Menu

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'Neill's bar
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.

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 in holidays. No trip to Ireland was complete without at least one visit to O’Neill’s.

O'Neill's bar

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'Neill's bar
O'Neill's bar
O'Neill's bar

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'Neill's bar
O'Neill's bar
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 🙂
O'Neill's bar
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.

18 Comments

  • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
    22nd June 2021 at 8:37 pm

    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!

    Reply
    • Susanne
      22nd June 2021 at 9:16 pm

      Oh, don’t get me started on music events! It will take a long time until they truly come back. We also had tickets for a concert with Christy Moore that we have no idea when it will happen. But, we have a friend (singer and guitar player) who is impatiently waiting for us to be fully vaccinated so that we can come to her house and play tunes! Having tune sessions with her is a lovely substitute for “real” music sessions.
      I’ve been glad to read about Australia and NZ and how little you’ve been affected by Covid. But not so impressed by the vaccine rollout. I hope they catch up with that. Have a great week you too!

      Reply
  • Barbara Loefgren
    23rd June 2021 at 8:15 am

    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!

    Reply
    • Susanne
      24th June 2021 at 4:51 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that, Barbara. 🙁 We had a huge issue with the vaccine supply here during the spring too. But from May we are doing really well with the vaccinations. I hope you can get vaccines as soon as possible.

      Reply
  • Joanne
    25th June 2021 at 8:23 pm

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

    Reply
    • Susanne
      26th June 2021 at 7:50 am

      Absolutely! Thanks for visiting and enjoy your weekend!

      Reply
  • Natalie
    26th June 2021 at 12:00 am

    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.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      26th June 2021 at 7:51 am

      I’m glad to hear Toronto is also beginning to open up and I hope businesses will be able to stay open. Thanks for coming over!

      Reply
  • Jackie McGuinness
    26th June 2021 at 3:44 pm

    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!!!

    Reply
    • Susanne
      26th June 2021 at 10:13 pm

      I can imagine your joy about getting a haircut if you’ve needed it for a while! I’m glad to know you’re reopening where you are – hope all goes well. Interesting to hear about your Irish origins – good to hear you get over here sometimes! I never really appreciated Dublin until I became interested in whiskey. Then I started exploring Dublin and realize how much history there is there (not only regarding whiskey) – and I fell in love with the city. I still very much prefer West Cork! But it’s nice to visit Dublin once in a while, and there are plenty of places there that I still haven’t seen.

      Reply
  • Debbie Harris
    27th June 2021 at 9:24 am

    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

    Reply
    • Susanne
      27th June 2021 at 10:04 am

      Thanks for coming over to share my joy of being back at the pub! I hope the numbers continue to be low in Australia.

      Reply
  • Deborah D Drucker
    27th June 2021 at 8:20 pm

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

    Reply
    • Susanne
      28th June 2021 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks Deborah! Yes, this is a fabulous place… one of my favourite pubs altogether.

      Reply
  • Kirstin
    28th June 2021 at 2:42 pm

    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.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      28th June 2021 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, I totally agree! There are so many unknown gems out there!

      Reply
  • Anne
    13th July 2021 at 4:41 pm

    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. 😉
    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.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      15th July 2021 at 3:16 pm

      This is rather close but we still need to take the car there. My husband usually takes a pint or half-pint and nothing more, and we hang around long enough so that it’s safe and legal to drive home. When we lived in the rental house, we actually had walking distance – depending on whom you ask!
      This is definitely our community. We’re happy to go to pubs in Clonakilty and we know good people there but Butlerstown is different. Since we moved over this time it’s been HOME, our home pub. Now when we’ve been there a few times after the reopening, I’ve realised how much seeing those people helps me connect with real life, the life we used to have pre-pandemic, and the people we enjoy spending time with. We love our online session but the local community is what we came here for.
      Regarding rural pubs, there are a few more, but I think it’s after the last recession that villages have been depopulated and many rural pubs haven’t been able to survive. Some are not used as shops or community hubs. Maybe with the move to remote working, it will be possible for people to live in rural communities again, at least I hope that companies will continue to allow people to work from home! The pandemic has shown that it is possible and that many actually prefer remote working as it creates more quality of life and is better for the environment too. Well, time will tell.

      Reply

Leave a comment