Tom Frawley was born here in 1914. He has been pulling pints where he had always lived – for 86 years. Think about that for a moment. He and his bar are still points in the flow of time.
Ireland has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. The Celtic tiger hadn’t begun to roar when I first set foot in Tom’s bar fifteen years ago. All of a sudden, something happened. The economic boom that resulted had changed Ireland forever. Now that beast had been licking its wounds quietly in the shade of a recession. I had been wondering whether Tom and his bar would still be there.
It’s a simple, quiet place. It feels more like an old fashioned living room than a pub as most of us know them. Behind the red Formica counter where he sits there’s a flotsam of objects that local people might have to pick up after the shops have closed. You can get disposable razors, packets of salt and firelighters. Brown sauce and custard powder sit next to the usual assemblage of bottles stacked at room temperature.
There is of course a solitary tap for the Guinness. The smell of boiling potatoes and cabbage filters in from the room next door.
Tom’s a bit of a local hero these days. There have been appearances on chat shows. Local journos come and talk to him about the old days. He’ll answer your questions in clipped, simple sentences. Historians come in and ask about his old neighbours. Away-with-the-fairies locals who have been coming here years shoot the breeze. He remembers serving his first surfer, an Australian, in 1965.
Have a drink with Tom when your system has been doubled up on endorphins – your brain chemistry shifting and bubbling from the surf, your limbs calmly quieted. Stoked. On a good day the waves at Lahinch Lefts will do that to you.
The tilt of the planet into the 21st century had come and gone and Tom was still in his place, holding court, slowing things down just so.