Last Friday I stopped off in the village of Graiguenamanagh, in Kilkenny. It was nearly 50 years since the last time I was there. Back then, I had come to Ireland with a school friend, Peter Burnett, for a week’s fishing. We stayed at a local farmhouse for the princely sum of 8 Guineas each, full board.
A couple of evenings we walked into town to drink pints of stout in one of the town’s many pubs. I remembered being fascinated that the pub was also a grocery shop and a monumental mason. When I saw Doyle’s pub last week, I thought it might be the one so I parked the Campervan and went inside.
It was exactly the sort of pub that Peter and I had frequented, though whether it was the one, I couldn’t tell. It didn’t look as though it had changed much in 50 years, apart from the fancy coffee maker and the presence of women and children, which would certainly not have been the case in the 1960s.
The bar sold butter, cheese and cooked meats as well as beer and the grocery section was well stocked with the necessaries of rural life, including bottles of de-licing fluid and tubs of rat bait. But no sign of monumental masonry anywhere. Perhaps that had been a figment of my adolescent imagination?
Three grey-haired old geezers (about my age) propped up the bar. I ordered a pint of Guinness and as I waited for it to settle in the glass, explained my quest to my fellow drinkers. Could they remember if Doyle’s had had a Masonry section when they (I mean we) were boys? The question prompted some laughter and much scratching of heads.
I left them to it for a few minutes while I fetched Ted from the Campervan and returned to sample my first pint of Guinness in Graiguenmanagh for half a century. To say it was magnificent would be an understatement.
I raised my glass to the three founts of local knowledge who were now deep in conversation. “Sure, wasn’t there Monumental Mick?” said one. “You’re thinking of Mason Ned,” said another. They were straight-faced but with a twinkle in the eye that suggested they might have been teasing me. “You could try O’Shea’s round the corner,” said the first speaker. “They’ve got a coal yard out the back.”
Realising that I would never know for sure which pub it had been and that historical accuracy really didn’t matter, I decided to assume that I was in the right place, and let the matter drop.
As the conversation across the room turned towards Brexit and what fecking eejits the British were for giving up a good thing, my mind went back to that halcyon week we’d spent in a world that (apart from the Guinness and rat bait) has largely disappeared. I slowly finished my drink, put down my glass, and left.
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.