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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 15 January 2009
Peggy and Alo behind the bar at the Dublin Castle in the 1960s
Peggy and Alo behind the bar at the Dublin Castle in the 1960s
Fond farewell to the King of the Castle

Stars of music world pay tribute to Dublin Castle landlord, who died peacefully aged 73

HE never wrote a top 10 chart hit or picked up a guitar but, with a pint by his side and a mischievous smile, Alo Conlon played a legendary role in helping Camden Town gain its cutting edge reputation for music.
As the landlord of perhaps the most important marker on Camden’s rich rock’n’roll map, he helped give a generation of hopeful musicians their big chance – even if he didn’t care too much for the racket they made in his back room.
Mr Conlon, who died peacefully on Friday just past his 73rd birthday from cancer, was fondly remembered this week as the man who almost unwittingly turned the Dublin Castle in Parkway into one of London’s trendiest venues.
His name was above the bar as the likes of Madness, Coldplay, Blur, Supergrass and Amy Winehouse filed into the back room stage. It became an unmissable venue for any self-respecting record label scout looking to recruit the next big thing.
Suggs, the frontman with Madness, paid his tribute on Tuesday: “Alo was such a friendly chap to talk to and he gave us a break when we had barely started getting going.
“It must have been back in 1979 when we went to him asking if we could play. He asked us what we played and we said country and western, and jazz – we thought that would be the thing to say when going in to ask for a gig at an Irish pub.”
Mr Conlon, who was one of the longest-serving landlords in Camden, may have been surprised by the “jazz” that Suggs and co came up with.
But he couldn’t ignore the queues that built up around the band’s popularity and so he gave them a residency gig.
His son Henry, who now runs the bar, said: “The pub had Irish music beforehand but as the Irish community in Camden Town moved away the demand for it went down – and so the Dublin Castle diversified. I think the pub has been good to live music ever since, and it has been good to us.”
Mr Conlon came from Kiltimagh in County Mayo to England as a stowaway in 1956 and worked digging tunnels in London. He originally ran the Ponsford Arms in Gospel Oak, which has since been demolished and replaced with flats.
The Dublin Castle made a bolder impression and has earned a reputation so celebrated that a bulldozer would never be allowed anywhere near it.
Mr Conlon’s affection for the pub was all the more special because he had celebrated his wedding day with his wife Peggy there in the 1960s, even before he owned it himself.
Poignantly, his final moments were spent in his rooms above the bar.
Henry Conlon, who grew up above the pub with his brother, also called Alo, said: “Because he’d had his wedding reception there, he never thought about selling it.
“He liked the people of Camden Town, the ordinary people he would meet that made up what this area is about.”
Mr Conlon’s death came just two months after licensees across Camden decided to give him a lifetime achievement award at their annual ball.
“A lot of the licensees were his friends and he would spend a lot of time in pubs across Camden,” Henry Conlon said.
“One of his favourite games was to go to a pub he liked in Somers Town and start a story, and then see how long it would take to reach Camden Town. He had a lot of fun with that. He came from a time before text messages, when people sat down and talked to each other. He brought the drinkers in and socialised while my mother was – and still is – the backbone of the pub.”
Peggy described her husband’s favourite pastime as “trading news and telling tales” adding that: “Alo was a very popular and generous man who will be sadly missed.”
Suggs, whose image is among the famous faces beaming down from the music memorabilia above the bar, added: “Places like the Dublin Castle are a rare commodity now. It’s a good family run pub, and that’s been one of the reasons why it has been such a success.”

• Mr Conlon’s family have requested no flowers but donations to Macmillan Cancer Support would be greatly appreciated

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