Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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The Irish Pub, Turtle Bunbury & James Fennell (Thames & Hudson, 2008)

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J & W WRIGHT
Glaslough, Co Monaghan

T: 047-88106

In 1858, the Great Northern Railway reached Glaslough, abruptly connecting the small Monaghan village to the main junction at Clones and the wider world beyond. The small estate village boomed as a result. Farmers poured in from far and wide, loading their fattened livestock and harvested crops onto the waiting carriages bound for the big towns of Enniskillen, Armagh, Cavan and Dundalk. The town fair was revived and a cattle market prospered in the centre of the village. It was here, in the late 19th century, that the Patton family built a large limestone Coach House.

In the beginning, the intention was simply to provide stabling for horses and security for the carriages. Before long, the business had expanded to incorporate a large grain store, a series of coal sheds and a hardware shop; the original winches and green carriage gates remain in place today. By the early 20th century, the Patton’s had developed a commercial hotel for travellers, a grocery shop, an oil and petrol station, an undertaking business and a pub.

The Glaslough boom lasted exactly one hundred years. In 1958, the Irish Government was obliged to terminate the railway link and suddenly the village was plunged into the backwaters. Always proficient at mathematics, owner David Patton deduced that the Glaslough business was no longer viable. In 1962, he offered the Coach House, its hotel and all the affiliated businesses to his manager, Jim Wright. Jim convened with his brother Wallace and before long there was a new sign above the door, ‘J & W Wright’.

An unusually philosophical visitor information board that stands opposite the pub today declares: ‘A village is a living thing and, in order to survive, it must be fed and nurtured. If this happens, the place itself thrives and flourishes, and so in turn do its residents’. Along with the Castle Leslie estate, Wright’s has been an integral part of ensuring that, despite the loss of the railway and the grimness of the 1970s and 1980s, Glaslough remains one of the handsomest villages in Ireland.

The Wright brothers continued to run everything except the hotel which they used as a living quarters. In 1966, Wallace converted the old meal store into what is generally hailed as the first singing lounge in North Monaghan. Glaslough man Joe Corrigan played trombone on the opening night with his band, The Clipper Aces. ‘We done everything’, he recalls. ‘Country and Western, Dixieland jazz, everything’. Wright’s swiftly became a household name for music lovers north and south of the border and business began booming once again.

Wallace Wright died in 1990 and the business passed to his daughter Diane and her husband Ron Kendrick. The newly-weds had returned to Glaslough the previous year to take over the running. Although born and raised in Leicester until the age of 9, Ron knew the area well. His mother and father were born locally and the family had moved to Glaslough in the 1970s. Under the Kendricks, the original bar, previously used for storing coffins, was reopened in 1990 as an alternative venue to the 1966 Formica lounge bar. The two now operate on a rotating basis depending on the anticipated size of the crowd. Ceilis continued to be part of the show and birthday parties are frequent, although tighter drink-driving laws have considerably reduced the size of these.

The original bar is known locally as The Olde Bar on account of it not being changed for so many years. Wallace had a passion for clocks and kept them all running in precise beat with Big Ben. As Ron notes with a hint of irony, keeping them constantly wound up requires immense patience. Joe Corrigan recalls coming in here as a child in the late 1940s. The room was filled with farmers, drinking tea, eating sandwiches, striking deals and spitting tobacco onto the sawdust covered flagstone floor. At one end is the old snug where women drank in decades past, now coated in Lady Lavrery banknotes. ‘They snuck through here’, chuckles Joe, ‘closed the door and sat around the fireplace’.

A lovely pine bar painted in a rich, engaging green, stretches beneath a dark tongue and groove panelled ceiling, dimly lit by glass globes and hurricane lanterns. Piled up behind the bar are a myriad of dusty curiosities - his late father’s Viking helmet, old china figurines, miniature cars, drums, teapots, a turkey salver, a model of a Conestoga Wagon. Heat emanates from a pot-bellied stove at one side. Along the wall hang photographs of Monaghan footballers and local biker groups, a Pears advertisement from 1911 entitled ‘Family Worship’ and a portrait of Charles Powell Leslie whose descendents run Castle Leslie.

The Patton’s original bottling room to the back serves as an alternative seating area. Day light pours through tartan curtains into a room of tobacco-stained walls, furnished with twirly-legged tables and kitchen chairs. Relics of the old days abound on shelves and mantelpieces – the WG Edmunds & Co bottling siphon, a Spong knife sharpener, a cross-cutter saw, carthorse parts, a wheel pump, a barometer, a pair of antlers and a sign for “J & J Patton, General Merchants”.

Before insurance costs became too extreme, Glaslough hosted an annual motorbike rally, which could draw a crowd of anything up to 10,000 persons. Ron was himself a keen biker, ‘in between the hedges’, racking up a personal best at his home race of 5th place on a Yamaha road-bike. He was delighted to have his pub at the hub of it all. Ron’s late father Cecil was also an enthusiastic biker, frequently powering along the Border roads sporting a Viking helmet made from real hair and cattle horns. He was killed in an accident near Emyvale in 1997. A bench to his memory stands outside the pub. ‘Bikes are dangerous things’, Ron concedes.

Accepting the inevitable, the Kendricks closed the grocery in 1990, converting the extra space into a family living room. Today their principal business consists of the two bars and the undertaking. ‘I was a bit squeamish at first’ says Ron of dressing corpses. ‘But you get used to it, same as you do taking a picture or driving a car’. Joe Corrigan remembers how in the Wright brother’s day, a funeral cost ‘ten bob and ten pence’. That would get you the horse-drawn coach, five dozen bottles of stout, several tins of biscuits and basic groceries for the mourners. ‘And the bill would stay sitting on Wallace’s desk for so long, it’d be as yellow as a duck’s bill'’.

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CONTENTS

1. The Concept.
2. On the Road.
3. The Chosen Pubs.
4. Conclusions.
5. Personal Qualifications.

6. A History of the Irish Pub
.
7. Acknowledgments.

8. Media Coverage.

9. Bibliography.
10. Places to Stay.

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