DOWN THE YEARS
Former Guinness employee Kevin Grennan has a life long passion for learning
IN A house packed full of books in Charlesland, Greystones, octogenarian Kevin Grennan proudly displays his recently- earned degree.
Over the space of around two decades, Kevin amassed credits at his leisure from a series of evening courses taught at ‘ Saor Ollscoil na hÉireann’ the ‘ Free University of Ireland.’
The learning institution was established on Dublin’s Prussia Street in the 1980s by a small group of educationalists ‘ with the creative vision of a life- long learning process.’ The lecturers and administrators give their services free of charge in the spirit of access to a pool of knowledge for everyone.
A Guinness lifer, Kevin started working for the famous Dublin brewery when he was just 14 and remained there until he retired at the age of 55.
Today, he is razorsharp, charming and a man who remains in possession of an expansive joie de vivre.
A native of Inchicore, he was born in the shadow of Kilmainham and came from Guinness stock. His father had worked there, as had several generations of his mother’s family. It was his mother who got him into a shirt and a tie and sent him off to work for a company which ensured he got an education, as well as a lifelong love for the black stuff.
Life eventually brought him to live in Greystones after his late wife Pat passed away around a decade ago. Kevin’s daughter Tina was living in the north Wicklow area and the family home in Templeogue was too big for just himself. ‘ I saw a big spread in the paper promoting Charlesland,’ he said, and here he is, settled and happy.
From his first job as post boy as a teenager, Kevin’s final position at St. James’ Gate was supervisor in the vat house.
In those days a job for the company was ‘ money dead or alive,’ and one stayed for an entire career.
There was a ‘ luncheon room’ with a social ecosystem all of its own. There were different times and rooms for the ladies, the brewers and the senior managers, definitely with material for a book in its intricacies for someone in the know like Kevin
‘ It was the most enjoyable life ever,’ said Kevin on 40 years at Guinness. ‘ We used to love going in to work.’ The hours could be long and they worked hard, however they had their two pints a day, and formed lasting friendships. They were sent to the ‘ tech’ in the evenings to learn such subjects as arithmetic, bookkeeping, commerce and German, and the older workers and countrymen gave their own education to the younger lads.
‘ I had a love affair with Guinness,’ said Kevin, who still enjoys a can of the stout in the evenings when watching the television. ‘ O’Casey called it “the wine of the country.”’
He explained some of the inner- workings of the vat house, with gravity and its part in the brewing process, or adventures looking for a leak or ‘ following a main,’ with a blowtorch and hope.
He first met his wife Pat at the gates of Trinity after they were set up on a blind date. They ended up getting married in 1958 and went on to have three children - Caitriona, Mary and Paul. They have four grandchildren, Aoife Darragh, Óran and Kate. Their photographs litter the mantlepiece in Kevin’s home and he is deeply proud of all of them.
‘ The first book I ever read was by a man called Richard Halliburton,’ said Kevin on the roots of his thirst for knowledge. ‘ I read it on the banks of the canal and I was 14 or 15.’
Halliburton had flown a plane from Canada to Greece. He visited Troy and a number of other places, Kevin recalled.
This must have been ‘ The Glorious Adventure’ in which the explorer followed the path of Ulysses.
So Kevin later embarked on his own glorious adventure of the mind. He ultimately published a thesis on Jim Larkin to earn his BA in Liberal Arts. It’s bound and on the bookcase along with his daughter Mary’s thesis.
‘James Larkin 1876 - 1947 Militant or Syndicalist’ was his chosen topic.
He finished it and graduated last year and spent time on his other passion - travelling. He went to Australia and travelled back through Thailand with his partner and fellow- explorer Doreen. They also spend time in Portugal and love to watch the world go by.
Meanwhile, Kevin still loves to learn and his interest in philosophy, history, the classics and more has not waned.
It was said that the more Halliburton travelled, the more he wanted to do so. Kevin’s journey seems to be made of the same stuff and a masters and Phd await at the Saor Ollscoil if Kevin wishes to choose that particular path.