Weird and wonderful sights await visitors to The Shanty
THE sight of an upended man in a barrel outside The Shanty Pub can be viewed a sign of the weird and wonderful things to come in this famous Ballyfinnane watering hole.
A bath-tub for a urinal, a pair of wellie-clad boots through the roof and Christmas decorations up all year round are just a few of the things that make The Shanty unlike no other bar in Kerry.
It’s this quirkiness and sense of fun that earned The Shanty’s place as one of the best loved and most well-known pubs in the county.
Ventry native, Siobhan Driver, has run The Shanty since 1992, which is located in the old Pound Cross road, known as the half-way point between Tralee and Killarney. She estimates that the bar was established about a 100 years ago.
Despite the many unusual features, Siobhan says that a conscious decision was made to retain a traditional feel in the pub, with the sawdust on the floor, barrels under the counter and a pot-bellied stove serving as reminders of a bygone time.
“We wanted to keep the same decor it had in the 50s. The only modern feature is the TV, and we keep that covered up most of the time,” she says.
And, according to Siobhan, their pint of Guinness is the best around because of the short draw from keeping the barrels underneath the counter.
Commenting on the various pictures, antiques and oddities that line the shelves and walls, she says that some came with the pub, while others were purchased over time. She points out the railway lamp, the stationmaster clock, which was bought in Castleisland, and Santa Claus, who remains on the walls of the pub all year round.
Hanging over the bar is a rope, with boots and gloves tied on. Siobhan explains that tugs-of-war were held at the crossroads next to the pub, as well as horse-shoe throwing and Irish dancing, and adds that she intends organising an event to revive these old traditions this summer.
Although twenty years has passed since Siobhan took over the running of the pub, she claims that little has changed, except for the name, which was chosen in 1994 after a competition was held to find a moniker for the pub.
Unlike most rural pubs, Siobhan says that The Shanty has not been hit by the recession. However, she admits that new drink driving laws has affected trade.
“We haven’t been affected by the recession, but because of the new laws people are afraid to take the chance and have a drink in case they would be over the limit.”
Siobhan strongly believes that the success of the pub can be attributed to continued support from the community.“
It’s not easy running a pub on your own as a woman, but I have great neighbours,” she says.
“Ballyfinnane is a small area, but it’s very central, even though you may think you’re off the beaten track. We have a great local clientele, we’re like one big happy family.”
The Shanty also proves very popular with visitors from America and Australia.
“The place is loved by tourists and we always great feedback. They say it’s the highlight of their tour of Kerry. I even receive Christmas cards and letters from them,” she says, and indeed, many of them are on display in the bar.
Siobhan adds that the locals ensure that one night in The Shanty is never the same as the next.
“Because the pub is small, everyone can mingle and mix. Anything could happen. A singsong or a session could break out at any moment, and there’s always good craic and a good atmosphere here,” she said. “I keep the accordion and the guitar in the back just in case.”
Siobhan Driver, owner of The Shanty Bar in Ballyfinnane.
The unpretentious interior of The Shanty in Ballyfinnane.
The infamous men’s toilet in The Shanty which consists of a bath partitioned in the middle by a sheet of corrugated iron.
The upended man in a barrel which greets customers to The Shanty.