John B Keane spoke and wrote of pubs and alcohol with a beauty and a ‘grá’ that perhaps, in the past century on this island, only Brendan Behan could equal.
Unlike his literary colleague, John B viewed alcohol as a companion in life, and not his lord and master, but that didn’t prevent the creator of the Bull McCabe from waxing deliciously about the contents of glasses short and long.
“No man was every born into this world with such a passionate love of liquor as myself. It isn’t just that I love liquor for the taste of it, I love the plop of whiskey into a glass. I love it. I love to listen to it. I love to see the cream on a pint. I love the first, powerful violent impact of a glass of whiskey when I throw it back in me, and it hits the mark below. I chase it then with a pint, and that’s even more beautiful still.”
The pub-going experience has changed a great deal over the past decade, changed utterly, to borrow some Yeatsian language.
And, casting one’s eye back a few years prior to that, to the advent of the new Millennium, when one considers the public house landscape in South Kilkenny then and compare it to its current status, there’s been quite a change on that particular map.
“There were nine pubs open in the locality 14 or 15 years ago,” Lisa Doyle (nee Irish) told The Munster Express.
“That’s not the case now. Granted, a few have re-opened lately enough but there’s not as many pubs open in the wider Kilmacow area or across the country for that matter, particularly in rural areas.
“Much of that is down to the change in the drink driving law, but it’s not completely down to that either. Social habits have changed too, the way in which people drink is a great deal different now to what it was in previous generations, but despite these changes, our doors have remained open, and that’s something we’re very proud of.” Irish’s, whose service is as consistent as the creamy headed pints they serve.
Passing trade has changed since the advent of the M9, but if anything, that’s made Irish’s an even more ‘local’ establishment given that HGVs don’t trundle by with the regularity that was once the norm on the old main road between Waterford and Kilkenny (Dublin too, of course).
For many years, Ned and Lizzie Irish also managed a grocery store and a petrol station, in addition to the pub – de facto service areas long before the motorway now located just a field behind the premises was even considered possible.
The multi-purpose rural stop-off is now largely a thing of the past, but the commitment to good service at Irish’s is as strong now as it was at a time when the bread man would deliver his wares at noon, and enjoy a pint before returning to his duties!
“The ‘Holy Hour’ from two to four on a Sunday was something we grew up with,” reflected Lisa.
“You’d have the characters coming for an early pint after Mass before they’d head home for the dinner, while some of course might resurface after the grub of course! It’s hard to believe but the Holy Hour was done away with all of 15 years ago now. And even that was part of the change in the pub-going culture. But, like everything, we adapted to it and moved on as best we could.”
The shorter evenings are drawing, in, which means darts will soon reconvene. There’s cards played at Irish’s every Sunday night, while the pool table proves a regular location for some friendly wagering.
The courtesy car service provided by Irish’s provides customers with a safe trip home, and long after the customers are safely back inside their own doors, Donnacha and Lisa close theirs and get the premises ready for the next day’s business.
They’ve re-invested considerably in their business in recent years to make it as comfortable and welcoming for customers, both established and new, and that revamp has gone down well with punters. Which brings me back to John B.
When the great man spoke or wrote of the ‘deoch’, his sentiments captured the essence of the sheer pleasure that accompanied its consumption.
“Drink in moderation is one of the most ridiculous statements ever made. You must drink a little more than moderation. Saint Paul, in his wisdom, said we should take a little wine for our stomach’s sake and for our frequent infirmities.”
Be it for our stomach’s sake or our frequent infirmities, drink taken in convivial company is surely the best means of responsibly imbibing.
Irish’s has provided such a setting for six proud decades, and one suspects it shall continue to welcome customers for many years to come. Good health and best wishes to Donnacha and Lisa and all who frequent the popular Ballykeoghan hostelry!