It was my lucky day. A pint of beer for a penny!
My wife, Marie and I walked into the ‘Hooded Cloak’ pub in Macroom, Ireland, intent on one or two drinks, dinner, and then an early night.
But the pub was celebrating its 137th birthday and was selling the first 137 pints of the night for a penny, the price back in 1840. And I was the first one to take advantage of the bargain priced Smithwicks Irish Ale.
Our first trip to Ireland had begun on November 9, 1977 with an inter-city train ride from London to Swansea, where we checked into the St Helens Guest House, right next door to the St Helens Rugby Ground. That’s rugby union, of course. But the Australian rugby league side had played there several times, most recently in a particularly vicious Test against Wales during the 1975 World Series.
That match was televised back into Australia and New Zealand, as well as across the UK and France, and viewers were treated to the unusual sight (a nice way of putting it) of the Welsh coach, Les Pearce and some of his bench in the middle of a punch-up involving the players. Kiwi referee, John Percival struggled to keep control. Australia won 18-6, with winger, Ian Schubert scoring three tries. The crowd was 11,112.
While exploring Swansea, we stumbled into Malcolm Nash’s Sports Store. Malcolm is the Glamorgan cricketer, who had the misfortune of bowling to Sir Garfield Sobers at his peak, and ‘Gary’ hit him for a world record six sixes from the one over – back in 1968.
It was Malcolm himself who served us, and, without thinking, I said: “Aren’t you the….”, and before I could complete the sentence, he said “Yes. I’m the bastard Gary Sobers hit for six sixes.”
But he reminded me that he took a few wickets for Glamorgan against Australia, bowling medium pace. (He had switched to spin against Sobers. Bad move). He also took the amazing figures of 9/56 against Hampshire in 1975.
The next day, Marie and I caught a bus to the ‘world famous Mumbles Pier’. To this day, I’m not sure why it’s world famous.
Anyway, that night we got the ferry to Cork. I had a few beers with Mike Burns from Maryborough in Australia (the Queensland Maryborough, I think. There is also one in Victoria, which I wasn’t aware of at the time); an Irishman from Dublin and two big Welsh ‘boat men’. Mike had been staying with his uncle and aunt in Ireland since May, in a little village near Lismore in County Waterford. He had just completed a cycle trip around France.
Our ferry, Innisfallen, was supposed to leave for Cork at 10 p.m., but because of a sandbar at the harbor mouth, did not leave until 1 a.m.
What a crossing! An absolute nightmare. Marie and I stayed in our bunks for the entire journey, with the Irish Sea at its violent ‘best’.
We got into Cork at 3 p.m. seven and a half hours late.
Leaving Cork, in our hire car, wasn’t easy, as there had been a political rally, of some sort, and there was traffic chaos.
On our first night we stayed at Kinsale, on the coast, in Mrs O’Neill’s bed and breakfast. Dinner (a huge t-bone steak) at Jimmy Edwards pub followed, and I sampled Smithwicks for the first time. Not bad, and a whole lot cheaper than Guinness or Murphys.
On our first full day we explored the wild coast, south of Kinsale. Near Bantry Bay, we picked up a hitch hiker (not allowed when you have a hire car). We thought he was in trouble i e. had broken down. But he just wanted a lift. Dropped him off in Bantry town without dramas.
From there, we drove inland to Macroom, through the narrow pass of Keimaneigh. Our accommodation was provided by a shy Mrs Coakley, whose B & B backed on to a castle.
Then it was off to the Hooded Cloak (named after a mode of female dress), thinking we might have ‘the one’ before dinner (whiting and chips) and then bed, given we were quite weary.
I had heard of a penny for your thoughts. Not a penny for a pint.
Anyway, we kicked on until mid-night, dancing and singing with the locals.
Photo 1: Australian skipper, Arthur Beetson tangles with Welsh forwards, Jim Mills (left) and John Mantle at Swansea, 1975;
Photo 2: Mumbles Pier.
Photo 3: Kinsale.