It’s a privilege, say local duo who put new year on Dublin’s St James’s Gate

It’s A Privilege, Say Local Duo Who Put New Year On Dublin’s St James’s Gate
St James Gate
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

While most people are out at a packed bar or rowdy house party to ring in the new year, two carpenters spend the last minutes of December 31st on top of a cherry picker changing a sign – and say it is a privilege.

Every year, Robbie Minto and Eoghan Kelly install a board with the new year to the right side of Dublin’s famous St James’s Gate, at what was the entrance to the city during the Middle Ages.


On the left side is the founding year of Arthur Guinness’s company, 1759.

Mr Kelly, who began as Mr Minto’s apprentice, said the fact that they are “local boys” adds to the nostalgia of the night.


Mr Minto, who has been involved with the brewery for 33 years, said that years ago a temporary sign would have been put up in the new year by an engineer on the night shift, using a ladder.

The painters, who were on holiday, would then come back and paint in the new year.

As painters hired by Guinness retired and weren’t replaced, and the company looked to end the use of ladders due to health and safety concerns, the tradition needed an upgrade.


In around 2008, Mr Minto and Mr Kelly were asked to take over the job, as they had the qualifications for a cherry picker-like machine that would be used to reach the sign.

Carpenters Robbie Minto and Eoghan Kelly with the new Guinness date sign for St James’s Gate (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Minto said there were several local couples who “always came up at midnight” to see the tradition, which is why the company wanted to keep the tradition going.


“When we started, our families started going up. Over the years just the amount of people who have turned up, it’s unbelievable.”

Mr Kelly has been working at the company for 26 years, and he grew up five minutes from the brewery gate.

“I remember just walking by the gate every New Year’s week, and I remember the sign getting redone by the painters as a young boy, when I was only eight or 10. I remember the scaffold going up and stuff like that, but I never thought I’d end up working in Guinness and end up doing what I’m doing every New Year’s Eve.”

The two men point out that it is one of the last New Year’s Eve traditions in the city.


To ensure there are “no hiccups”, the pair get the metal sign earlier in the evening, take the old sign down and put the new one up. They cover it over with the old sign and then, at midnight, they pull it aside for the big reveal.

Mr Kelly is the third generation of his family who has worked at Guinness, and he said he would like one of his three children to work there for a time to keep the family tradition going.

“It’s an emotional year this year for me because my daughter, Niamh, is moving to Australia for the foreseeable, so it’s her last year doing the New Year’s sign with us, so it’ll be an emotional night for everybody.”


He added: “It’s nice to be a part of something that’s kind of traditional. All our family and friends come up and then you get other people stopping and going ‘What’s going on here?’.

“Police cars stop, ambulances stop, the whole road comes to a standstill, and everyone does a big countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7… and the place explodes, so it’s a right old affair.

“There’s not many things that go on in Dublin on New Year’s Eve. So it’s kind of like this mini little thing that we have going. A couple of people are aware of it and then the people that pass by… It’s a little tradition that there’s not many left around on New Year’s Eve.”

Mr Minto said: “The countdown is fantastic. I mean, as soon as you get to ‘Happy New Year’, the place is buzzing.

“It’s absolutely fantastic, all the poppers and all in the air, it’s just brilliant. We’re up high and we’re looking down and we see it all, and it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Mr Kelly added: “Me being a local lad, it’s a bit of a privilege for me, to be honest.”

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