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Guinness was born in Celbridge, Co Kildare, in 1725. His father was land steward to the archbishop of Cashel, Dr Arthur Price, and brewed beer for workers on the estate. When Price died in 1752, he left £100 each to the two Guinnesses, which mayhave encouraged the young man to lease a brewery in Leixlip, Co Kildare, in 1756. Three years later, he left this brewery in charge of a younger brother, and took over one at St James' Gate in Dublin.

He began by brewing beer or ale, and within eight years was master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers. In 1761 he married Olivia Whitmore, a relative of Henry Grattan, and ten of their twenty-one children lived to establish a dynasty which has spread into many activities and countries. The family's long association with St Patrick's Cathedral began with a gift of 250 guineas for the chapel schools, and Dublin enjoyed other benefactions.

There was, however, one dispute with Dublin Corporation, whose investigators concluded that Guinness was drawing more free water than his lease permitted. In 1775, the brewer seized a pickaxe to defend his supplies from the sheriff, and eventually reached a peaceful solution after protracted litigation. Duties on beer proved another problem, and in 1795 Guinness enlisted Grattan's oratory to persuade the government to remove the burden.

In 1778, Guinness began to brew porter - the darker beer containing roasted barley and first drunk by London porters - and exploited Ireland's new canals to extend his market. In 1799, he brewed ale for the last time. Sales of porter increased threefold during the Napoleonic Wars, and in time St James's Gate became the largest porter and stout brewery in the world, its 'extra stout porter' becoming known simply as stout.

Guinness gradually handed over control to three sons, and spent his last years at Beaumont, his country home in Drumcondra, now a Dublin suburb. He died on 23 January 1803.

Visit : Guinness visitors' centre and museum, Crane Street, Dublin.
Read : Frederic Mullally, The Silver Salver: The Story of the Guinness Family (1981).

From the Appletree Press title: Famous Irish Lives.
Also from Appletree: Irish Museums and Heritage Centres.

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