Just dying for a pint...
QUESTION Was there a pub in Ireland that doubled as an undertakers? What other multipurpose pubs are there?
ALL pubs were able to double as undertakers until 1962. These days, the most usual form of multipurpose pubs is providing bed and breakfast accommodation in tourist areas.
A classic example of a pub that started off as a morgue is the Dropping Well at Milltown in south Dublin.
During the Great Famine between 1845 and 1847, so many people died along the banks of the River Dodder in the area. During Black ’47, the building that later became the Dropping Well pub opened as a morgue in July 1847.
The man who opened the pub, John Howe, became infected from all the dead bodies on the premises and died in 1850.
Up until 1962, it was legally possible for publicans to double as undertakers and many did in fact carry out this gruesome double mission.
Today, only a few pubs still have an undertaking business. One of them is McCarthy’s pub in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, which started in 1840 and which is now run by the fifth generation of the McCarthy family. The present owner of the pub, Jasper McCarthy, says that tourists often think that the signs in the pub – pub, restaurant and undertakers – are just a gimmick, until he brings them out to the back of the pub to see the hearse and coffins.
McCarthy’s pub has had a lot of television coverage over the years, in such programmes as At Your Service, on RTÉ, hosted by Francis Brennan and in programmes in such countries as Australia and the US.
The pub also used to run a hackney service and it also doubled as a grocery shop; in the old days, pubs often used to sell groceries as well as alcoholic drinks. That practice started to die out in the 1930s and by the early 1960s, had almost completely disappeared.
Many pubs these days have diversified into the restaurant business while others in tourist areas around the country have also diversified into providing accommodation for tourists.
One example is Annie May’s pub in Skibbereen, Co. Cork, which also has a restaurant, as well as en suite rooms. The Smuggler’s Inn in Waterville, Co. Kerry, has a gourmet restaurant and en suite rooms for guests, while the Foynes Inn at Foynes in Co. Limerick, a 200-year-old pub, also has a restaurant and five en suite rooms.
The pub in the centre of Listowel, Co. Kerry, owned by the late great author, John B Keane, was the centre of an even more unusual trade. Above the pub lived his family, and the whole place was used by John B as the ideal spot for writing his masterpieces. Jack Lanigan, Galway. THE combination of pub and funeral parlour is common here. A pub and an undertaker is a natural combination as the traditional Irish wake centres around the deceased and alcohol.
Having the two services under one ownership made a lot of sense, especially in Irish villages where it is hoped not to have regular undertaking work.
In my home town of Newry, there were three public houses/undertakers within 50 yards: McGennitys, McCrinks and McLogans (which was also the grocery shop). As children, we would play among the beer barrels and coffins out the back.
The Coroners Act of 1846 decreed a dead body had to be brought to the nearest public house for storage until further arrangements were made. The beer cellars were cool and slowed decomposition, and it became common for publicans to have marble tables in their cellars for autopsies. McCarthy’s pub in Tipperary still advertises: ‘Wine you, dine you, bury you.’
In Ireland, it is not unusual to combine the vintners trade with another trade. In Dublin, Mary’s Bar & Hardware in the city centre has building supplies mixed in with the beer and spirit bottles.
In Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, until recently, my wife used to try on footwear in the Main Street shoe shop while I sipped a draught Guinness at the bar beside the shelves of shoe boxes.
In PJ’s Bar, Carlingford, Co. Louth, you could put fuel in your car, buy groceries and drink a pint on the same premises.
Pat Curtis, Newry. MCDONNELL funeral directors works from their pub in Belmullet, Co. Mayo, where you can enjoy a fine pint while making your arrangements.
Iain Harkness, East Lothian.
QUESTION What is the most valuable guitar?
THE highest price ever raised at auction for a guitar was $2.7million paid by an unknown bidder for a Fender Stratocaster in November 2005. Signed by a large number of rock luminaries, it was sold in aid of the Reach Out To Asia charity at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Doha, Qatar. It was part of the effort to raise money for relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami.
Signatories included Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Brian May of Queen, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, Pete Townshend of The Who, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Bryan Adams, Liam Gallagher of Oasis and Paul McCartney.
Like classic cars, vintage guitars have become highly sought after for their collectability and potential to rapidly appreciate in value.
The most highly prized are linked to an iconic figure or seminal performance.
In 2015, John Lennon’s 1962 Gibson J-160E sold to an anonymous bidder for $2.41million. It was the guitar he played when recording The Beatles’ 1963 breakthrough albums Please Please Me and With The Beatles.
Lennon bought it at Rushworth’s Music House in Liverpool for £161 on September 10, 1962.
Another Lennon guitar, his Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville model, used on The Beatles’ 1966 single Paperback Writer, sold for $530,000 to NFL owner Jim Irsay in November 2014.
Irsay also paid $965,000 for Bob Dylan’s Fender Stratocaster, which he used at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where he was famously booed by angry ‘folkies’ who felt betrayed by the new-fangled electric technology. There was also Blackie, Eric Clapton’s famous guitar, which he’d created by dismantling and reassembling three Fender Stratocasters to match to his ‘slowhand’ style.
This was sold in 2004 for $959,000 to raise money for Clapton’s Crossroads Rehab Centre. Max Hiatt, Salford, Gtr Manchester.
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Wine, dine and recline: McCarthy’s in Fethard, Co. Tipperary