Tuesday 16 October 2018

Serving Fethard-on-Sea punters for 120 years

Ann Carroll, John (Droopy) Nolan and Martina O'Leary
Ann Carroll, John (Droopy) Nolan and Martina O'Leary
Droopy with the old Nolan's ledgers
Fred Nolan, Johnny Molloy, John Ryan, Sonny Molloy, Frank Malin, T.J. Molloy, Patsy Cullen, Jamesy Clarke, Paddy Kiernan and Paddy Murphy in Nolan's
A postcard snapshot of Fethard-on-Sea in the 1950s

David Looby

One of the only pubs in the south east to be in the same family for over a century is celebrating its 120th birthday in early December.

Droopy's bar in Fethard-on-Sea has served its customers through two world wars, the Irish rebellion and countless occasions happy and sad over the years.

Founded on November 14, 1897, by Eoin Nolan, Nolan's pub, (which today proudly boasts the name Droopy's), ran a grocery shop, post office and pub in the seaside village up until his death on July 23, 1916 aged 60. His son Eoin Jnr, who was known as Eoinie, ran the pub for 47 years right up until his death aged 84. His son Fred (who was affectionately known as Droopy), took over running the pub up until June 1997, when he died aged only 57 and so it was that the pub and its previous owner's name, Droopy, passed to John Nolan, 50, who continues serving drinks to this day with his team.

Situated on the grounds of a shop which can be traced back to 1853, the old world pub retains the character - and still some of the characters - of yesteryear.

The Nolan pub has been passed down through four generations, each with their own stories to tell.

'So many great characters have walked through the doors of Nolan's and Droopy's with their own individual stories, whether they be tall tales or truth, you were always guaranteed a good laugh,' John said.

Eoin Nolan arrived in Fethard on a horse and cart from Tullycanna and decided to establish a pub and shop in 1897.

Not much is known about Eoin but he must have had a good way about him to last in business in the late 1800s and early 1900s in rural Ireland, passing on his knowledge to his son.

Eoinie was a quiet man who kept to himself.

He played on the Fethard football team that won the very first county title 100 years ago in 1917.

The Nolan's used to bottle their own whiskey which was in big demand locally.

A man who never touched a drop in Nolan's, Eoinie would travel to Waterford on the train for a few drinks on 'quiet days'. At closing time, from his newspaper seat - where several publications were always stacked in the corner - he would be heard shouting: 'Come on now lads, the clock is going uphill!'

This clarion call must be a family tradition as Droopy can, to this day, be heard shouting: 'Right lads, time to finish up!'

Fred Nolan was always up for a laugh.

A man of few words, he was a a great card player and when he wasn't out tending to his flock of sheep. he was tending to his flock in the pub where he was a great character behind the bar.

John's background was as a fisherman. He said standing behind the bar was a big change from wearing oilskins and fishing for days on end off the coast.

A little dip in Ballyhack pier in August 2000 brought him to his senses, when his car rolled down off the harbour into the water and he escaped with his life.

Droopy said: 'We are one of Wexford's oldest pubs to be kept in the same family.'

The pub's story runs in parallel with the village's reflected to this day in how the big 120th party Droopy planned had to be put back for a few weeks as half the village is travelling to London to see St Mogue's play next weekend.

Droopy said customers make the atmosphere but due to the loss of a generation of characters over the past two decades, it is a struggle to keep the doors open some weeks, particularly during the winter time.

'They come in and give out about the bad weather. You have to be able to enjoy interacting with people and having the craic with them. You have to be a jack of all trades and even a counsellor at times!'

Droopy producers two old worn ledgers showing purchases made by numerous members of the local community in 1898 for ham, tea, sugar, butter, whiskey and other refreshments. Eoinie's handiwork can be seen crossing out debts owed. Residents names are prefaced by Mr. and Mrs.

'There is even an account for the RIC.'

He said: 'There is a great history to this pub. We were paying tax to the English state for 23 years before the Irish state was formed and Eoinie died three months after the 1916 Rising.

'Running this pub is a legacy. At a time when pubs are closing down there are not too many to have been run by four generations.'

Through 'chopping and changing' things at the pub, Droopy has managed to keep the business going.

Situated on the same footprint as the old Nolan farm, Droopy took over in 1997 when the economy was springing back to life.

'They used to have hens, ducks, geese and sheep would be shorn out the back and there were cows out there too. Customers would have to kick chickens out of the way to get out the doors some nights. It was a working farm right up until the 1970s.'

The pub thrived even during the 1980s at a time when the Naomh Seosamh Hotel was booming. 'You couldn't get into a pub in Fethard after 8 p.m. it was so busy. There was music in the pubs every night every July and August.

Then the recession landed and the whole culture of drinking changed.

'People started drinking at home, they got that habit which is hard to break, but you have to fight your corner. We kept the old school look. We are not a high society bar. It's all about looking after the locals and we enjoy the tourist trade during the summer.'

He said the stricter drink driving legislation affected business significantly.

Over the years Droopy's pub has been a place of comfort for people bereaved by tragedies at sea. Generations of fishermen have drank at Droopy's.

'It's a bit like politics if one generation comes to your pub the next will. It's great when new people in the village come in.

'The Dublin visitors love the pub as they can let their hair down and have a dance. We have music one night a week during the winter and four nights a week during the summer. We also hold fancy dress events and fundraisers.

'We've gone from the old record players to tape players and now there's new technology.'

As with every rural pub close links with the local GAA club is a must and Droopy has organised events for the girl's GAA teams.

Everyone is invited to a celebration on Saturday, December 9th when Droopy will be turning back the clock from 4 p.m.

All pints will be €3 and pig's feet, rabbit stew and colcannon will be served from 7 p.m. till 10 p.m.

An 1890's fancy dress party will see local residents decked out in classy clothes not unlike what their ancestors wore.

'Think the Wind that Shakes the Barley,' Droopy said. 'Gents get your britches and braces and ladies get your shirts and skirts ready.'

The community is expected to come out in force after what has been a fantastic sporting year in Fethard-on-Sea.

The good times continue at Droopy's!

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