Weird and won­der­ful sights await vis­i­tors to The Shanty

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - YOUR LOCAL - by Ais­ling Hussey

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.

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