Tom Frawley’s pub

Homestead salt in a tall plastic container, ½ pint bottles of Smithwick’s, brown boxes of Barry cellophane wrappingless tea, multipack packages of cigarettes, loose tea,  I suppose there was a time when your mother might have sent you here for messages. The bar itself seems to be made of church timber, and the pub is a corridor, the furnishings, if they could be called that, are sparse, a church pew pushed up against the wall is the main seating area. There are 6 stools, no ice and an 89 year old one eyed man tending bar sometimes, when he’s awake. When he’s asleep you wait.

 There is no ching ching, there never was, no abacus, no calculator, just a sheet of paper on which he tots the drinks. I sit and read it upside down to ascertain the price of two double brandies but he catches me out and tots in his head and then adds it to the other drinks in the round. I evade this manoeuvre and divide it by two and find a place in post Celtic tiger Ireland when you can still buy a double brandy for €5.60. No-one asks the prices, the locals wouldn’t and wouldn’t come back anyway, the tourists are in shock at the warm drinks or are overwhelmed by the charm by the place.

 At the centre of West Clare’s most vulgar consumer central Lahinch, Frawley’s pub is a place I go to for the same reason I go to a Shane McGowan gig, there may not be a next time. It’s not of the malt and marble variety and in reality could probably have done with some investment in the 20s,30s,40’s or each succeeding decade. Indeed Tom’s own father could have taken some of his famine savings and ploughed in with a mirror or two, but Tom and his people weren’t catering for the smart set.

 There is however something strange and unworldly about the joint this year. Noticeable only at  Angelus time and also for Ann Doyle’s turkey neckedness, the TV has not so much as been upgraded, but replaced by a space age yet modest flat screen which I have yet to see on. West Clare is a football stronghold, so you will not see Clare’s relatively recent successes on the hurling field here. But it’s there, above the Smithwick’s.

There is a restaurant on the Danube which has frosted glass around the toilet cubicles and a huge marble slab with sensors for soap and water, and when you make a pee you can see a Parliament building on the Buda side of Budapest. Tom’s toilets are nothing like this. His toilets exist on an opposite side of this spectrum, they are outside. There is another establishment on Winthrop Street in Cork city called the Long Valley with no roof over the loo but once you reach Tom’s loo there is a roof which will clip you smartly as you fumble with your zip, there is no light save the moon and stars which are mostly obscured in this gray Irish Summer. And even without a light there will never be a doubt as to the location of this ammonia caked pisseoir,  Stephie Wonder could locate it but would need to be careful where he put his hands.  Third millennia concerns with hygiene are not catered for here, be careful with your aim and stand well back.  I have never wimped out and visited the ladies instead and judging from the assault of ammonia vapour  which happens every time I visit, I must be alone.

On rare bright days, you will see Tom on his single chair in the suntrap at the pub front. He won’t see you with his one eye, it will be closed. I’ve never looked closely enough to see what the other is doing, I suspect it is dreaming of seeing. Gregarious he is not, an economy of words has probably marked his bachelor life,  and vocabulary may have been limited, he’s only ever said “stout” to me although he once mentioned Croke Park, short pants and a train journey in a rare revelatory flood.  Looks like there wasn’t many who liked the silent type in West Clare, but the Church on the other hand love his silent millions. I’m told that when Tom turned 84, the priest became his bestest friend which had nothing to do with his multi-million heirless consumer central property and huge bank balance.

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12 responses to “Tom Frawley’s pub

  1. There is a pub in Caherciveen, called The Harp, which is run by a man who, at last count was over 300 years old. A charming man who moves with the swiftness usually associated with icebergs.

    But, as long as it takes to get your pint (having first gained his attention, no small feat in itself) it is always a joy, as he usually leaves you with a few little momentos, little cards to place beside your pint which read “Gone for a wee wee” or a little booklet, supposedly written by plato entitled “What men know about women” of which all its pages are blank.

    I dread to think that it might already be gone, it’s a few years since I have been there, and I hope he’s alive, and keeping well, and above all, keeping bar.

  2. Hey Rob howsitgoin, these pubs are an endangered species. In Tom’s place the only safe thing to drink is Guinness which I normally don’t drink. But I drink it there, to be safe you know.
    He’s a bit of a skimpy cunt too. Could have invested a couple of bob. Bollox.
    Thanks for coming by. Funny the way this shit happens.

  3. Double brandies? Oo, sore head.

    The first pub I got drunk in was in Anascaul, the one with the gas bottle on the front, and all the different colours. It’s owned by a retired ringmaster called Dan, who has big, waxed, ringmaster moustachios.

  4. Come to think of it, that might well be a story, the ringmaster one, but still, it’s good.

  5. Go on so sleepyjo, there’s a story there. Tell us about the place and where you found yourself in the story. I’m not a lover of Tom’s joint, but it’s a nice place to sit for a while.

    Hey thanks for coming by. This ol blog gets lonely sometimes.

  6. Bloody church vultures pecking at a near dead old man like that – they’re disgusting.

    “…when you make a pee…”

    But aren’t we always making pee?

    *Stares off like an Indian squaw trying to pretend that last is part of some larger metaphorical truth which likens the bladder to life’s great mysteries (Cool music is playing)*

  7. See the talent thing , no one has ever mentioned a ” larger metaphorical thruth” over here, ever. See talent, even in a comment about the making of pee.

  8. The making of pee in a pub would be a lager metaphorical truth.

    There was a pub in Kildare town that was finally forced by the HSA to build proper/indoor toilets about 10 years ago. A Grand Opening was advertised on local radio, in the local rag and on posters in the surrounding towns. What a night that was – the first in many, many years the women folk stayed for more than one drink.

  9. Gas Primal,

    I heard one over the weekend about a policy driven “men only pub”. I can’t say that I understood at all, where would you then go to meet the gals?

    Though as I grow older, there smidgenly might be some validity.

  10. Men only pub? …..you can have it lads….Then again if you prefer the company of men then it might be up someone’s ..er…alley.

    Blasht…I hadn’t meant my comment to start out like that.

    Have many fond (partial) memories of drinking in Kildare.Had a jar in the Silken Thomas (not the one Primal was referring to)last year for old times sake.

    I wonder how Tom would feel if he knew he was being read (in every sense of the word) about by peoples such as ourselves.

    He might turn the Angelus bells up a bit I suppose.

  11. These kinds of pubs live long in my memory. There is a pub in Glenties called the Cope. It’s actually the Co-Op bar. On my first visit I thought my friend was walking to the outside toilets of the pub we had just left. But no, it was in fact another pub. It is run as a co-op so the drinks are cheap and the staff volunteer. One of the barmen was down syndrome.

    There’s another in Ballyvaughan run by two elderly sisters who are watched over closely by their mother in the back room. We drank all their draught beer and bought all their cigarettes.

  12. Woohoo Dev,
    Howsitgoin shamess. ( not to be confused with that C4 series!)
    At least the ladies in Frawleys is inside. I think Tom lives in a parallell universe and really could’nt care less what is said about his place.

    Hiya Holemaster,
    It’s just a pity about the smoking ban, cause I liked the pokey smokey element to these places.

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