Another little community of card players, drinkers, ball-hoppers, musicians, singers and innocent bystanders have found themselves estranged from their home-from-home this weekend as the doors close and the hammer is about to fall on the place we know as Sheila Prendiville’s Bar & Grocery at No. 22 Main Street, Castleisland.
With immediate effect the place is going on the market and ‘Sheila’s’ as we know and loved it is to be no more.
The strains of ‘Those Were the Days my Friends’ weave themselves with great poignancy through the memory banks of a brain which has endured this kind of social imbiber’s itinerancy on several occasion over a short few years.
On the face of it the building has had a great run down through the centuries. It has stood impassively there on the side of the street and taken in all that happened within its gaze.
In recent years several people who have been in on days like St. Patrick’s Day and the November 1 Horse Fair Day and have expressed an interest in the place if it ever came on the market.
One way or the other this is the end of an era. But I hope the noble, proud, old building and its wonderful history and the collective and very individual memories of all those who sat at its pitch pine counter can, somehow, live on.
The following is a piece I was asked by The Kerryman to do on Sheila’s in 2012. While it may be a bit Potpourri-ish it does provide an insight into what the place was like in full flight at various times.
Sheila Prendiville’s – Defying Description at No. 22
By: John Reidy
It took a member of a touring party of New Zealand rugby players to nail down a vague description of the men’s facilities during a flying visit to Sheila Prendiville’s about five or six years ago.
There, he found that the roll of three ply Andrex was the only concession to the mad, modern world he stepped off the street from only minutes before.
He couldn’t make head nor tail of the cast iron cistern over his head or the chain that hung from it in the well ventilated men’s room.
The term he used at the time was immediately entered into the folklore of the ancient bar and grocery at No 22 Main Street, Castleisland and is still dragged out occasionally.
Conservatively dated back to 1798, the premises and its ambience is breathing proof that television and such distractions have long outstayed their welcome in pub life today.
For it’s here that people, who just want to talk or sing or be left alone, gather around the glow from the embers of the pub culture we knew and loved – and the porter there is among the best in town.
It is here too, for generations, that locals shared the news of the town and surrounding areas and sat until every angle was teased out. Then they ticked off their groceries, bagged them, threw down their half-ones, drank their mediums and made for the door with a barely audible ‘Put them in the book.’
Like many of her era, Sheila was an immaculate book-keeper – almost up to the day of her passing in the early hours of Saturday, January 26-2008 and she approaching the age of 98.
The people on Sheila’s mother’s side were Riordans from Scartaglin and the inhabitants of the area supported her as one of their own.
Signs on, it was a house which rang to the sound of music and the pounding of dancing feet down through the generations.
Spontaneity would be a good word to describe how the many memorable sessions at Sheila’s came about over the years. There’s never any advertising or loud-speaking. A word here a phone-call there and the game was always on somehow.
French, German and English television crews have all been in over the years to capture the tranquillity of the place. Sheila gave out yards to Hot House Flower, Liam O Maonlai for walking around in his bare feet one fine day that he wandered in to buy a handful of cough sweets.
Con Houlihan called in during the making of the documentary on his life ‘Waiting for Houlihan’ in 2002 and was filmed there in conversation with Sheila.
Author Joe Broderick dropped in too one afternoon researching the Castleisland side of Bishop Eamonn Casey’s life for his 1992 published book Fall from Grace. He fell into company with the late Mike Kenny and myself and we talked for a couple of hours – but sang like sailors before the Angelus struck.
A notable evening too was the one on which Mr. Kenny installed a tortoise-shell like lamp-shade and a forty watt bulb over the card playing area of the counter. It added atmosphere – he said.
And there was the lovely summer’s evening when a neighbouring woman came in for a punt’s worth of 1p jelly babies for her dog. A simple enough transaction – you’d think.
She landed back after about five minutes and emptied the jelly babies onto the counter and told Sheila she had given her only 99.
“Are you sure you didn’t eat one of them outside,” Sheila asked counting them again and revoking the ‘customer is always right’ notion in earnest.
And there was the man who summed up the attributes of his new daughter-in-law in a short, sharp sentence:
When asked by Sheila how he was getting on with the new woman in the house he replied: “She’s a great girl – you couldn’t draw Vim to her.” “That’s good,” said Sheila.
Birmingham born, Paul Reece – a nephew of Sheila’s – is the master of ceremonies at No 22 these days. His wonderfully sharp and typically British sense of humour is ably matched by honorary number 1 customer and emergency barman, David ‘Dauber’ Prendiville.
Sheila once dubbed him as ‘the devil painted.’ He would outdo the devil himself in a battle of wits. The Dauber coined ‘Aisy Pati’ was being actively considered as the name of a greyhound recently.
A young man confided in him one night, a few years ago, that he was going out with a woman a ‘good bit older’ than him and wondered what Dauber thought of it.
“Aisy Pati” said Dauber “’tisn’t for racing you want her,” came the reply from the impromptu agony aunt.
Management and customers of the bar got a bit of a land in the spring of last year when a couple of health inspectors arrived in off the street.
The result of the visit came in the post a few weeks later and we read a long list of ‘improvements’ which were to be carried out.
The army council sat down one night and devised a plan of action that wouldn’t drag the pub or its ambience into this millennium. However, the plan is keeping the inspectors happy and that was the limit and object of the exercise.
Oh, and the New Zealander’s verdict on the facilities: “It’s pretty unique out there.”