Irish publican puts tradition and temperance before thirst: A teetotal pub owner in Co Monaghan opens for only two hours to retain licence held by his family for 100 years

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN Bertie Anderson's spartan pub, if the locals' tipple strays much beyond bottled stout or Bushmills whiskey there is a good chance they might go thirsty. The landlord doesn't carry a big stock.

But as Mr Anderson only opens once a week, for two hours late on Saturday nights, demand is hardly likely to outstrip supply. Moreover, in the Co Monaghan village of Drum (pop 48), the preference among the exclusively male gathering is more Guinness than gin sling.

In rural Ireland, where pubs are renowned for their 'lock-ins' - the quaint practice whereby the front is shuttered and in darkness to fool the police, the residents of Drum stand a greater chance of being locked out of Mr Anderson's one-room hostelry.

Some of the regulars attempt to explain the paucity of opening hours in terms of the village's other distinguishing feature: four Protestant churches and exclusively Protestant stock, keeping these God- fearing souls from the demon drink for all but the briefest of moments.

Herbert Hall, said: 'It's Bertie's way of keeping them all in line.' And George Vogan, 84, formerly the village blacksmith, added: 'We're all good temperance folk around here, that's why we have all these churches and only one pub.'

While there may once have been a grain of truth in that, the explanation today is rather less colourful. The place has been in the Anderson family for more than 100 years and the non-smoking, teetotal landlord, who has notched up 'three score years and ten', cannot bear to sell.

'Bertie hates it behind the counter,' explained Mr Hall, a cousin of the proprietor. 'He'd get a fortune if he sold, but he doesn't want to for sentimental reasons. So he opens for a short time and he can keep the licence.'

John Mills, 64, a cattle auctioneer who has been a regular since 1955, said: 'It's always been a good living place. When Bertie's mother ran it the first boy in was the barman. She came up for the takings at the end of the night, or if she didn't, someone would take it down. She was never wronged in a night.' Then it also served as the bakery-cum-hardware-cum-grocery.

Earlier still, during the famine, the basement was the soup kitchen and latterly the undertakers. Then, there were two undertakers, four tailors, two shoemakers, even some Catholics, and another pub called McCabes.

'That's where the other side drank,' Mr Vogan said. 'When I was a young lad nobody worked on a Sunday. You wouldn't even see anybody hunting or shooting or anything. Even the Catholics around here didn't work on Sunday. Now everybody's at it.'

Some things are sacred though. 'Bertie would certainly never open on a Sunday,' Mr Hall said. 'We don't believe in drinking on Sunday. They may in the North, but not in Drum.' With all this piety in the air, it was difficult not to notice that in Mr Anderson's pub it was getting perilously close to the Sabbath as the boys were still finishing up their weekly drinks.

(Photographs omitted)