I mentioned McArthur’s Bar in my recent blog on Tulla. I want to say a few more words on it. This place deserved to be in the late Peter McCarthy’s wonderful book McCarthy’s Bar even though he would have had to stretch the qualifications a bit (If you haven’t read this book it is a must; it is one of the best travel books written on Ireland). I saw the pub during the day and it looked to be just another abandoned building. A peek through the window failed to see any sign of life or even recent use and the weeds growing behind the front window did not look promising. But walking past it at midnight there was a glow of lights through the drawn shades and blurry shadows through the frosted window pane. And the door was just slightly ajar. A familiar murmur came from behind the door. The quiet hum you get from a pub pretending to be shut. I went through the door into the narrowest of rooms and it was jam-packed. With my fiddle on my back I could hardly squeeze through the door and then past the throng. I could hear music and I stood there momentarily until someone seeing my fiddle nodded his head towards the back saying “it’s in there”. I made my way through another narrow door into another crowded room. I couldn’t help but notice the floor as I walked up a distinct concrete slope. One can only imagine this being a huge advantage when they hose it out at the end of the day.
The music was getting louder as I reached the back room. It was coming from a bunch of kids most of whom looked under 15. By now it was midnight. Their parents were watching and lemonades in hand they were producing magic music. I felt like an intruder but was invited to sit in. It was as good a session as any I had been to in Ireland.
This experience showed to me a window into the ‘real’ Ireland. A country that has gone through centuries of struggle and subjugation, indeed attempts to eliminate the Irish music and language, was here thumbing its collective nose at petty authority that says children can’t be in a pub after 9pm. Wonderful.
I said in an earlier post that one needs to “go with the flow” in Ireland. After this experience I should add “if you see an open door go through it”.