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Friday was a big day for us. We went to a pub for the first time since early March 2020. It may sound weird but that IS a big thing! In Ireland, going to the pub is an important part of social life, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with drinking – pubs are places where social gatherings take place, whether you drink beer, whiskey, or tea. Pubs are also important meeting places for community events, or to have a chat after said events.

Because of the nature of this pandemic, of course pubs were the first places to be shut down and the last to reopen. To see pubs open again, even if only outdoors so far, is a step further towards a somewhat normal life so it is a milestone in the reopening of Ireland. It’s still early days and I don’t call this “post-pandemic” yet – I’m aware that we may still face setbacks, but for now the situation looks good and I’m going to enjoy what we have during this time – but do it safely, of course.

O'Neills bar Butlerstown
Big smiles!

O’Neills in Butlerstown

O’Neill’s bar is our favourite pub – it’s like home for us. It’s a small, rural pub in Butlerstown, the village where we lived when we first moved over to Ireland. It’s a lovely, vibrant little village with some wonderful people. The bar is an authentic old style pub and is unique in its kind, being one of few rural Irish pubs still in business.

O'Neills bar Butlerstown
Butlerstown, picture from 2019

The owner, Mary, is more to us than just the pub owner. She has become a good friend of ours, and before the pandemic we often visited the pub mainly to have a good chat. I’ve even been behind the bar to learn how to pour a pint! I’m glad the guests that evening were just the local lads – they all know who I am (aka no pint expert) so the expectations were low and we had some good fun.

We have known Mary since 2008, the last time we lived in Ireland. A singer we know from other pubs invited us to come and join the music session at O’Neill’s, and we felt right at home there from day one. After moving back to Sweden we made sure to be around for a Sunday night session in Butlerstown whenever we went to Ireland on holidays. No trip to Ireland was complete without at least one visit to O’Neill’s.

O'Neills bar Butlerstown

O’Neill’s is a family run business that opened in 1967. It’s without doubt one of Ireland’s smallest pubs – the indoor area is probably smaller than your living room. There’s the bar, some benches, and two table areas. The small space hasn’t prevented the bar from attracting lots of guests though – during pre-pandemic summer weekends the pub was absolutely packed with people. Some Sundays we had to have the music sessions in the pool room!

Until the pandemic hit, the music session has continued to take place on Sunday nights, now with much fewer musicians than when we first joined but sometimes there’s a good number of singers. We have continued to come to the pub for good chats, to see friends – old and new – and to play some tunes on Sunday nights. Most musicians we came to know in 2008 don’t come to the session anymore, but often people around the bar take turns to sing songs, including Mary while she continues to pour drinks. In addition, it is not uncommon that she comes out from behind the bar and starts dancing with someone while we play tunes. That’s the attitude in this bar!

O'Neills bar Butlerstown
O'Neills bar Butlerstown
O'Neills bar Butlerstown

Obviously, music sessions don’t happen this summer, but at least pubs are open! Pubs and restaurants were allowed to open on the 7th of June for outdoor service, and I had been wondering if Mary had opened. Then last Wednesday we were delighted to hear from our neighbour that O’Neill’s was open on weekends. We planned to visit as soon as possible, so when the weather was good on Friday afternoon, my husband came home early from work and we headed to Butlerstown.

Even with outdoor service only, seeing the pub open again was fantastic and it gave a feeling of hope and normality. D had his first pint of Murphy’s since over a year, while I enjoyed a gin & tonic with rose petals, and since their own cocktail expert was there, I later had a mojito too. We met some lovely people we hadn’t met there before and had a good time chatting with them. The joy of meeting and socialising with other people was immense!

O'Neills bar Butlerstown
O'Neills bar Butlerstown
A lovely group of people we had a good chat with. They happily agreed with being in the photo but I chose to not have them as the main subject in the picture. And the mojito was lovely ๐Ÿ™‚
O'Neills bar Butlerstown
Another corner of the back garden

The most important thing with this visit was to see Mary (and her crew) again, and to see that she is thriving and her usual, energetic, self. Now let’s hope that the Covid situation remains stable so that pubs and other businesses can stay open.

Linking with Denyse Whelan at Life this week and with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share.

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Comments:

  • 22nd June 2021

    First off, not a weird thing at all! I feel this deeply – it was a similar feeling when we went back to dining in and drinking in pubs – although, it was only for 3 months that we couldn’t. There was something special about drinking beer poured from a tap amongst other people as opposed to drinking from a bottle or can at home. That said, for me, the live music experience earlier this year after a long break was my emotional point – I missed it so much! Glad to see you’re all slowly getting back on track with life. Here, it’s a constant flux because while we didn’t have as bad an outbreak as the rest of the world, the government has been slack around the vaccine rollouts with only 3 per cent of our population being fully vaccinated. Hope you have a lovely week ahead!

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  • 23rd June 2021

    Back to a small lockdown here in Wellington…but at least we can still go to restaurants. The issue with vaccine roll out here is supply. There are only 5 million people in New Zealand and we are far away from everything!

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  • Joanne

    25th June 2021

    It sounds like such a lovely place! How wonderful that it is open once more.

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  • 26th June 2021

    Susanne, It’s not weird at all. Toronto just started re-opening of outdoor patios on June 11. This COVID-19 pandemic has robbed many simple joys that we used to have. O’Neill’s bar looks like a lovely place to socialize. I’m glad you had good weather and were able to return to the pub for a visit. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

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  • 26th June 2021

    First time visiting! I was born in Dublin and my parents emigrated to Canada when I was five. However, I go back often to visit and I have paternal cousins in Dublin to see.
    We are moving into stage 2 next week. Pub/restaurants that have patios were allowed to open 2 weeks ago after months of closure. No indoor dining will be allowed for at least another month.
    Finally I will be able to get a hair cut in a week or two!!!

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  • 27th June 2021

    A very big thing Susanne and lovely to read of your visit to the pub. We are up and down in regards to restrictions with things just going pear shaped recently. We’ve not had the huge numbers and lockdowns (where I live anyway) that you’ve experienced over there but it’s not over yet. Enjoy your summer as we head further into winter here in Aus! Lovely photos too. #weekendcoffeeshare

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  • 27th June 2021

    A nice post about the local neighborhood and pub with the lovely photos. It sounds like a great place to meet friends and neighbors.

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  • 28th June 2021

    I love those photos, especially the patio and the flowers in the window….also, sometimes the tiny “hole in the wall” (as we call them) places are the best. Best food, best drinks and best service.

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  • 13th July 2021

    Spectacular photos as always, Susanne. I love that you have ‘a place’! Is it close enough to you for a regular night out spot? It’s just so important to build community however we want to – and clearly, this is a home community for you and your husband. To me, you know it’s right when you WANT to see the members of that community… if you are making excuses to get out of seeing them, well, then… they might not be the right community for you.
    It’s just a bonus that it includes wonderful drinks as well as wonderful people. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I’ll admit that I’m surprised that it’s one of the last true rural Irish pubs – have they closed due to low population, or other factors?
    Take care.

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