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The Parting Pub

By Mahons On October 9th, 2019

It was a little pub on the Cavan-Longford border. Snug on the side of a winding rural road. It wasnt open every night. Open Mart Day, and of course the weekends. The publican lived with his children in the attached house. The door behind the bar opened into his kitchen, and the sitting room just beyond. The pub opened when he was ready, it closed when you were ready.
There were usually a half dozen farmers in it. Smoking, drinking and having a chat. The stories of this one or that one, the shared memories, the common punch lines. A turf fire burning and the foggy smoke drifting out the chimmney past their few cars and tractors parked outside.
Later after the barman sat down to have his drink, one of his kids would pull the pints. Change was made from a cigar box on a shelf.
It had a pool table which the young ones might use if they stopped in to assemble before going into town. The winking when the door was barred, the shutters shut and the pub was “closed”.
A silence might descend if a stranger walked in, then a gradual crescendo would ensue as they drew you in. Hearty greetings if you ever returned, the regulars perched on their same stools years later, as if they had never moved.
The topics of conversation so varied you would want to tape them, “How can Homer Simpson stay married to your one with that head of hair on her?”, “The doctor told me my right leg pain is due to old age, how can that be? The left one tis fine and it is the same age as the right one.” “Clare are good but Kilkenny are prepared” “He loves work so much he would lie next to it””A fire is as good as company””Summer in Ireland and my teeth are chattering””Sure he was a bit of a cunt but his dog was lovely” and “It has been so long I’d get up on a cracked plate.”
It was a fading oasis even when I first stopped in more than two deades ago. A trip back in time. Closed now for the last few years, I’ve driven by thinking it would be great to step through the entrance again one night, see the friendly faces and enjoy the easy slagging. But those days and nights are gone and faded away. I suspect it is the same in other parts of the country. Even if things might be better in some ways there is something lost. A sense of community, continuity and home.

16 Responses to “The Parting Pub”

  1. I enjoyed reading that Mahons
    Globalisation has driven these changes in part which has mixed outcomes
    e.g I was in Iona, isle off Scotland , recently and the local pub was one of those Wetherspoons
    I groaned, but as it turned out downloaded the app, and ordered on my phone a decent tasting and priced Eggs Benedict with a pint. I needed to recharge devices, and it really suited me to do lots of planning and not having to move at all. My office was my table, replete with drink and food being brought to me.
    That’s more a single traveller experience, but i do appreciate how we have lost so much of what we call community in the race for competition. Many pubs survive by playing football games, which is a no-no for me. Charities are picking up the fall-out from closures organising lunches, entertainment for the older, poorer, disabled members. That’s a positive community hubs . I’m sure you’ll always find an alehouse in Ireland, just not the one you fell in love with and charmed by .
    Don’t get me started on gyms ,coffee-houses, and vape stores.
    I’m happy if i can find a public loo that isn’t closed ! Slainte

  2. City pubs are grand, but there is something special and wonderful about rural pubs.

  3. Lovely piece, Mahons.
    I know that pub well. I was in it with my parents as a child, when we were on holiday in Mayo, Donegal and the Glens of Antrim. I recognise the faces and can smell the familiar mixture of turf, pipe smoke and beer. A bottle of Cidona with a paper straw and a bag of Cheese ‘n onion, then told to go and play out in the car park, or explore out the back of the pub.
    Many years ago, we were on holiday near the tiny village of Blacksod in Mayo. whilst strolling on the beach, my father greeted two fishermen as they pulled their boat up onto the sand. As they conversed, in English, my sister ran up to him with a dead crab clutched in her hand. “Amharc, Daidí. Portán marbh!” (Look, Dad. A dead crab!) As soon as the fishermen heard this, they turned to my Da and asked if he was an Irish speaker. He confirmed that he was indeed, and the conversation then turned to Gaelic, they in their broad, Mayo dialect, he in his Ulster. They were amazed that there were Irish speakers still in the North, and in Belfast no less! They asked him would he join them for a pint in Hennehan’s, the local pub. He politely refused, as we were due back at the house (a mere 3 mile walk away), but that we would all be in the pub later that evening, and he would gladly join them then. That evening we entered the pub, but it was empty of fishermen. The barmaid saw us and asked him, in Irish, if he was the Belfast Gaelgeoir who had met the two men from Achill Island earlier that day. He said he was, and she informed him that they had unfortunately had to head back across the bay, but they had left something for him. From behind the bar she produced two big plastic bags, one filled with skate and other fish, the other filled with big crab’s claws, with the instruction that they were especially for the ‘cailín óg leis an Ghaeilge galánta’ (the little girl with lovely Irish). From that day, every year after when we visited, we were assured a warm welcome in Irish in Hennehan’s.
    I was in Blacksod a couple of years ago. Hennehan’s is closed and boarded up now, the painted sign on the wall fading in the salty air, and a new pub has opened just up the road. It’s nice, and the people are lovely, but it’s not Hennehan’s. I bought a Cidona (with a plastic straw this time) and a packet of Cheese ‘n Onion, just so I could go down to Hennehan’s and take a photo of them outside the pub for my Da and my siblings.
    Too many of these little pubs are closing, and their replacements, if indeed they are ever replaced, never achieve the same warmth and charm as the original. It’s very sad. It’s not just some family’s livelihood that’s gone; it’s an integral part of the community.

  4. Great Seimi.

  5. Pub stories are great! Many years ago on a road trip with a goal of visiting every county in one shot, our car broke down on a back road in County Cork after visiting Ardmore (beautiful town in Waterford County) as we were trying to get to the next B&B. Some guy tied a rope to our car and took it to the next town to get it fixed. We completely trusted him and his frayed rope. We waited in a nearby dusty old pub. My partner in crime seemed to change his accent to adapt to whomever he was speaking with each county we visited. He also had a decent amount of Irish. Some backwoods kind of guys with very thick country accents came in with guns–they’d been duck hunting. They struck up a conversation and my friend began conversing with them in Irish…or so I thought. So, I turned my back and waited things out watching the peat fire in the fireplace, alone with my thoughts. Afterward, my friend scolded me for being rude. The men had been talking to me about America when I showed them my backside. So I scolded him for speaking Irish when he knew I couldn’t understand them. Of course, they were speaking English the whole time…I just couldn’t make out the accents. (I have a major problem with accents of all kinds, which makes working in a global company very difficult!) Just thinking about this brings back the smell of the pub and the fire.
    I’m sure most who have traveled through Donegal have been to Biddy’s (or is it Bridey’s), right? I remember rushing upstairs to use the ladies and didn’t have time to turn on the light. When I finally did, I found myself sitting across from a life-size statue of Jesus without outstretched arms.

  6. I just couldn’t make out the accents

    I’m usually great at accents, except for one time on a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

    A pretty Scots girl spoke to me, and unfortunately I didn’t understand one word that she said. I just nodded along, pretending.

  7. Rural Galway accents have had me nodding in hope that nodding was the right response for years.

  8. When I worked in London I once took a phone call into the office from the leader of a local group of Somalian residents in North London. He had thick Somalian accent and I had a thicker Belfast accent. We spent about 5 minutes trying to say hello to each other.

  9. I can’t take more of those stories – depression creeps in and you’re all too aware of how quickly the years fly by and all that you’ve left to show is a bit of career and the mortgage paid off. It isn’t that this or that pub is gone, but that all that went with it – the warmth, the conversation, the down-to-earth world view – in short that whole world has gone as surely and finally as the world of the Fianna.
    Thus ask not for whom the pub closes ……….

    There was also a speakeasy just around a few rural corners from our house outside Virginia, Cavan. The fact that it was illegal brought the people even closer together, fellow conspirators in drink, it was a normal corner house, formerly a post office, during the day, but in the evening became this oasis of cozy talk and solidarity. Mind you, the old fellows used to say that several guards kept “some aul’ jackets” in the back of the squad car and would sometimes put them on before joining the regulars inside for a drink.

    Great account, mahons.

    By the way, has anyone not yet seen the film Local Hero?
    It’s set in Scotland, and this post reminded me of it in many ways.
    A young American turns up in a remote Scottish village, initially with business plans that would destroy the local community, but, not least through an eccentric pub, learns how to love and thwart “progress” and rage against the machine.

    It’s really good. If you don’t know it, go watch it.

  10. = and to thwart

  11. Yes Noel, it is one of my favorite movies. Funny and sad (with an atypical ending).
    Virginia? My wedding reception was down the road (Crover House).

  12. Magnificent, beautiful stories Mahon and Seimi.

    Yes, those types of places of refuge from a mad world, (for that’s what they are), are becoming more sparse every year.

    Seimi & my local back home, while on the fringes of Belfast City Centre, still very much retains a touch of the friendly oasis in a sea of madness which is probably why it’s so successful.

    Let us know if you agree Noel.

  13. // My wedding reception was down the road (Crover House).//

    Really? Well done. I know it and had it in mind for my youngest’s baptism reception, but then chose Lakeside Manor on Lough Ramor (now, why didn’t they call it the Ramor Manor ?), as it was less pricy.

  14. Nice post Mahons.

  15. Excellent post that captures the spirit of the fast fading rural pub. There was one near me but it closed when the ancient owner died. You are certainly right that something is lost and it is doubtful it will ever be regained. Times change…

  16. My Da used to tell a story about himself and a couple of friends, two other fellas and two girls, who decided to hire a car and drive around the Gaeltacht areas of Ireland, back in the early 60s. They pulled up late one night in a little village in Kerry. Everywhere was closed, and they faced the prospect of a night sleeping in the car, until one of them noticed the light creeping out from behind the shutters of the local pub. They went over and, hearing muffled conversation inside, knocked on the door. Silence ensued, followed by a voice asking, in Irish, who it was knocking at the door. “Travellers from the North,” my Da answered, also in Irish. After a short muffled exchange, the bolts were drawn and they were allowed into the bar, where half the village were ensconced. They bought a few pints and settled in. They fell into conversation with the ones around them, one of whom was a large, red-bearded man, whose accent my Da recognised as not from the locality.
    “That’s a Donegal accent you have,” he stated.
    “It is surely,” the man replied. “I’m from Ardara.”
    “Do you not get any trouble from the Garda, with the pub being open so late?” asked my father.
    “Well,” said the man. “I’m the Sergeant, and that man over at the counter is the local Magistrate, so I think we’re okay,” replied the red beard.
    Having failed to secure any accommodation in the village for the night, the Sergeant gave the two girls a cell each in the station that night, propriety prohibiting him from allowing the lads to stay there too, but they, now with a few pints in their bellies, were more conducive to sleeping in the car. The Sergeant did however cook them all a breakfast the following day in the station.
    What a loss to the loacal community and to the old way of life the closure of these pubs is.