Downey’s Pub, Ballyfermot Road, Dublin 10.
“I remember when they did this place up, in the mid 1980s, there was music playing in the jacks then. They tried to ban jeans and all, it was never going to work. Anyway, in I go to the toilet, and there’s an old lad swinging forward and back at the urinal, scuttered and on another planet. ‘New York, New York’ is playing over the music system.
‘Jesus, they really have done this place up’, he says to me. ‘Frank Sinatra wouldn’t be seen dead taking a piss in Downeys last year!’
Christ what a pub. The above story, is from lfallon (the da) who used to frequent Downeys and another pub or two up this stretch. Still, it’s safe to say that Downeys was always the local best. No better man to enlist for the day then.
Downeys of Ballyfermot is, amazingly, the only pub Google image search never heard of.
Sunday night. Straight past the ‘Bar’ door. “The locals drink there” says lfallon, and “…the piano music (Not eh…literal piano music) stops when a new face walks in”. You might review the odd pub on the internet young lad, but here you’re a newbie. Watch and learn and all that. The lounge it is. The bar will happen soon, we won’t try swim before we can walk.
The lounge is jammed. Good luck finding a seat. “They’re up! Grab it!” I grab the seats, lfallon grabs the pints. They drop them down and all. They’re €4.20 (quite reasonable in this part of the world) and look as good as a pint of Guinness can. These are top class pints.
We’re not long into it, in fact she’s still settling, when the dad launches in to a story. A local punter and Ballyfermot character, previously employed by the great Arthur Guinness and Sons, used to pop in here every morning to ‘clean the pipes’. The pints were said to be the best around, no bollocks pints of stout. Still are.
The telly’s are on. All three of them. They’re not loud though, the volumes down and the locals are deep in conversation. (and believe me, these are locals- everyone looks like they’re paying rent on the seats but still remain friendly and one gets the impression this small club is always looking for new members) You hear snippets of it. The neighbours this, D’ya remember that. Great stuff.
It’s not long before you’re buying raffle tickets. This is a real community pub. Only half an hour later, and you’re putting money in the box for the local old folks. The ‘banter’ (and God, I hate talk of ‘the banter’) is actually there.
The raffle goes ahead, and Team Fallon, naturally, win fuck all. Nevermind that. The pints are coming in thick and heavy now, and all is well. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone in the place, from the 20something year old females at the table opposite to the local old lads by the bar, is on the black stuff. Yer only man around here it seems.
Liam Weldon, just one of the characters you'd often find at the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club back in the day
Upstairs, hidden away, you used to find the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club, in fact- the music is back by all accounts. Only a few months back I was here myself, to see the wonderful Andy Irvine of Planxty fame. A great spot. Back in the day I’m told everyone from Liam Weldon to Mary Black, The Fureys to Jim Page would be found here. It was one of ‘the’ folk clubs. If the atmosphere upstairs was anything like that in the 2010 lounge, the place must have been electric up there.
The ‘last orders’ lights are flashing now.
Palmerstown, in so many ways, is very close to Ballyfermot. Still, the lesson learned tonight is this- never leave home at 9pm to visit a pub like this. You’d want to be here earlier me thinks. Pubs like this fill up on a Sunday night for a reason.
You can learn so much from your old man if you can get him to his own old local, and God I learned plenty here. It’s hard to fault this place (The Guinness remains top-notch, the place as clean as when that fancy reopening occurred in the mid-80’s, and the punters as friendly as you’ll find anywhere), but it’s a hard pub to leave. Straight into the chipper next door, and the chat begins.
“When can we go back?”
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