Wednesday, 11 March 2009

What's the craic?

Early evening at Campbell's pub and the Guinness is flowing freely. The one-room bar feels lost in time with a copy of the Mayo News on the counter, teabags and loaves of bread for sale behind the bar and I'm Going Back to Ireland in the Spring playing on the radio in the background. Owen Campbell, the owner, returns from feeding the ducks at the sweeping expanse of Clew Bay stretching out before his front door as I pull up a well-worn stool and sip my pint.
  "There's been a pub here since the 1800s," he smiles. "I've spent my life behind this bar.
  Located in the village of Murrisk, just outside of Westport on Ireland's west coast, the pub stands at the foot of Croagh Patrick, the holiest peak in Ireland. About 100,00 people hike the trail to the summit each year in honour of St Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. Most stop at Campbell's on the way back down for a pint and a glimpse of life as it used to be.
  But amongst all the craic this year, the truth about the man behind the myth would have many St Patrick's Day revellers spluttering into their pints: Patrick was probably a Welshman.
  This Friday on the Duncan Barkes programme on City Talk FM, we will be talking about ways to celebrate St Patrick's Day, climbing Croagh Patrick and just who was the man now synonymous with Ireland's biggest annual booze up.
  Listen in from 10.15am this Friday. Send me your comments and I'll get them on air.


  1. Did you know that the only other place in the world that has St Patrick's Day as a national holiday is Montserrat?

    Just got back from there - very interesting Irish heritage. Bit warm for a Guinness if you ask me, though

    Dave Whitley

  2. Interesting. I've always fancied Montserrat and even talked to Saltmarsh about it a while back, but they've got zero budget so we got no further.
    Good material? David

  3. Aye - Montserrat was fantastic. I paid my own way because I really fancied doing it and I was going to Antigua anyway. They gave me a driver one day and teed up a few interviews though.

    Got a few good pieces out of it - seeing what the volcano has done is genuinely awe-inspiring. Really friendly people, a few quirky oddities and a 1001 ways to spin the volcano angle.

  4. Alas, Owen Campbell, the man who first served me a Club Orange when I was seven, American illicit corn liquor when I was 40 and a pint of Guinness just last week when I was thirsty, has died behind the bar he ran for half a century.

    RIP 3rd Sept 2009. He is buried in the grounds of Murrisk Abbey.

  5. Very sad to hear the news. It was a pleasure to meet him on my visit.