The Bunch of Grapes

The Bunch of Grapes

So, I’ve visited a derelict pub in inner east Belfast, and made some photographs. Why? Well, because the site has been sold for redevelopment, it’s going to be demolished and a block of apartments built in its place. But more importantly, because this building has an ugly and gruesome history.

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The Bunch of Grapes is situated on the Beersbridge Road / Castlereagh Road junction, formerly known as ‘John Long’s Corner.’ (In the 1950’s my Great Grandfather (Mr Robb) owned and ran a cobbler’s shop (a shoe repairer) at the corner, so I’ve been familiar with the area for all my life.)

The pub itself became a notorious paramilitary meeting place during the Northern Ireland troubles, between 1969 and 1998, a connection which persisted up until a few years ago. It was owned (in part) by loyalist paramilitary leader Jim Gray (deceased) the so-called ‘Brigadier of Bling.’

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In 1988 when the bar was known as the Castle Inn, it was the scene of the murder of a man called Jim Craig. In 2002 a loyalist gunman called Geordie Legge was tortured and murdered in the bar, repeatedly stabbed so violently that his head was almost severed from his body. The body was wrapped in a carpet and dumped outside Belfast. The perpetrators attempted to burn down the pub to conceal any forensic evidence, and then claim the insurance. The insurance company refused to pay out, and won a court case, on the grounds that when the policy was taken out no paramilitary involvement had been declared.

After the 2006 inquest into the death of Legge laid bare the grisly details of the death, the bar was renamed The Ibrox Bar, but after objections were raised at a Rangers FC board level all the Rangers symbols were removed and the bar was renamed the Eye-Brox.  To the rear of the premises, in Kenbaan Street is a UDA (the paramilitary group Ulster Defense Association) memorial.

In 2013 the bar was repossessed by NAMA (the Irish Repubic’s ‘bad bank’) and recently put on the market a sold. The liquor license is still extant, and the bill board on the side of the building apparently generates around £1250 per annum.

If, as is alleged, it is going to be demolished, few people will mourn its passing, but its still worth taking the time to record its exterior for posterity.