Celebrating 200 Years


Years of change but Downes remains….

LONG before the Great Irish Famine, more than 100 years before the 1916 Rising and 160 years before a man walked on the moon, the Downes family was serving drink and beverages in the town land of Bealaha. This August bank holiday weekend Patsy Downes and his wife Lourda, the fifth generation of the family toown the public house, will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Downes lounge and bar. The family pub has survived famines,wars, civil unrest, recessions, mass immigration and emergencies and visitors even in these times of economic decline.Quiet spoken publican Patsy is well known in entertainment circles and has even written a song to mark the occasion.

The public house was founded in 1809 by Patsy’s great great grandfather,as a shibeen. In the early years,the variety of alcohol was confined to Guinness and mulled Guinness,“where you would heat up a tongsand stick it into the Guinness,” bottled stout, and home brew whiskey. Then the bar was moved across the road to its current location.

Bar has undergone many changes and has always had a special association with local sporting events as it is situated across the road from Downes’ssports field.

At the turn of the last century women were not part of the bar culture, but a snug was eventually added. “To see a woman in a bar when I was a young lad was not a good mark,” said local man Joe Hurley.

Patsy explained that the snug inside the door allowed the local women“to come in their own door and had no interference with the men. There would be a little hatch you would lift

up so that you could serve the drink through to the snug.”The location of the current bar was

also known locally as the Grocer Downes’s for a while as the grocery shop was part of the bar. The Emergency in the 1940s made life that little bit more difficult for then owners Miko and Mary Downes, as they worked to stock the shop and bar for the customers. “My father would have to go to Kilrush. The West Clare Railway would bring the supplies into Kilrush. You were only allowed so much then in the line of cigarettes and drink,” said Patsy.

Then in 1959 the public house was moved back across the road temporarily while the “long house” was developed into a two storey house with bar and lounge.

Women began to come into bars in the 1970s with the on set of the lounge bar as a place for dancing and couples.

In 1987 Patsy and Lourda took over Downes’s and added their own touches to the family business. The bar has always been associated with sport.

When John Maughan brought his team to Clare after the Munster final win in 1992, the team stopped in Downes’s the home of John Joe “Tubber” Downes who won a Munster championship in 1917.

Through out the years Downes sports field was used by the county board for matches, local clubs for tug-of-war and athletics, while the pub has housed debates on the games and chats following the horse fairs. What discussions the next century of business will bring is anyone’s guess. The next generation – Carmel and Caroline – are already in place helping their parents from time to time in one of the oldest pubs in the county.