Coming of age in Castlebar

A Breaffy Man in Castlebar

Coming of age

Edwin McGreal

Sorry folks, have ye ID? Five words to send the fear of God into the heart of any 16 or 17 year-old in most places in Ireland.
In Castlebar we used to think we operated the perfect form of stealth for getting served as underage people (I could pretend I was purer than such behaviour, but then I’d be lying).
We thought the best way to get drink as 16-year olds in the pubs was to walk into a pub, go straight down the back, into the toilets.
Then re-emerge five minutes later and walk to the bar as if we had already been drinking there and were just coming back from the jacks.
Two problems with this approach. We would walk into the pub at 8pm or so when it would be nearly empty and the sight of young fellas with the newly ironed Ben Sherman shirts and dark denim jeans, chests puffed out but afraid to look anyone in the eye - well subtle it wasn’t.
Problem number two - there was three of us. Three young men walking into a pub and going straight to the toilet looks suspicious - on a number of levels.
So out we would come from the jacks, walk up to the bar trying to look confident and order as if we were regulars.
‘Can I get two pint bottles of Bulmers and what do you want Ray? And a pint of Bud as well,” before Ray even had the chance to respond.
‘Sorry lads, have ye ID?’
‘Ah feck, I left it at home. Sure I drink here all the time, the other barman, the tall lad, knows me well.’
How we didn’t get served after that convincing effort is beyond me.
We always had a few back-up plans though. There were a couple of pubs that were, ahem, sympathetic to our plight and didn’t feel the need to check for ID.
We could have kept going to these hostelies every night but when you’re beginning a round-the-world adventure, would you stop at London?
No, we thought we were it and so there was only one place to go - Hennelly’s.
In my school days Hennelly’s was so cool you felt you were being transported from the humdrum of Castlebar into Tír na nÓg.
It offered fun and escapism for teenagers but the problem was they were strict. Very strict.
Bouncers guarded the doors and to make matters worse one of them, Davy Walsh, had been three years ahead of some of us in Davitt College - he knew what we were up to and how we used to curse him.
And so, on most nights, Hennelly’s was like the end of the rainbow - always in sight but always out of reach.
But, if you were lucky and enterprising, you could snake around and squeeze in the back door and suddenly a bad night morphed into an excellent one.
Unless Davy Walsh spotted you jumping around the place that is and you were quickly transported back to reality.