The iconic McConville’s Bar at the Mandeville Street-West Street corner reached its 150th anniversary this week, with a plethora of ‘specials’ throughout the celebrations.
Whiskey tasting, a folk evening, an ‘Old Faces of McConvilles’ session, karaoke, good food, music, a magician...
But whatever the attractions at the premises, nothing can top a conversation with that legend of McConville’s – former barman and manager Eamon Molloy, whose knowledge of the company is encyclopaedic, whose love for the history of the place is tangible, and who is held in awe and respect by the present owner Andy Robinson and his staff.
There was a kind of hush when he walked in the door on Tuesday to recall the days he worked for the McConville-McAnallen connection who founded the place, and for whom he worked since he joined as a youngster in 1956, promoted to manager in 1972, until he retired in 2006.
Eamon still retains his love for the premises, whose famous snug – “made from Russian hardwood similar to the furnishing in the Titanic” – is a Grade One listed area, where the powers-that-be don’t even allow newly-fangled windows.
“The wood may conjure thoughts of the sinking of the Titanic,” he mused in his famous droll way. “Pints and half ’uns – and all sorts of drink – have been sunk here over the years, including the era of the Titanic!”
Andy has brought big, big changes. He’s a hard worker and he always treats me with such respect when I callEamon Molloy
McConville’s, he explained, traded originally from a few doors down West Street when the firm was established back in 1865 – “before my time, of course!” – in the premises in which Andy Robinson recently established his gaming business.
In the early days, the fabled horses for deliveries were stabled out the back, the owners lived upstairs, apprentices from various arts and parts were carefully trained, with the customers first and last.
“The current premises were built in the early 1900s,” Eamon added. “WhenI came on the scene, the place was run by Harry and Frank McAnallen. Their father John had married Sarah (nee McConville) and they retained the McConville name.”
Eamon was always a legend among the customers. His personality made him a natural, and he was expertly trained by the proprietors. He recalled that men were exclusive to the snugs in those days, each one had to be addressed ‘Sir’. And should a customer turn obstreperous, he would reason with the individual as he led him to the door, and they’d be out in the street without fuss.
Said Andy, “Eamon had a perfect approach in that respect. Few ever argued with him, such was his way.”
He was also gifted in the way of the trade. He was part of a team of experts who not only served the drink. McConville’s also bottled, on the premises, everything from their own blended whiskey, port wines, Guinness, Jamaican rum, vodka and beers of almost every ilk.
For example, they bottled 1,800 Guinness stouts every week, which was the most popular drink of the era, and it still remains just as popular in the modern-day draft form.
Before his 2006 retirement, Eamon noticed how the ladies moved more and more into the drinks scene – “even in the old days, one or two would sneak into the snug, but they weren’t allowed to be served at the bar.”
He recognises that things have changed in so many ways with modern music, discos, groups, nightclubs and all the rest installed in McConville’s to attract the customers. But he’s delighted that the old snug will never change whatever the current trends.
Indeed, Andy Robinson plans a major £300,000-plus renovation to the nightclub premises, to add a big band nuance to McConville’s.
“In my time, regulars enjoyed their own music scene – when they took their last orders into Tommy Leeman’s next door after closing time, for a sing-song,” said Eamon. “Times have certainly changed, but you have to keep the customers happy, and a chat around a pint no longer suffices.
“Andy has brought big, big changes. He’s a hard worker and he always treats me with such respect when I call. He’s doing a great job.”
And with all that experience, what is Eamon’s favourite tipple? Well, he doesn’t have one. “If I have a drink once or twice a year, that’s the height of it,” he said. “I can remember having a Guinness and a G&T some time ago. But I never really had a taste for it.”
Eamon’s methods certainly helped him gain the deep respect of all his customers at McConville’s Bar…