Monday 14 October 2019

A good Friday in Wexford's pubs

Reporter Anna Hayes and photographer Ger Hore visited some local hostelries as pubs opened on Good Friday for the first time since 1927

Michelle Kinsella, Sarah Stenning, Mag Kinsella, Shannon Kinsella and Josephine Kinsella out for a drink and a bite to eat in The Porter House in Castlebridge on Good Friday.
Michelle Kinsella, Sarah Stenning, Mag Kinsella, Shannon Kinsella and Josephine Kinsella out for a drink and a bite to eat in The Porter House in Castlebridge on Good Friday.
John and Ilona Morris with publican Eddie Macken in popular Bullring watering hole Macken’s on Good Friday.

Pubs across Wexford opened their doors on Friday for the first time in 91 years after the Good Friday closure order was lifted earlier this year.

The much maligned law was lifted in January of this year, following years of campaigning from the Vintners' Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association.

While the reaction in Wexford at the time was more neutral than enthusiastic, all pubs appear to have opened for some period of time on Good Friday.

In Sinnott's Bar on Distillery Road, proprietor Liam Sinnott said he hadn't seen any increase in trade in comparison to any other Friday. He said they normally opened at 3 p.m. but he was in town a bit earlier and opened at 1.30 p.m. However, his first customer didn't arrive until around the usual opening time.

'It's not any busier than it would usually be but I imagine later on will be busier. We have a party tonight that was cancelled during the snow. I think maybe people are sticking to what they normally do on Good Friday.'

He said that they had decided to open when the law was lifted but remarked that it would not have bothered him if it hadn't happened.

'But I think, in this day and age, people should have the choice. It will be interesting to see what way it pans out and I think we'll be able to judge better next year.'

Over in The Sailing Cot, at the top of The Faythe publican Cormac O'Brien said it was a regular Friday afternoon and that, again, he expected it be a busier than average Friday night.

Regulars Seamus McCusker and Jimmy Meyler were both delighted that the pubs were open. Mr McCusker pointed out that tourists visiting the area wouldn't have the usual practice of wandering the streets, wondering why the pubs weren't open now.

From his own point of view, he said that in previous years he had sat at home, watching TV and was 'bored to bits'. He joked that the only problem was that the bookies could not open and while he could watch the horse racing in the pub, he couldn't back a winner!

However, an online account was something he was steering clear of: 'That's the slippery slope!'

Mr Meyler said that in other years he'd had a few beers at home but it was better to be able to socialise with others.

He joked: 'Lads might as well go in the front door as the back door!'

Out in The Porter House in Castlebridge, Myles Doyle said that they had had a steady crowd through the afternoon but had been busier for lunchtime as they had some fish specials.

'So far, it's like a normal Friday but a little busier. That said, last night wasn't as busy as other Holy Thursdays so over the weekend I think it will even out. None of us are going to get rich on the back of Good Friday trading!' He was another publican who didn't mind either way if Good Friday trading had been allowed or not: 'It was nice to have the day off but once the ban was lifted we were always going to open and give people the choice to go out. We'd expect a busier than usual Friday night because of the novelty of it.'

One group of women, who were having a few drinks and some lunch, said it was just like any other day and joked that they hoped the pubs opening wouldn't result in their offices opening on Good Friday as well as they'd have to go to work instead of having the day off!

'We came in for food. Otherwise we'd have had to cook!' laughed one of the women, adding that after being told you couldn't do something, you were more inclined to do it.

Their mother felt an old tradition had been lost when the ban had been lifted.

Finally, in the centre of Wexford town, Eddie Macken's bar in the Bullring had a healthy crowd of people enjoying a Friday pint.

Eddie, who runs the pub, which has been in his family's name for 75 years, said it was a case of 'changing with the times' and he felt it was a good thing as Good Friday could be a quiet and lonely day for some people. He said he was having a busier than usual Friday trade.

There was plenty of banter as Eddie gave fair warning to the crowd before any images were captured: 'If there's anyone here who's not supposed to be here get out now because you'll be in the paper if not!'

One couple enjoying a drink in the pub hailed from Canada. John and Ilona Morris have lived in Wexford for two years and John said he had tried to get into a pub last year and had been surprised to find them all closed.

'We realised that the reason was probably religious but we personally felt that they should be open and give everyone their personal freedom to do what they want.

'It should be the publican's choice whether to open or not. In Canada, the pubs are only closed two days - Christmas Day and Voting Day.'

Wexford People