Sunday 9 December 2018

Obituary: Legendary Dublin bar owner Mollie Kenny

Great neighbour who was hailed by her publican husband as 'the best barman I ever had' says Liam Collins

Martin Kenny, Molly Kenny and Jim Kenny pictured in the Sackville Lounge
Martin Kenny, Molly Kenny and Jim Kenny pictured in the Sackville Lounge

When Con Houlihan walked into the Sackville Lounge, just off O'Connell Street, in Dublin one afternoon, the late Mollie Kenny, thinking he was worse for wear - because he wasn't always the most prepossessing customer - refused him a drink. After Con shambled out the door her son Jim whispered, "Do you not know who he is?" and Mollie rushed out the door, followed the sportswriter up O'Connell Street, brought him back by the hand and stood him a drink.

Mollie (Mary) Smith who died recently at the age of 90 was born into a typical small farming family in rural Cavan shortly after the foundation of the State. After leaving school, she got a job as a receptionist with a dentist in Bray, Co Wicklow. There she met an apprentice barman, Martin Kenny, and it was an immediate and lifelong love affair; the couple lived and worked together for the rest of their lives.

They married and moved to Oldcastle, Co Meath where Martin got a job as a barman. Deciding to go out on his own, he tried every bank in the town for a loan, but every one of them turned him down. Finally he persuaded the manager of the Northern Bank to back him up - taking out a loan to buy his own pub, Kenny's of Mary Street, in central Dublin. The loan was paid back in six months.

The couple spent most of their life there together, Martin describing Mollie as "the best barman I ever had" although today it probably would have to be in more politically correct language.

"She did everything for the family," says her son Jim, who now runs the Centra in Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin. He was told by his mother that the only holiday they ever had was their honeymoon in Cork. Mollie was well known in what was then a thriving city-centre community around Mary Street, Capel Street and Wolfe Tone Street. "She was a great neighbour and before the people were moved out to Ballyfermot she would know everybody and helped at Christmas, buying turkeys for the families and things like that," says her son Jim.

He joined his parents when they moved to the Sackville Lounge in Sackville Lane by the side of Clery's, just off O'Connell Street, where she stayed until she and Martin retired in 1990. Patrons from the Irish Independent, such as the former editor Vinnie Doyle, knew the pub as 'Mollie's'.

The couple had three children, Jim, Mary and Geraldine, and after they retired from the pub business, Mollie helped with her grandchildren. Martin died in August 2012 and Mollie died at the age of 90 in August.


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