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Want to immerse yourself in a gripping true story of drama, intrigue, wealth and dynasty in the Age of Sail? Read on…

It all begins with Duncan Dunbar Senior arriving in London in 1790 and founding the Dunbar brewery empire.

Duncan Dunbar’s sister, Helen, married John Abbott, and one of their sons, Duncan Dunbar Abbott, moved to Cork in Ireland and established an offshoot of the Dunbar brewery there. Known as Abbott Bros, the name exploited both the Dunbar name and the local Franciscan Well water. 

The Great War put paid to the dreams of the family however, when son Duncan was killed in action at Loos, France. His brother Ronald went to assist at a brewery firstly in Durham, then Aberdeen, and never returned, choosing to relocate to Canada and then California instead.  With no one left in the family to continue the business, the brewery sadly closed in 1922, ending 132 years of production.

My wife and I went to Ireland in 2018, and went looking for Duncan Dunbar Abbott’s brewery.  We found the Franciscan Well Pub and a ‘torpedo’ shaped bottle inscribed ‘Franciscan Well, Abbott Bros’ nestled behind the bar.  The bottle still had wire around the neck although the stopper cork had long since disappeared.   Bottles such as these were shipped in baskets of straw and laid flat to ensure the cork remained moist and airtight. Breweries therefore needed stores of hay which clearly had more uses than just feed and bedding for their cart horses!

Anyway, after some to and from with the Franciscan Well Brewery barman, we actually walked away with the bottle. Many thanks to the Franciscan Well Brewery and Brew Pub in Cobh! Explore the rise of Duncan Dunbar from Thames wharf to prominence as one of England’s greatest shipbuilders and shipowners, in my biography “Lion Rampart: Duncan Dunbar and the Age of Sail” available now at Amazon.