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Face to face with Brian McKenna. The Irish Pub has become famous worldwide as a place of fun, craic, conviviality, friendliness, warmth and welcome. It the early days it was the grocery/pub shop in the community and the place where every essential could be purchased. Gradually things changed and in Northern Ireland, since 1922, it was illegal to have both shops together. The Irish Pub was the ‘centre’ for the local community but it was not appropriate for females to frequent such places. There was entertainment there but it was supplied by the local customers themselves – all doing their turn, some with a song, others with a tune on the fiddle or mouth organ while others told a story. It was the place where all the local, national and international news was passed on, discussed and very often enlarged upon and it was the place where every problem had a solution, however temporary. Every pub had its experts and those tricky questions were always directed at the ‘intelligent one’, whose reply was always ‘gospel’. Changes. Tourism then became an industry and the tourist trade was there to be captured. The designated ‘tourist areas’ were first to adjust to the new demands. Visitors from overseas expected the Irish Pub to be a place of entertainment and it was now the done thing to hire in that entertainment and the customer became a spectator where he was once the performer. Pubs had to be enlarged to cater for the growing trade and food was added to the menu in order to attract even more customers passing through. When money became plentiful and more and more people began working in 9 to 5 jobs the habit of ‘dining out’ became common and Pub/restaurants developed. The original atmosphere and ‘local’ was lost as more and more ‘strangers’ packed in and even the counter was lowered to suit the new clientele. Irish Pubs then began to sprout up all over the world. New York had nearly as many Irish Pubs as you could find in Dublin and today you will find the ‘Traditional Irish Pub’ in ever city in every continent. Some are fakes, trying to cash in, but others are havens for Irish travellers. Brian’s Pub. Back home some things never change and in towns you can still find the Pubs, which have been able to maintain the ‘old and traditional’ atmosphere and ambience, while at the same time modernising and upgrading and all will welcome the female population through their doors. One pub, which has retained the ‘old’ integrated in the ‘new’, is the Rossmore Bar in Aughnacloy and its owner, Brian ‘Ross’ McKenna, carries on the role of the genial Pub Owner/Barman, doing his best to make his customers comfortable, happy, and engrossed in chat, and, on occasions, catering for the darts team or the pool team or the private party. Augher GFC. Brian was born just outside of Augher but in the Parish of Truagh. Seventeen townlands in Northern Ireland were part of the Parish of Truagh, which is mainly in County Monaghan. Some years ago these seventeen townlands were transferred to Augher and Clogher parishes, though many of the inhabitants still regard themselves as Truagh people. Indeed Brian’s ancestors are buried in Clara and Brian thinks that there were about ten or eleven players from Truagh on the first Augher football team to win the Tyrone senior Championship. The Augher Club was formed to give the players from that area a chance of getting football, as Clogher had sufficient numbers for their team. Brian’s father was the first, or one of the first, Chairmen of the Augher Club. When his father bought his new Nuffield 4 tractor in 1961 the first job it did was to plough the new pitch for the Augher club and prepare it for seeding. John McKenna helped out with the ploughing. Until they got their new pitch Augher teams played in McKenna’s field and it is still called the ‘Football Field’. The new pitch was called the Fr. Hackett Pitch after Fr. John Francis Hackett, who was a first cousin to Rose Ann, Brian’s mother. Brian played football for Augher but, when a Minor, he suffered a serious knee injury, which put him out of the game and he never went back to it. Indeed if it were today he could get treatment to rectify the injury but he never ‘looked about it’ then and has suffered since. As well he was always busiest with the farm work during the Summer which meant that he had little time for training and practice and that would have also taken him out of football. This year the Augher team qualified for the Junior Championship against Aghaloo and the game was played a few weeks ago. He had a foot in both camps but he leaned more towards Aghaloo, which won. At the game he was surprised with himself that he knew so few of the players on the Augher team. He had to ask people – ‘who is that lad there’ – but that is the way when you are out of a place for even a short time – young fellows grow up very fast and change and you know the parents better than the children. Barney and Rose Ann. Brian’s parents were Barney and Rose Ann McKenna. Rose Ann was a neighbour of Barney’s, living a couple of fields away from him, but then that was common in those days as people did not travel too far and marriages between neighbouring children was a usual occurrence. Rose Ann was McKenna before marriage as well, which meant that she had healing powers, especially for the Whooping Cough. Barney had the cure of the burn and Brian remembers many people coming to him for the cure. There were six children in the family. Phil was the eldest and he died last year, R.I.P. Then there is Patsy, Michael, Eugene, Mary Rose and Brian. Brian attended Aughadarragh Primary school, where the teacher was a Master Smith, who taught Barney and Rose Ann too. He then moved to the Technical College in Dungannon and, when completed there, he joined his father and brothers as farming contractors on the country. Farming. Barney had purchased tractors and machinery and they went from farm to farm getting the work done in season. They had a thresher, driven by the tractor, and they were the first in the region to have a mobile baler in 1957. The stationary baler had been in use and was set up beside the thresher or in one location and the hay or straw drawn to it. The mobile baler could be drawn around the field and it would kick the completed bale out behind it. This was a time and labour saver but very often they had to work through the night to avail of the good weather conditions. Indeed Brian remembers some weeks when he began work on Monday morning and did not see bed until Friday night. That was tough but they were young then and they thought nothing of it. The fact was that when the weather was right they had to work as more and more farmers were waiting on them to get their work done too. In the Autumn and Winter there was work to be done too with the cutting of the barley and they had a combine harvester for that. They had to purchase and maintain the machinery and upgrade as new and more powerful and versatile equipment became available. This was expensive but they managed. Socialising. When he was in his early twenties Brian purchased his first motor car – a Hillman Minx – and it was a terrific motor. It also meant that he could travel further to attend dances and sport. The Gap was a usual venue but the Embassy in Castleblayney was another favourite. Carrickmore and Ardboe were also places they visited regularly for dances. Gerry Askin and Pat Harvey McKenna were two of his friends at the time. He also began to play darts and loved the game. He was a member of Eamonn Monaghan’s Valley Bar Darts team and they played in the Clogher Valley Darts League. That was big stuff and they all took it very seriously. The darts still play an important role as we will see later. Brian then met Margaret Goodfellow who worked in Belfast but was from the Ballygawley area, and they ‘became an item’. However Brian decided to head off for one year to the USA and he was accompanied by the late Eddie Donnelly. They had Visas and all and did jobs here and there but moved about to see as much as possible of the country. During that year they visited 27 of the States right down to Mexico. It was planned that Margaret would join Brian for the last few weeks for a bit of a holiday and she did and they came home together. They got married and have two daughters – Lisa, who is teaching in St. Macartans and Nuala, who is working in the Civil Service in Belfast and who is looking forward to her wedding next year to a lad from Brackaville. Pub Business. Brian at this stage got himself into the pig business. He had ten or twelve sows and reared the litters but this only lasted for a couple of years. A pub premises in Aughnacloy came on the market and he went to view it. It was bomb-damaged and to get into the building he climbed through the hole made by the bomb. He bought it, restored it and opened it in the late 70’s. Around the same time he bought another bomb-damaged pub in Clogher and renovated it and opened it too. Margaret was in charge in Clogher and Brian ran the Aughnacloy business. The Clogher pub was the first to run ‘Take Your Pick’ and it pulled in massive crowds. The first Jackpot was £25, which may not sound much now, but they were all clambering to win it. He also began the ‘singing pub’ there with live bands playing. In those days the band began playing at 9pm and finished well before 11.30pm as the place had to be cleared by 11.30 and the police were very strict. They kept the two pubs going for four years but it became unworkable for the two of them and they sold the Clogher business around 1981. They then completely rebuilt the Aughnacloy premises and reopened it in 1982. Old Aughnacloy. When he bought the Aughnacloy pub there were ten Bars in the town and that has now reduced to five. It was a great and very busy town then. He recalls the late Ms Hillen and her Guesthouse; the late Frank Quinn, who was the local Hardware Merchant; and the late Francie Treanor with his Fancy Goods Store; the late Wilfred Clarke, the local grocer, who was so busy that he had customers queued up outside his shop waiting to get in. The Market Days were extremely busy with stalls from the Checkpoint to the Chapel and beyond. All the businesses in the town benefited from the crowds who came to the markets. Once the stalls were moved off the main street they began to decline as there was not the same buzz on the street and it was not the same social occasion with neighbours chatting and people meeting each other as regular market goers. There was always a great trade from Monaghan shoppers and the drink was cheaper in the North too. It was funny to watch people hiding the drink so that they would not be caught by the custom men as they went back across the border. He was also one of the first Off Sales outlets in surrounding counties and crowds came from all over to stock up, especially for Christmas. He remembers that he was working from early morning till late at night around Christmas and he was so busy that he did not have time to break for something to eat. Brian’s premises was a favourite place for Santa to leave toys. These would then be collected for delivery on Christmas Eve. He remembers rooms full of toys and he smiles when he realises that the children who received those toys are adults and parents themselves today. Times Change. But the Bar Business has changed drastically over the years. When he started you could buy a bottle of stout for 12 pence and a ‘halfin’ for 22 pence. Prices have gone through the roof since then. The main drink then was a Half of whiskey and a bottle of stout but today there is a very wide range of beers and spirits and draughts. When draught came in first it was on tap from about Easter till October but it was back to the bottle during the winter. Many great characters have passed through his pub and these were great entertainers in their own right. He mentions in particular the late Davy Singleton among these. During the troubles, times were difficult yet business continued. Brian would say that his pub is and has always been the Truaghman’s pub and throughout the troubles they came there. However with checkpoint delays and road-closures it was difficult for them to come and go. Now since the peace process life is getting back to normal and there is a much more relaxed atmosphere for people to socialise. Winners. Brian’s love of darts meant that he soon got a dart’s team organised to represent his pub in the Clogher Valley League, which has now spread to areas in three counties of Monaghan, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Brian had two teams entered in this year’s league. There are some powerful players about and McBrearty from Dromore, who appears on TV this weekend, played in Brian’s Bar and was defeated by local man, Peter Sherry, which shows the quality of local talent. Life for a Bar owner can be tough at times with long and unsocial hours. Brian took a break from it for a year but had to get back to it as he missed the business. He missed the chat, the customers, the buzz, the friendships and all that goes with being a barman and you will always get a good job done by the person who enjoys what he or she is doing. May he continue to serve the public for years to come. By Peadar McMahon and published in the Dungannon Observer. All Content is copyright @emyvale.net
All Content Copyright emyvale.net
Face to face with Brian McKenna. The Irish Pub has become famous worldwide as a place of fun, craic, conviviality, friendliness, warmth and welcome. It the early days it was the grocery/pub shop in the community and the place where every essential could be purchased. Gradually things changed and in Northern Ireland, since 1922, it was illegal to have both shops together. The Irish Pub was the ‘centre’ for the local community but it was not appropriate for females to frequent such places. There was entertainment there but it was supplied by the local customers themselves – all doing their turn, some with a song, others with a tune on the fiddle or mouth organ while others told a story. It was the place where all the local, national and international news was passed on, discussed and very often enlarged upon and it was the place where every problem had a solution, however temporary. Every pub had its experts and those tricky questions were always directed at the ‘intelligent one’, whose reply was always ‘gospel’. Changes. Tourism then became an industry and the tourist trade was there to be captured. The designated ‘tourist areas’ were first to adjust to the new demands. Visitors from overseas expected the Irish Pub to be a place of entertainment and it was now the done thing to hire in that entertainment and the customer became a spectator where he was once the performer. Pubs had to be enlarged to cater for the growing trade and food was added to the menu in order to attract even more customers passing through. When money became plentiful and more and more people began working in 9 to 5 jobs the habit of ‘dining out’ became common and Pub/restaurants developed. The original atmosphere and ‘local’ was lost as more and more ‘strangers’ packed in and even the counter was lowered to suit the new clientele. Irish Pubs then began to sprout up all over the world. New York had nearly as many Irish Pubs as you could find in Dublin and today you will find the ‘Traditional Irish Pub’ in ever city in every continent. Some are fakes, trying to cash in, but others are havens for Irish travellers. Brian’s Pub. Back home some things never change and in towns you can still find the Pubs, which have been able to maintain the ‘old and traditional’ atmosphere and ambience, while at the same time modernising and upgrading and all will welcome the female population through their doors. One pub, which has retained the ‘old’ integrated in the ‘new’, is the Rossmore Bar in Aughnacloy and its owner, Brian ‘Ross’ McKenna, carries on the role of the genial Pub Owner/Barman, doing his best to make his customers comfortable, happy, and engrossed in chat, and, on occasions, catering for the darts team or the pool team or the private party. Augher GFC. Brian was born just outside of Augher but in the Parish of Truagh. Seventeen townlands in Northern Ireland were part of the Parish of Truagh, which is mainly in County Monaghan. Some years ago these seventeen townlands were transferred to Augher and Clogher parishes, though many of the inhabitants still regard themselves as Truagh people. Indeed Brian’s ancestors are buried in Clara and Brian thinks that there were about ten or eleven players from Truagh on the first Augher football team to win the Tyrone senior Championship. The Augher Club was formed to give the players from that area a chance of getting football, as Clogher had sufficient numbers for their team. Brian’s father was the first, or one of the first, Chairmen of the Augher Club. When his father bought his new Nuffield 4 tractor in 1961 the first job it did was to plough the new pitch for the Augher club and prepare it for seeding. John McKenna helped out with the ploughing. Until they got their new pitch Augher teams played in McKenna’s field and it is still called the ‘Football Field’. The new pitch was called the Fr. Hackett Pitch after Fr. John Francis Hackett, who was a first cousin to Rose Ann, Brian’s mother. Brian played football for Augher but, when a Minor, he suffered a serious knee injury, which put him out of the game and he never went back to it. Indeed if it were today he could get treatment to rectify the injury but he never ‘looked about it’ then and has suffered since. As well he was always busiest with the farm work during the Summer which meant that he had little time for training and practice and that would have also taken him out of football. This year the Augher team qualified for the Junior Championship against Aghaloo and the game was played a few weeks ago. He had a foot in both camps but he leaned more towards Aghaloo, which won. At the game he was surprised with himself that he knew so few of the players on the Augher team. He had to ask people – ‘who is that lad there’ – but that is the way when you are out of a place for even a short time – young fellows grow up very fast and change and you know the parents better than the children. Barney and Rose Ann. Brian’s parents were Barney and Rose Ann McKenna. Rose Ann was a neighbour of Barney’s, living a couple of fields away from him, but then that was common in those days as people did not travel too far and marriages between neighbouring children was a usual occurrence. Rose Ann was McKenna before marriage as well, which meant that she had healing powers, especially for the Whooping Cough. Barney had the cure of the burn and Brian remembers many people coming to him for the cure. There were six children in the family. Phil was the eldest and he died last year, R.I.P. Then there is Patsy, Michael, Eugene, Mary Rose and Brian. Brian attended Aughadarragh Primary school, where the teacher was a Master Smith, who taught Barney and Rose Ann too. He then moved to the Technical College in Dungannon and, when completed there, he joined his father and brothers as farming contractors on the country. Farming. Barney had purchased tractors and machinery and they went from farm to farm getting the work done in season. They had a thresher, driven by the tractor, and they were the first in the region to have a mobile baler in 1957. The stationary baler had been in use and was set up beside the thresher or in one location and the hay or straw drawn to it. The mobile baler could be drawn around the field and it would kick the completed bale out behind it. This was a time and labour saver but very often they had to work through the night to avail of the good weather conditions. Indeed Brian remembers some weeks when he began work on Monday morning and did not see bed until Friday night. That was tough but they were young then and they thought nothing of it. The fact was that when the weather was right they had to work as more and more farmers were waiting on them to get their work done too. In the Autumn and Winter there was work to be done too with the cutting of the barley and they had a combine harvester for that. They had to purchase and maintain the machinery and upgrade as new and more powerful and versatile equipment became available. This was expensive but they managed. Socialising. When he was in his early twenties Brian purchased his first motor car – a Hillman Minx – and it was a terrific motor. It also meant that he could travel further to attend dances and sport. The Gap was a usual venue but the Embassy in Castleblayney was another favourite. Carrickmore and Ardboe were also places they visited regularly for dances. Gerry Askin and Pat Harvey McKenna were two of his friends at the time. He also began to play darts and loved the game. He was a member of Eamonn Monaghan’s Valley Bar Darts team and they played in the Clogher Valley Darts League. That was big stuff and they all took it very seriously. The darts still play an important role as we will see later. Brian then met Margaret Goodfellow who worked in Belfast but was from the Ballygawley area, and they ‘became an item’. However Brian decided to head off for one year to the USA and he was accompanied by the late Eddie Donnelly. They had Visas and all and did jobs here and there but moved about to see as much as possible of the country. During that year they visited 27 of the States right down to Mexico. It was planned that Margaret would join Brian for the last few weeks for a bit of a holiday and she did and they came home together. They got married and have two daughters – Lisa, who is teaching in St. Macartans and Nuala, who is working in the Civil Service in Belfast and who is looking forward to her wedding next year to a lad from Brackaville. Pub Business. Brian at this stage got himself into the pig business. He had ten or twelve sows and reared the litters but this only lasted for a couple of years. A pub premises in Aughnacloy came on the market and he went to view it. It was bomb-damaged and to get into the building he climbed through the hole made by the bomb. He bought it, restored it and opened it in the late 70’s. Around the same time he bought another bomb-damaged pub in Clogher and renovated it and opened it too. Margaret was in charge in Clogher and Brian ran the Aughnacloy business. The Clogher pub was the first to run ‘Take Your Pick’ and it pulled in massive crowds. The first Jackpot was £25, which may not sound much now, but they were all clambering to win it. He also began the ‘singing pub’ there with live bands playing. In those days the band began playing at 9pm and finished well before 11.30pm as the place had to be cleared by 11.30 and the police were very strict. They kept the two pubs going for four years but it became unworkable for the two of them and they sold the Clogher business around 1981. They then completely rebuilt the Aughnacloy premises and reopened it in 1982. Old Aughnacloy. When he bought the Aughnacloy pub there were ten Bars in the town and that has now reduced to five. It was a great and very busy town then. He recalls the late Ms Hillen and her Guesthouse; the late Frank Quinn, who was the local Hardware Merchant; and the late Francie Treanor with his Fancy Goods Store; the late Wilfred Clarke, the local grocer, who was so busy that he had customers queued up outside his shop waiting to get in. The Market Days were extremely busy with stalls from the Checkpoint to the Chapel and beyond. All the businesses in the town benefited from the crowds who came to the markets. Once the stalls were moved off the main street they began to decline as there was not the same buzz on the street and it was not the same social occasion with neighbours chatting and people meeting each other as regular market goers. There was always a great trade from Monaghan shoppers and the drink was cheaper in the North too. It was funny to watch people hiding the drink so that they would not be caught by the custom men as they went back across the border. He was also one of the first Off Sales outlets in surrounding counties and crowds came from all over to stock up, especially for Christmas. He remembers that he was working from early morning till late at night around Christmas and he was so busy that he did not have time to break for something to eat. Brian’s premises was a favourite place for Santa to leave toys. These would then be collected for delivery on Christmas Eve. He remembers rooms full of toys and he smiles when he realises that the children who received those toys are adults and parents themselves today. Times Change. But the Bar Business has changed drastically over the years. When he started you could buy a bottle of stout for 12 pence and a ‘halfin’ for 22 pence. Prices have gone through the roof since then. The main drink then was a Half of whiskey and a bottle of stout but today there is a very wide range of beers and spirits and draughts. When draught came in first it was on tap from about Easter till October but it was back to the bottle during the winter. Many great characters have passed through his pub and these were great entertainers in their own right. He mentions in particular the late Davy Singleton among these. During the troubles, times were difficult yet business continued. Brian would say that his pub is and has always been the Truaghman’s pub and throughout the troubles they came there. However with checkpoint delays and road-closures it was difficult for them to come and go. Now since the peace process life is getting back to normal and there is a much more relaxed atmosphere for people to socialise. Winners. Brian’s love of darts meant that he soon got a dart’s team organised to represent his pub in the Clogher Valley League, which has now spread to areas in three counties of Monaghan, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Brian had two teams entered in this year’s league. There are some powerful players about and McBrearty from Dromore, who appears on TV this weekend, played in Brian’s Bar and was defeated by local man, Peter Sherry, which shows the quality of local talent. Life for a Bar owner can be tough at times with long and unsocial hours. Brian took a break from it for a year but had to get back to it as he missed the business. He missed the chat, the customers, the buzz, the friendships and all that goes with being a barman and you will always get a good job done by the person who enjoys what he or she is doing. May he continue to serve the public for years to come. By Peadar McMahon and published in the Dungannon Observer. All Content is copyright @emyvale.net