now a professional, business, financial and intellectual heart of what was Georgian residential and merchant enclave of nobles and gentry of the 17th Century.
Its immediate neighbours are the Hotels, Guest Houses, The Belltable Theatre, Art Galleries, Churches and Restaurants of that period.Equally you have the Peoples Park, Taits Clock, and the statue of the Liberator – Daniel O ’Connell within walking distance.
All are of similar vintage and era and like the White House represent a graphic image of the turbulent economic political history and its social consequences that still permeate our city.
In Limerick the White name occurs frequently in the list of Mayors since 1213.Fr.James White completed a History of Limerick in 1713.Stately burying places are found in Churches in Ballineety and Whitestown, Ballinanty and Tullybrackey and in the Cathedral Church of Limerick.
All this would take place during the morning while their men were in discussion on a new plot of ground with Derrick Pain the renowned Architect. He lived and worked just a few doors down at No.36.He designed and built this city for the Barrington’s and Lord Limerick. One could suggest that the entire establishment and more lived on this street.
James Frost J.P was at No.54, R.L.Brown Estate Agents was at No.57, The City Club at 58, The Limerick Chronicle Office at 59 and Sir James Spaight at 77, William Spillane was at 67 and Robert Hunt at 83.
Martin Maguire Corn Merchant was at 87 and Edward White the land agent at 99.
Caffrey Moses, the Hayes family and the Seawards all had a contribution in the creation of what eventually became the White House. Other neighbours of these people were Dr.Brodie, the Harrolds the Scottish Insurance Company and Michael Sellors the Solicitors.
Ita Gleeson – an intellectual, realist and dramatist-the wife of journalist Michael Fitzgibbon with Eamon encouraged the ambiance that epitomises this oak walled and mirrored Pub today. Her contemporary modern customers still drink, talk politics, fashion, poetry, the news and their views.
Indeed it is very difficult to sit in Ita Gleeson’s in the year 2002 even with an Irish Whiskey or a pint of Guinness without feeling the enormous effects of this space and time. What it was truly like to watch from here in 1836 the coach and four and the driver of the Victorian Sedan and the ascending ladies visiting the Miss Doyle’s Millenary at No.48 second next door.
Afterwards they went to Marie Massey’s Haberdashery at No.2 Glentworth Street on the other side. They finally ordered groceries from James Seaward back at No.50 who incidentally was at No.47 in 1815 and at No.46 O’Connell Street in 1822.
All these groceries unlike today had to be delivered immediately of course-through the Tradesman’s entrance and checked by the House Keeper and signed for by the Butler. Such were the times gone by.
Sometimes they even argue quietly as they did in the Grienstiel Cafe in Vienna.
There was always romance here in the back to back snugs around 1800’s –now it’s out in the open, in corners, along the wall benches and up on a high stool.
It is a place to wander into at any age either with somebody or on your own for a quick one, a session just a cup of coffee or a soup and sandwich.