The thing about the history of the Duke is that nobody can agree on what’s true, and we are not here to help. The only way to know what it’s like is to come and experience it yourself.
Willie Jack has owned the Duke since the early ’80s but it already had plenty of unique Northern Irish character. It was a pub for 200 years but got blown up in 1972 – terrorists were going to bomb the High Court but came to a security checkpoint and bolted up the alleyway to get away. The bomb went off prematurely and flattened the pub. It wasn’t targeted but it had to be rebuilt.
Today it’s known for the history of Belfast distilling which is visible on bric-a-brac inside, the murals, the Belfast phrases covering the place. For 30 years Willie saved up precious Belfast ephemera from pubs across the nine counties of Ulster, and continues to do so. Everything on display is original and true Belfast, it’s got provenance. Added to that are the new murals from guest artists which cover most of the walls outside.
What we say now is that you are welcome for a pint, but leave your football shirt at the door, don’t be asking for alcopops, respect the people around you and that waving your notes at the staff behind the bar doubles your waiting time.
Or: “Come in Soberly, Drink Moderately, Depart Quietly and Call Again”.