I used to frequent a local Irish pub. It was a unique kind of place where everyone who sat at the bar was expected and encouraged to voice their opinions on the topic of conversation currently prevailing. The width of conversation was pretty wide as everything from current politics to local news and religious views were normal subjects of conversation. It was an interesting place with a diverse group of opinions represented. As long as you could justify your positions with facts and logic you were welcome and even encouraged to join in.
I loved both the place and the conversations that took place there with great regularity. Since the bar existed in a pretty conservative area of the country, there were more conservatives than anything else but the conversations affirmed my belief that you can’t really judge all issues by one opinion. In other words, some of the most conservative people would occasionally surprise you with their position on certain issues and visa-versa. At any rate, any and all opinions were accepted and there was seldom a lot of rancor when differing views were presented. It has long been my observance that the people who get angry when their positions are challenged are usually those with the weakest foundational grasp of the issues. I found that to be true at Finnegan’s as well.
Finnegan’s was a unique place in several different ways. At one time it had been two buildings with an alley between. In the early 1980’s the owner had combined the two building under one second story roof. It had exposed rafters on one side of the bar and a metallic green ceiling on the other. The bar itself was covered in a copper sheet metal cover and was semi-circular with a small wall between the halves. The bartenders worked both sides of the bar with a little rounded arch between them. The paneling was very dark and aged with lots of plithy sayings on plaques adorning the walls.
In the exposed beam part of the bar there were dollar bills stuck up with tacks all over the very top of the underside of the roof structure, some fifteen feet above the floor level. People would write their names on the dollar, fold it carefully, stick a tack through the middle, and throw it with a quarter for weighting up into the rafters until it stuck to something. The bartenders kept a supply of tacks behind the bar and newcomers loved to take part in this process. Depending on the level of alcohol consumed and the relative strength of the toss, it sometimes took several tries to get a dollar to stick like this.
Of course, every attempt involved a quarter bouncing around in the rafters before clattering to floor somewhere in the bar and occasionally a tack or quarter landed in someone’s drink at which point the house would furnish another. The other result from this practice was that occasionally for no discernible reason a tack would turn loose clatter down to the floor, followed by a dollar bill floating harmlessly to the floor. It was supposed to be bad luck to keep the dollar so it was either put back up by the same process or simply hand tacked on the lower rafters by one of the bartenders.
The owner of the bar, Ellen, was from Galway on the western coast of Ireland. When I first started going to Finnegan’s she was usually in the bar, acting as hostess and overseeing things personally. Ellen was not quite five feet tall. Very trim and athletic even in her early fifties at the time. She had bright red hair perfectly styled up high on her head and still sported quite an Irish accent, even after quite a few years residing in Alabama.
If someone got a little loud or used bad language at the bar, Ellen would walk right up, stare up at them with those piercing blue eyes and say, “Young man…. That kind of language is not acceptable in this establishment.”
This was most always followed by a sheepish, “I’m sorry maam, It won’t happen again.”
If it was one of the regulars she would call them by their proper name, “Thomas….. Please use courteous language.”
Finnegan’s never had the need for a bouncer as long as Ellen was around. One polite reminder from Ellen could stop the loudest argument or the most obnoxious behavior. No one would have dared talk back to her. She was so polite and also ALWAYS right in her rulings.
One of the first times I met Ellen she explained to me where my surname originated in Ireland. I told her my dad told me our people came over to Georgia when it was a prison colony and she laughed and told me that’s how all the Scots/Irish came over in chains of one kind or another; most of them just didn’t want to admit it.
After meeting Ellen I got a couple of books on the history of Ireland and read them. A month or so later I again had a chance to talk to her and told her about what I had been reading. She listened politely until I told her that I had read Galway was the last part of Ireland to swear allegiance to the English king and had held out against terrible odds for many years. She was a little taken aback by this.
“Galway has STILL not pledged allegiance to an English king,” She said as she drew herself up to her full height and stared me down with those blue eyes.
“Well…. that’s what both the books I read said,” I offered.“They must have been ENGLISH history books,” she said and fairly spat the ENGLISH word out as if it poisoned the inside of her mouth just passing through.
She calmed down quick enough, but I never brooked a conversation about Irish independence with her again. I did have a lot of conversations about the blackirish as she loved the story I told her that my dad had given me about why my eyes are so dark. She would have me repeat it frequently as it struck her fancy of how things often occur.
As the story goes, when the Spanish Armada sank off the coast of Ireland some of the stronger swimmers amongst the Moors made it ashore. The Irish, being habitually hospitable welcomed them ashore with open arms AND legs apparently. Hence, the dark eyes and hot blood of the blackirish.
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- Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 16:39
I spent a lot of time in wales and much preferred their pubs to ours. I like the beer over there. Politics was the same as in Wales. They were in fact talking about Welsh independence while I was there.. Mostly talk though. Wales is a really pretty country. There is a town over there called Hey on Wey. It is world famous for selling books. The towns entire economy is book sales. Really a neat place. I really miss the place. I have been thinking about just buying me a ticket over there just to spend a few days around proper beer.
- Joined: 09 Aug 2013, 03:20
I wish the place was still around. There is nothing else like it around here. The owner died a few years ago from brain cancer and it went downhill quickly.
The increase of misery in the present state of society is parallel and equal to the increase of wealth..... Unknown member of Parliament 1840's