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What has St Stephen's Green got to do with the Guinnesses. Quite a lot actually... Photocall Ireland

What did the Guinness family ever do for us?

Forget Arthur’s Day – National Philanthropy Day will hear about the real legacy left behind by some members of the brewing family: a cathedral, a library… and bacteria get a look in too.

ARTHUR’S DAY? Perish the thought. The real legacy of the Guinness family – apart from leading to Ireland being eternally associated with a particular brand of stout – is not a faux-cultural day in September. (Although they should be given credit for the ongoing work of the Guinness Social Entrepreneur Fund)

Among some of the real initiatives taken by Arthur Guinness (grandson of the Arthur who founded St James’s Gate in 1759) in the late 19th and early 20th century included employee welfare schemes and the provision of public recreation areas.

While the brand is now owned by Diageo, the group will remember the Guinness family in a free lecture at the Storehouse next Thursday, which happens to be National Philanthropy Day. (Pre-booking is essential for the one-hour talk – email

Evidence of the family’s philanthropic works is still visible around Dublin. The biggest givers were brothers Arthur and Edward Guinness, sons of Benjamin Guinness, and grandsons of the ‘original’ Arthur Guinness who set up the brewery at St James’s Gate in 1759.

Check how many of these you were aware of…

What did the Guinness family ever do for us?
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  • Restored St Patrick's Cathedral

    Benjamin Guinness, son of St James's Gate brewery founder Arthur, stumped up £150,000 for the restoration of the cathedral in Dublin between 1860 and 1865. Pic: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
  • Donated Iveagh House to the State

    Rupert Guinness, grandson of Benjamin and son of Edward, gave away what was once Benjamin's home, Iveagh House at 80 St Stephen's Green, to the Government in 1939 - it houses the Department of Foreign Affairs. He gave the 'back garden' - now the Iveagh Gardens off Harcourt Street - to UCD in 1908 and now they are a public park. Pic: Wikicommons
  • Helped set up the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine

    The same Rupert persuaded his father Edward to give a grant to help set up the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine in England. Rupert was a politician and agriculturalist who also helped push forward testing of milk and elimination of TB-infected cattle. Image: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock
  • Established Iveagh Trust and buildings

    Edward, Rupert's father, was known also as Lord Iveagh - buildings in the centre of Dublin which were built to house poorer residents of the city in more modern accommodation, still bear his name, and the Iveagh Trust still operates today. (It also runs the Iveagh Hostel for homeless men). Pic: William Murphy/Flickr
  • Made St Stephen's Green a public park

    Arthur Guinness, brother of Edward and grandson of 'James's Gate' Arthur, bought St Stephen's Green in 1876, had it landscaped and made it a public park. Pic: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
  • Restored Ireland's first public library

    The same Arthur also paid for the restoration of Ireland's first public library, Marsh's Library in St Patrick's Close, which dated back to 1701. Pic: Julien Behal/PA Wire
  • Built extension to Coombe Hospital

    The Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin only moved to its present location in 1967, but its previous incarnation at Long Lane was the beneficiary of Guinness money with which a dispensary block was built. Pic: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock
  • Innovating in worker welfare

    A doctor takes an X-ray of a patient in a Guinness employee medical scheme. Employees at the St James's Gate brewery benefited from schemes that were not typical of the time - by the 1920s there were pension schemes, free concerts and sports, education, subsidised meals medical and dental care... and two free pints of Guinness. Pic: Guinness Archive/Diageo Ireland
  • Preservation of Muckross House

    When Arthur Guinness (he of Stephen's Green fame) bought Muckross House in Killarney in 1899, he went about preserving the house and protecting the land around it, which would turn out to be a future blessing to tourism in the Kerry area. Pic: Eamonn Farrell/

PICS: Arthur Guinness’s low-key final resting place>

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