4th May 2013
Tom Walshe feels the winds of change.Poor auld Tom Walshe. There was a time when the publican was among the most respected and prosperous members of any community but while the respect has remained the prosperity has evaporated. This is especially the case among rural publicans who have seen their trade dwindle as the smokin' ban, the drink drivin' laws and the recession take their toll.
In the cities the licensed premises has become a cross between a restaurant and ale-house but it's not that easy for the hostelry in rural Ireland where people like to have the dinner at home. Publicans like Mick Treacy in the "Drippin Tap' in Shronefodda have adapted; the 'Tap' is now a venue for keep fit sessions and the local amateur dramatics group.
It is more difficult for Tom Walshe to make such a transition; he has no function room. He did, however, invest in a new coffee machine, a kettle and some fancy crockery. So now, as well as a pint you can have a cup of tay, a cup of coffee or even a skinny latte. Tom isn't altogether happy with this and while his customer base has expanded ever so slightly, the change is goin' totally against his grain and his callin' in life.
He confides in me; "Maurice," he says, "little did I think I'd end my days as a tea boy. I know I should be grateful for the custom but I hate makin' tay. What's more I detest that feckin' coffee machine, I can't stand the smell of the stuff. Like the farmer who loves the smell of cattle around his farm I love the smell of beer, porter and whiskey around the pub. I miss the days when the cigarette smoke and the aroma of tobacco was stuck in everything, but since the smokin' ban you can smell every bad sock, every gasp of stale breath and every whiff of broken wind in the place. And now the feckin 'stink of coffee has me poisoned. I suppose I have to move with the times, it's either that or close the door for good."
I tried to console him but the poor man is turnin' into a psychological skinny latte before my very eyes. I had a frightenin' dream about him the other night, I dreamt I was goin for a pint and found a crowd gathered outside the pub lookin' in the window. Tom was inside, stripped to the waist and swingin' a sledge hammer as he made puttery-hatch of the coffee machine.
The followin' night I went for a real pint and as I wasn't feelin' the best I just had a glass or two of tonic water. As coincidence would have it my regular drinkin' partners weren't much better, they were on tay, coffee and minerals. Poor auld Tom was particularly glum so I thought the story of my dream might cheer him up a bit. Everyone got a great kick out of it except the man himself, who hardly smiled.
"Do you know what, Maurice," says he, "that dream might be closer to reality than you think."
I thought no more of this remark till the following mornin' when Pa Quirke came in the back door without knockin' and him breathless.
"Maurice, Maurice," he gasped, "Come quick."
"Come where," says I, "can't you give me a chance to take the top off my egg?"
"It's Tom Walshe," he said
"What about Tom Walshe?"
"He's sellin' the pub, Tinky Ryan is below nailin' a sign to the wall."
I abandoned the egg and took off with Quirke. Sure enough, there was my hoor of a Tinky up his ladder and nailin' the sign to a lath on the wall of the pub.
Traditional residential licensed premises
T.K. Ryan Auctioneers & Undertakers,
"What's goin' on here, " I asked
"In spite of all indications to the contrary it appears ye're not drinkin' enough in this town," says Tinky, "the decent man inside can no longer afford to stay open."
We knocked on the door and a very downcast Tom Walshe invited us in. We walked to the bar in silence.
"Can I get ye something lads?" he asked
"This early in the day," says Quirke, "I'll just have a la....
"He'll have a large one," says I, "and a pint, and so will I. You can be fillin' somethin' for yourself while you're at it." I had to butt in before Quirke drove Tom further into the depths of depression with an order for a dreaded latte.
We sat sippin' our drinks while Tom drummed his fingers on the counter.
"Well?" says I,
"Well," replied Tom Walshe, "tis all over, I'll retire a publican rather than die a tea boy."
This can't happen. We have a big job on our hands