O’Shea family who own and run one of the
village bars across the road from the stone
walls of the Borris demesne. The building
has been operational as a grocer-bar since
the 19th century. In 1934, a tough-talking
farmer’s son from nearby St. Mulllins
purchased the premises and erected a new
sign over the door. ‘M. O’Shea - Select
Bar’. Known as ‘The Bossman’, Michael O’Shea
had served his time as an apprentice barman
in Ferns and nearby Graiguenamanagh during
the 1920s and decided the work suited him.
In fact, he decided a lot of work suited
him. Tea, wine, spirit and provision
merchant. Family grocer. Hardware, timber,
coal, iron, wool and corn store trader.
Cushendale Blankets agent. The Bossman did
the lot. His ledgers are held above the bar
today, each transaction precisely recorded,
a peculiar chronicle of who bought tomatoes,
bread, oil, coal, and how much they paid for
it. Most of the goods were kept in a
hardware store next-door; more commonly
sought goods like nails and tools were kept
behind the bar.
The Bossman’s wife
Anastasia had a custom of giving away free
bread and milk to the poor hill people when
they came down from Mount Leinster. It
wasn’t a tradition the Bossman warmed to.
‘Granddad wouldn’t let her work in the bar
because she’d always give away stuff’,
recalls their granddaughter Olivia O’Shea.
‘She’d have a full kitchen every time you
went in, serving them all food and not
charging any of them’.
Anastasia died in 1982
and Michael followed three years later.
Their son Jim and his wife Carmel duly took
over. It was during this era that the pub
became the establishment of choice for Denny
Cordell, trainer of horses, greyhounds and,
above all, rock legends. In cahoots with
Island Records founder Chris Blackwell,
Denny produced records for acts such as
Procol Harum, Bob Marley, Joe Cocker and The
Cranberries. After Denny’s unexpected death
in 1995, his wake was held in O’Shea’s.
‘They played every version of ‘Danny Boy’
there ever was’, recalls Olivia. The nearby
Gowran Park racecourse hosts a day in his
honour every September. Year after year, the
craggy faced rockers who knew Denny make
their pilgrimage to O’Shea’s to commemorate
the music man.
candy-striped bar begins virtually at the
entrance and runs in an L-shape around the
inner wall. Directly overhead hang a
miscellany of classic hardware goods –
luggage straps, sieves, oven-gloves, a
suggestive Wellington boot. Brass piping
meanders along the overhead ceiling,
seemingly held in place by thick black
painted wrought iron pillars. To the right,
behind an old weighing machine, stands a
wall of shelves holding carpenters bits -
masonry nails, breeze block nails, staples,
split-links and chipboard screws for every
hole and socket. Shelves are stocked with
batteries, light bulbs and other compelling
items that might suddenly catch one’s eye
while pontificating over a creamy pint.
‘Its quieter at the
minute but so is everywhere’, says Olivia
who now runs the business with her brother
Michael. ‘We used to have had a lot of
people who’d come in for three or four pints
and go home. But with the drink-driving
laws, they don’t come anymore’. Olivia
believes the challenges ahead will be many
but, with tradition in their blood, the
third generation of O’Shea’s publicans will
somehow hold the fort.
Source: Turtle Bunbry book
The Irish Pub