A real Irish character

Posted on: 4th July, 2017

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: West Cork People

This year Ma Murphy’s in Bantry was recognised at the Munster final of the Irish Restaurant Awards 2017. The family-run pub claimed the coveted ‘Munster Pub of the Year’ award and it’s not difficult to see why.

A family-run pub since 1840, Ma Murphy’s in Bantry is a landmark in the town and a unique part of the community. A veritable step back in time, this institution still serves groceries and has kept the traditional Snug. With ancient memorabilia adorning the walls, including an old grandfather clock (over 100-years-old), old Tilly lamps sat in corners, and cobbled stones out the back where the old forge has been put to new use, this pub oozes character and charm.

One of the newest generation of Leonard’s to run the pub, Mary Leonard, remembers singsongs and story-telling being a part of her childhood at Ma Murphy’s. Her father, Billy Leonard, whose family originally hails from Cape Clear, came back from Wales to run the pub over 30 years ago when Mrs Daly, the original Ma Murphy’s daughter passed away. While Mary and her brother Sean run the pub today, Billy is still in the background and to the delight of regular customers still gets behind the bar now and then.

“We’re thrilled with the award,” says Mary “and would like to sincerely thank all our customers for their continued support.”

Back in the day, Ma Murphy’s was always a great meeting place after Sunday Mass. Even today, you will still meet 90-year-old farmers mixing with younger generations and enjoying the chat. It’s not unusual to see a grandfather, his son and his grandson sitting up at the bar having a pint together.

In Ma’s day, a big feed of mackerel was cooked and served on Fair Day to the farmers who dropped by to have their horses shod. She also cooked up Pig’s Crubeens to the lads who came in before the dances. On busy nights, music sessions in the pub would spill over in to the kitchen with customers dancing on tables late in to the night.

In the old days, Blacksmith Tom H. Harrington ran his forge at the back of Ma Murphy’s. Farmers from as far as Adrigole and Crookhaven would leave their horses with Tom to be shod while they went for a pint and a drop in the bar. They would also buy their groceries and enjoy a good chat. Mary can still remember the noise from the hammer and the anvil in the forge and the smell of the fire.

Music and craic are still traditions at this charming old-school pub, which has withstood the test of time.

The old forge has been renovated to accommodate musicians and performers and there are regular live music sessions at Ma Murphy’s every Tuesday and Thursday night and at weekends.

Even today it’s not difficult to imagine ponies and sheep parked out the back while farmers enjoy their few pints on Fair Day or women matchmaking in the Snug at the front of the bar.

With a large number of tourists saying that their decision to visit Ireland is influenced by the Irish pub, it’s more important than ever to promote and support the Irish Pub concept – a concept of which Ma Murphy’s in Bantry is the perfect example, combining excellent service and experience with culture and tradition.

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