The Parting Glass at Gaughan’s glorious pub in County Mayo

By Bill Heaney

It was announced yesterday that Gaughan’s in O’Rahilly Street, Ballina, Co Mayo, had finally been sold.

Edward and Mary Gaughan and their daughter Therese called “time” at what was one of the oldest and finest public houses in the West of Ireland.

It was the haunt of local worthies, businessmen and fishermen who lined up at the bar with journalists, judges, ambassadors, politicians, poets, cardinals, moderators and writers.

Not to mention Sean Boyd, then head barman in the Horseshore Bar at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel.

And even the occasional Nobel laureate when the Humbert International Summer School was convening in the town.

Gaughan’s had one of the largest selection of wines and spirits in Ireland and was famous for its carefully poured pints of Guinness.

One man said his whiskey “went down like a torchlight procession” before he put out the flames with a long draught of stout.

Gaughan’s was also famous for its food, especially its salmon straight out of the River Moy and its shellfish landed at Killala and Kilcummin.

And master chef Mary Gaughan served up the most delicious best crab salads in Mayo.

It was also renowned for its selection of pipe tobacco, cigars and snuff, which Edward blended himself.  We smoked Romeos et Julietta cigars..

John Dew, the British ambassador to Ireland, was fond of the whiskey flavoured pipe tobacco in Gaughan’s.

I delivered some to him one day in the British Embassy in Merrion Road, Dublin.

The fragrance was exquisite but powerful and I was glad the sniffer dogs had a day off at the heavily policed and fortified embassy gates.

Toiseach Brian Cowen, Nobel laureate John Hume and Northern Ireland politician Austin Currie with Michelle Mulhern, Mayor of Ballina, Louise Gordon and Mary Tobin.

Pubs like Gaughan’s are few and far between these days, a place where you might find yourself on a high stool beside the Taoiseach or a European Court judge.

Albert Reynolds, the Irish prime minister who was engaged in peace talks with Prime Minister John Major in Northern Ireland, called in for a white lemonade.

As did Nobel Prize winner John Hume, who was honorary president of the Humbert School and John Cooney, the Humbert School director.

Times are a changing in Ireland as elsewhere. The pub culture has taken a 21st century knock. Closures are general all over Ireland.

Good luck to the Gaughans who are off to live at their home near the Back Beach in Kilcummin, where General Humbert and his troops landed to join the United Irishmen and attempt to drive out the English in 1798 (they failed).

We wish them a happy retirement from John Cooney and myself, a proud lieutenant in the army of scholars and others who washed up in the West of Ireland to promote peace in the much troubled North of the country.

The parting glass then goes to Frank Flanagan, who was once a regular, and who said: “Time is a thief of pleasure. Friendships and acquaintances fade and disintegrate. But time cannot diminish the recollection of companionable cheer and edifying conversation in this oasis of tranquillity.”

Go raibh maith agaibh

From scenes like these ….

Looking back at the Humbert School …

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