I’m in the process of trying to catch up a bit with my blog posts. We’ve seen a ton here in Ireland, but most of it has involved (me) driving long distances, so I haven’t had the time taking public transportation to write. Anyway, I’ll try to put together a post or two a day for the next few days. In the meantime, I had to share our night at a pub we stumbled into today in Westport.
A little background first… Westport seems to be doing well economically. It began as a planned settlement in the 1700s to support a local estate, and it seems to strike the right balance between the charming storefronts and B&Bs to support the tourists, but still enough of a local population out and about that it doesn’t feel like a movie set. It’s also home to Matt Molloy, a flute and whistle player with the famous Irish group the Chieftains. He owns a bar here in town. When we first arrived, it was too early for dinner, so we decided to have a drink.
The second pub we came to was Matt Molloy’s. Frosted glass windows and solid doors didn’t allow us to see what was going on inside, but as soon as we opened the door, the sounds of a sort-of sing-along rolled out. Not wanting to disturb a private party, we let the door slide back closed. Thankfully, though, we decided to go in.
The long and narrow pub seemed to stretch back room after room quite a ways. On either side of the only way to get to the other stools and tables in the bar were 8–10 red-faced Irishmen harmonizing artfully a tune I’d never heard before. Most of the towns and villages we have visited, especially Doolin and Dingle, have traditional Irish music every evening at every pub to attract tourists. But here, we’d stumbled upon the actual organic precursor to all that.
We found a couple of perfect seats at corner table to watch as the men swore and laughed, pausing only to take a sip from their beers or glasses of whiskey (most had both), or to ‘get the choir back together,’ as one man said. As I walked up to the bar, they started a verse of ‘In the Early Morning Rain.’
I ordered a Guinness, and while I was waiting (Guinness takes several minutes to pour properly), an older couple at the bar asked me where I was from. When I told them California, they apologized for the recent rain. Sunday had been particularly wet all over the island, and even a lot of Irish folks we talked to had complained about it.
Ordinarily, they seem unfazed by the showers that can pop up at just about any time in Ireland. Anne-Claire and I will walk into a restaurant after a downpour and drip puddles of water all over the floor. Somehow, an Irish person will follow us in, and with a few flicks of the wrist, they’re as dry as a mallard.
“Well, you don’t come to Ireland for the weather,” the man at the bar said. “Friendly people though.” He and his wife were from Dublin and were celebrating an attempted hike up Croagh Patrick, a mountain not far from town where legend tells us that Saint Patrick rid Ireland of its snakes.
I said I agreed, looking at the old guys slapping each other on the back and telling stories. We talked a bit longer, and he told me this had been his third try and he still hadn’t made it to the top. The first two he blamed on too much to drink the nights before, and the third was out of his hands. “Now, I just might be too old.”
I wished him better luck next time, and went back to join Anne-Claire at the table. She sat surreptitiously snapping photos, and we even managed to record a bit of the old guys’ singing. We stayed for a few more rounds and stories. Then, with a final wistful tune, the leader – who also managed to greet just about everyone who came into the pub – he said he was off. On his way out, he tapped me on my shoulder and said goodbye to me as well. Here’s a short recording. Sorry for the poor quality.
‘Craic’ is conversation, entertainment, music – pretty much any of the mischief you can get yourself into at a pub.