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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Kelly's of Dunkirk

© Artwork by M. Brennan 2012 copyright - All rights reserved

Kelly's of Dunkirk

Carlow Session  and Traditional Irish Music Club -
Details This article appeared in  in Jan 2003
This article appeared in  in Jan 2003

An Irish Music Club found in various pubs throughout Carlow, Ireland. For local and out of town musicians and music lovers. The history behind the formation of the music club is a strange one. A friend of mine and I wanted to have a place to play music in that was relaxed and totally carefree. We wanted a venue that had character and a very real flavour of Old Time Ireland. That’s when we decided to found a monthly session. Now the next thing was to decide on a location for this particular session.

My Dad had been attending the local drinking establishment known as Kellys Dunkirk for quite some time. This pub is one of the few unique old Irish pubs remaining in Ireland today. Up until about 20 years ago, there was no such thing as draught beer to be had in Kelly’s at all. Bottles of beer or hard whiskey were all that was available. Joe (the proprietor) then decided that he would introduce Guinness and Smithwicks on tap. Anyways, my Dad is a regular in Kelly’s, as I already said.

I began to visit the place quite often after he told me about it and began to immerse myself in its unique atmosphere. My friend and I had decided that this pub would be ideal for our project. I put it to my Dad, and he sanctioned it to a certain extent. However, the big question was would the boss man (Joe) agree? Thankfully he did and the session was born. That all began about 5 years ago. Unfortunately, this didn't last as the session just got too big for poor ould Joe's establishment - and he kicked us out - literally!!!!!

“Where did the pub get its name “Kelly’s Dunkirk”?”, I hear you ask. Well, 'heh' 'heh', that’s a good one! !

Seemingly in the 1940’s, the drinking laws in Ireland were a little stricter than they are at the present day. The allied landings during the 2nd World War were also in full swing!!!! Well, right behind Kelly’s runs a quaint little river known as the Burrin. Back then, there was a sandy beach right at the edge of the river and at the back of Kelly’s Pub. When the local coppers raided the place after closing time, that’s how the guilty parties still on the premises made their escape – by hopping over the back wall and legging along the beach to freedom.

It fondly became known as “hitting the beaches of Dunkirk” to escape the law and the name “Kelly’s Dunkirk” has stuck ever since. That’s the story anyway and its not 100% definite if its 100% true but sure – it’s a good story, and, I suppose, as good a truth as any!!!!


Carlovian Sunset

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