Ned Lynch pictured with staff members Mary Sheehy, Marie Moloney and his daughter Claire at the 100th anniversary of Lynch’s pub in Newcastle West Picture: Marie Keating
AFTER more than 65 years in the pub trade, Ned Lynch still has no intention of making the last call on pulling pints. Only last Friday, he and his daughters, Claire and Deirdre, celebrated 100 years and three generations of the family business.
But through all that time, Ned has never touched a drop of alcohol.
“I never drank or smoked,” revealed the man who has become an iconic and much loved figure in Newcastle West.
Now almost 85, every morning still sees him open the door on the pub bought by his uncle Thomas and which traded under the Lynch name from November 17, 1917.
Thomas Lynch was, like his nephew, born and reared in Kilbreadran near Shanagolden and served his time in the pub trade. And when Ned’s schooling at Breen’s ended after his Inter Cert, he too was initiated into the business.
“I had no choice,” he said this week. “I said I would stick at it. And I spent my life at it.”
When Ned took over his uncle’s business in 1955, it was one of 43 pubs in the town. Now, there are just ten in operation.
At that time, Ned recalled this week, porter came in the old timber barrels and publicans bottled their own and often blended their own whiskey.
“We bottled our own Guinness, mainly coming up to Christmas and we bottled beer at other times of the year,” Ned explained, adding that they never blended their whiskey.
“It is a lot easier now,” he said.
When he started out, porter was 10d a pint. “You could get 24 pints for an old pound,” he said. “And Nash’s lemonade was 6d.”
Over almost seven decades, Ned has seen not just the price of drink change but also the legal tender in which they were bought.
First there were pounds, shillings and pence. Then there were pounds and new pence and now there are euros.
Throughout, however, Ned always managed to tot up the final bill in his head. “There were no cash registers then,” he said and besides, his uncle insisted he do it mentally. “He wouldn’t let you use a pencil.”
On busy days, with multiple orders and various drinks, that was no small challenge.
“We had fairs and markets every month and that boosted trade. Every Thursday was the market and there was a monthly fair.”
“On fair mornings, you had an early morning licence and opened the door at 5am, then plugged away until 7 or 8pm and then you had to clean up,” Ned recalled. That clean-up began washing down outside walls, washing out the floors and taking down the barriers that protected the windows from cattle on the street. “The town depended on the fairs and markets.”
“I can remember the hiring fairs when people had to stand at the corner, men and women from the Kerry country mostly, but sometimes locals, who would stand and wait for some farmer to hire them for a year,” he continued. “Many of them stayed in Limerick and never went back again.”
When Ned took over the business, there was, he recalled, a snug each side of the door. Women didn’t drink in pubs then, as a rule, but when they did, it was only in the snug and usually involved a port wine or a glass of Guinness to build up their strength.
Christmas too, brought a boost in trade. “You had people who would order a couple of dozen stout or a bottle or half bottle of whiskey. There is none of that anymore. It’s all done in the supermarkets and off-licences now.
“And everybody had to be treated to a Christmas drink.”
Even the trading hours were different. “There was no drinking after 7o’clock on a Sunday night,” Ned recalled.
Then too, many if not most pubs had a grocery at one end. In Lynch’s, Ned recalled, the groceries were sold over a low counter closer to the door while the drinks were served over the high counter.
And up to recent years, Ned held a card night every Saturday night. “Cards were a big thing. I would have had seven or eight tables. But they don’t play in pubs any more. They go to halls.” He has had his share of big nights though. Big Maggie has packed out Lynch’s on more than one occasion. And at Eigse Michael Hartnett each year for almost 20 years, Ned has hosted a crowd for his reading of the Maiden Street Ballad.
Friday mornings too, has, traditionally, been a big morning for many of Ned’s older regulars who congregate there after collecting their pension. And even though their number is sadly dwindling, the custom lives on.
Ned’s business has mostly relied on what he calls ‘settled trade’, middle-aged or older customers who like the fact there is no television blaring in the corner, who like to chat. Many of them, indeed, have followed their fathers in that, according to Ned. On Friday, they, along with regular friends and families gathered to mark the centenary. Ned didn’t plan it that way. He was all for doing it quietly. But, for this one time, it wasn’t their call.
Pictures west edition page 21