Long before the Smithwicks Experience in Kilkenny became the streamlined, modern tourist attraction it is today, publicans and their staff members from all over Ireland were treated to a ‘day trip’ to the brewery.
These trips seemed to reach the height of their popularity in the 1970s and it was also a time when brewery representatives lavished pubs with gifts like: ashtrays and clocks, dartboard surrounds, tankards and towels bearing the brands of their products and not to mention the bales of beer mats.
Day Trip Souvenir Photographs
Smithwicks also seemed to be at the forefront of this promotional element of the business as it was their day trip souvenir photographs which dominated the wall spaces of the local pubs.
There wasn’t a pub in Ireland that didn’t have a photograph of the publicans of the locality posing happily for the group picture at the brewery and Castleisland is no exception.
Signs of Passing Years
Happy and all as those included in photographs looked, in time many of the names were forgotten as the pictures took on the signs of the passing years and the bombardment of tobacco smoke and slanting sunlight.
Sheila Prendiville would have gone on a few of these trips in her day – and she had the photographs to prove it.
She and the older customers made a great fist of putting the names on them as the years rolled by.
One or Two Escaped
However, there was always one or two who escaped – one whose name, christian or surname just wouldn’t come on the occasions when the photographs were up for discussion.
And they were a great topic of discussion whenever any ‘stranger’ dropped in and their eyes fell on the framed photograph.
Sheila would fill the pints and let them settle and come outside the counter and reel off the names with her hallmark enthusiasm.
Fill the Galling Blanks
She’d trail off when she’d come to the Smithwicks rep on the top right hand corner and the woman on the right on the front row.
She kept a page of a notebook with a bit of sellotape on the back of the frame in the hope that someone would fill in the galling blanks.
It didn’t happen in Sheila’s time as she passed away in January 2008 and the pub and grocery closed in July 2014.
Shopping Bag of Pub Mementos
Some time after the closure I got a shopping bag of well weathered price lists and other pub wall mementos from her nephew Paul Reese.
The collection also included two brewery tour photographs in their frames and Sheila’s almost completed list of names.
The list and the page it was on had been sat on by a pint of stout at some point in its precarious existence.
Losing Its Gumminess
As in life life itself, it was hanging on by the will of God and by a piece of tape losing its gumminess with every name added.
If you know the first name of the woman on the front right of the photograph you might drop it in the comment box below or / and the name of what we always believed was a brewery rep on the top right.
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