alan skeoch

Sept. 14, 2022

Kirwin’s pub, Bunmahon, a Saturday night in summer of 1960l: Many of our
employees and a good supply of Guinness

Kirwin’s pub had a rustic room for relaxed consuming of Guinness…rough plank walls 
with bark on the planks…and logs as tables.  John Hogan and I are enjoying ourselves.

Of all the thousands of pictures I have ever taken, these are among my  favourites.  Taken Saturday
night in July or August, 1960, at Kirwin’s Public House, Bunmahon, County Waterford, Ireland..
Barney Dwan is not in the picture.    I believe he did not drink…never remember asking.  There are a
lot of things I should have asked him but failed  to do so.  

Mrs. Kennedy told me he is mother was very young when she had Barney.  There was never any
mention of a father.  I never probed once Mrs. Kennedy told me that.   Wish I had .   We got along
so well on the job and Barney made sure I became part of the Bunmaon community..

That’s Barney Dwan on the left.  Look at his face.  Barney really wanted to learn all
about the job.  The technology of mining exploration was a great mystery to him
so he watched every move I made.  I wish I knew more about him but was prevented
by my belief I must try to treat all the men equally.  Pay them all the same amount of money.
Now 60 years later I realize that was a mistake.  I became dependent on Barney.
He helped me get employees….all ten of them.  Maybe I could have helped him.

I Loved the stories he told.   He  Knew the twists and turns of the old mines
like a glove on the hand. Seems his explorations were done alone.

I will never forget the stories he told all of which seemed to have a core of truth.
Not filled with hate.  Softened with humour
The ’Time of the Troubles” expression softened the hard edge of Irish independence…i.e. the violence
between Black and Tans and Irish Republicans.  Asa reset My experience in Bunmahon was pure joy.   In 1960 I
was certainly aware of the dark days of the 1920’s but that was only on the fringe of my mind.  Barney Dwan
made sure the joy was foremost.  Which leads me to another of his ’stories’ … which may or may not
be true.  

Take another look at Kirwin’s pub on a Saturday night  Los of fun…lots of people…many pints 
of Guinness.   I believe the barmaid is Mrs Kirwin.  Behind her, on her left was a locked room.
Barney told me a story about that room.

“What about the other room?  Other room?  Yes, the room behind the bar?  There is a light
on and someone moving about as I can see the moving shadow in the gap between 
the door and the floor.   Is that another part of the pub?”  I said something like this to
Barney who was not a drinker. Never saw him Kirwin’s pub.  Barney had a story about the place.
He seemed to have stories about every nook and cranny around Bunmahon as did our landlady
Mrs. Kennedy.

 Kirwin’s  was the
Catholic pub.   Directly opposite Kirwin’s was another pub with a Church of Ireland
clientele …. not so well attended as Kirwin’s.  Doubt Barney want there.  Barney was
a boy of indeterminate age.  A great story teller who dangled truth and fiction.  The
stories we followed up turned out to be true.

“The shadow you saw was cast by a man locked up there dating back to the Time of the
Troubles”….he did the dirty work back then.”

Was this true?  Think not.  Barney  always made his stories interesting.  A healthy
dash of exaggeration coupled with a smile. Like the story about the Nun who was eaten
by a herd of pigs and only her shoes were found with her feet in them.  Stories. Entertainment
as we slogged across Irish farm fields.

 Was an IRA assassin locked up behind the bar?  Seems a stretch to believe so.
Yet someone was in that room always..

That story I dismissed along with the story about walling up people in the
old church near the river. ”   Barney Dwan was a most amusing story teller
who never let the facts get in  the way of a good story..  I really wish I had got to know him better.


Book investigates why so many Irish country houses were subject to  devastating arson attacks in the 1920s

Burning the Big House: The mixed motives for the IRA arson campaign – The  Irish Times

Burning the Big House by Terence Dooley review — fanning the flames of hate  | Ireland | The Sunday Times

The tale of Ireland's 'House Burning Mania' of 1919-1923 - Country Life
The great wealth of some Anglo Irish landowners contrasted sharply with
the absolute poverty of most Irish tenants.  The gap between rich and poor
fanned the flames of Irish anger in the 1930’s.

The expression ’time of the troubles’ softened memories of the fight for Irish 
independence.  Perhaps too much softened.  Violent times back then.
 Part of the violence was the burning of large estate homes 
owned by Anglo-Irish.  In 1920, 76 of these ‘Big Houses’ were set on fire and 
another 46 were burned in 1921.  The owners were ordered out and the arsonists
did their work.  Little or nothing was saved.  Much grand art of Ireland use have gone up in
flames.   Nearby County Cork was a centre of house burning.  Less common in
County Waterford but burning did happen. 

 The John Wayne movie titled The
Quiet Man made no mention of these house burning events.  Nor did Barney 
say much about it except one casual mention of a fire that happened in an
large estate which we crossed doing our survey.  That is a dim memory which
may not be true.

I am not a particularly religious person.  A Presbyterian back in the 1960’s.
Protestant in other words.  In Ireland in 1960 I decided to attend Mass in
the Local Catholic church.  This decision was aided by Bridey.   Who was
Bridey?  I am not sure  She worked for the Kennedy family who owned the
house where we stayed.   She was handicapped but falloff energy.
The house was A rambling structure which  included the family
general store and a farm out back.  My first Sunday in Bunmahon
was free day for me.  Normally in Canada we worked 7 days a week so having Sundays off was a luxury
To sleep in?   Not a chance.  Bridey arrived in my room,
threw off my covers and announced “Time to get up Master Skeoch…time for
you to get to Mass.   Hurry!”

Copper Coast Geopark - St. Mary 's Church Saleen, Bunmahon | Facebook

What should I do?  I decided to do what Bridey told me to do.  So I attended Mass
in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church where most of my employees worshipped.  That was a good
decision.   Both John Hogan and John Stam were Catholics. Now all of us
were at mass. We became part of community life in the village.  I had to dodge the holy water thrown at me by some
of the men who knew I was not Catholic and wanted to help me along life’s
journey.  A bond was formed.  So glad that Bridey insisted.  She was slightly handicapped
and a joy to have around the Kennedy home.

Did Barney attend mass?   I don ’t believe so.  I think he lived outside the village somewhere.

The knockmahon Catholic Church was once the Temperance
Hall used by the Cornish miners in the 19th century.   I believe they
tended to be Methodists.   The Temperance movement
sure changed Bunmahon in the 17th century… from a town of 2,000 with 20 pubs
to a town with no pubs.  

  IN 1960  there were two pubs, one of
which was thriving….Kirwin’a.  Today, Sept. 15, 2022, I ave heard from Aiden Coffey that Kirwin;’s 
is up for rent and empty. 

alan skeoch

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