Great Old Limerick Pub Revived

The spirit of Mary-Jo

Mary-Jo Hogan — or Mrs Ryan to most people — was a formidable landlady who ruled her little domain with an iron fist inside an iron glove. With a face like a bulldog licking a nettle, Mary-Jo imposed rigid discipline on the customers and would  tolerate no contradiction.

No woman would be served a pint in Mary-Jo’s.  It was a half pint or nothing.  No woman would be permitted to sit at the bar counter.  Madam, I said you might prefer to sit by the fire.  Do I make myself clear?

No hanky panky was tolerated, such as holding hands. To transgress the rules meant immediate eviction.

The place had a sinister beauty about it. A stuffed owl in a glass bell-jar watched over the patrons if Mary-Jo happened to be busy in the laneway slashing some football the kids had kicked over the gate.  The fire was always lit. The clock ticked out the seconds of your life with an implacable, unquestioned, steely Mary-Jo precision.

Placid men, such as my father, muttered to each other as they enjoyed two amicable pints on their way home. They did not laugh.  They did not shout.  They did not play cards.

They talked quietly.

There was no swearing, and no boisterous laughter. You would never hear a song in the bar.  Mary-Jo didn’t run that sort of establishment. In return, the patrons were guaranteed spotlessly clean surroundings, well-presented pints, and freedom from annoyance if they wished to have privacy.

After Mary-Jo went to her eternal reward, the pub fell into the hands of new owners who didn’t understand what a gem they possessed, and they tore out many of the priceless features. The stuffed owl and the bell-jar went to the dump.

It fell into decline, as the new owners began to serve a rough crowd. It became a place to avoid. It was sad to see.

But now, thanks to the Bourke family, Mary-Jo’s is back. It has the feel of a friendly establishment, with a vaguely bohemian atmosphere.  It’s full of women drinking pints at the bar and men laughing out loud.  People sing and I believe you might even spot an occasional bit of hanky panky.

Worst of all: singing is not only permitted, but encouraged.

Mary-Jo would not approve, but I do.

32 thoughts on “Great Old Limerick Pub Revived

  1. I remember it well from my young days. We used to try and get a response from her by getting one of the lads to put their arm around one of the girls and it always worked. Really enjoyed that place.

  2. Ma Hogans was a great place for a quite pint. As much as I like laughing and singing (especially when women are around) I do love a quite pint now and then. No TV, no Sky Sports, soaps, no muzak. Conversation in pubs is under threat as we’re glued to the TV. Sports and news, then turn it off. Best of luck Lorcan, I hope it’s a great sucess.

  3. I loved that pub! I hope it is successful again. Bock your description is bang on. I liked Mrs Ryan. A great character and very nice once you got to know her.

  4. Went in there a few years ago and couldn’t believe what a shithole the then owners had turned it into. Needless to say haven’t been in there since so hopefully the new atmosphere will provide that street with a much needed oasis.

    Mind you, my memories of Ma are mixed too. I was going out with a girl one time who had, it seemed, dedicated her life to going in there and swamping a pint at the counter. Fine by me, but in a cowardly fashion, I found out when Ma would be absent from the bar – Sunday evening, about six o’clock I was informed – thereby I could let herself claim a victory of sorts without drawing the wrath of Ma Ryan upon myself and escape before she returned.

    Such are the plans of mice and men. Shot down in flames wouldn’t begin to describe it. I called two pints (I think it was her son serving) who was polite enough in reminding me that the lady in my company, who ensured she had planted her arse on a seat at the counter might prefer “a glass”.

    Then, like some scene from a Dracula film, Ma appeared at the front door with a face that would turn back the Red Army and a voice I hadn’t heard the like of since early schooldays rasped, “a lady doesn’t sit at the bar…. and even if you don’t consider yourself as such, please pretend to be one and sit over there ….please”, not that I was spared “And as for this gentleman (!) surely your mother taught you at least some manners in how to behave in female company, I trust you’re not attempting to ply this lady with an entire pint of stout in one glass, that is not done”.

    Christ we were like two mice in the corner, not even a notion of hanky-panky after that put down, but fuck it the pint was good, and even if the other one had to ration her “half”.

    So looking forward to seeing what they’ve done to the old place, singing with pint drinking women. Great. Roll on Friday.

  5. I didn’t know that BOCK! Thanks for the heads up.
    The plonker from Newcastlewest has fucked off then? He made absolute shyte of a great house. Thanks-be-to-fuck for small mercies; I suppose.
    I’ll certainly call in later for one before the charity quiz in Foleys.
    I’ll let you know what I think.

  6. Well I’ll tell you, it is almost as it was, almost, but a great and pleasant surprise certainly. I called in yesterday evening for a pint as I said I would to see if it has indeed been fixed. It is and it is just terrific. Even the snug is back.
    I met the new landlord’s father and two who were having a few pints of guinness. We sat by the coal fire and just talked. I had to leave at 9.30 as I had prior arrangements but I didn’t want to. Ambience is good.
    While there, two former customers of the fucked-up-era were refused entry. Changed for sure. I’ll be there tonight for a lengthier stay.

  7. A lovely place with a good pint, which is the most important thing. And they keep the sports in the back so I can sit in peace and contemplate the next pint. I am glad to see it rescued from oblivion.

  8. Bock a bit of history on the place, during the troubles it was frequented by mostly RIC and tans, that was cloud that hung over the place for many a year, ma’s father was an RIC sergent in the old william street barracks. One episode that has a bit of the urban myth is that sean forde and his lads “plugged” 2 tans on catherine street after they had left the pub.
    remember the night of my 21st and she threw us out for being underage.

  9. Don’t know what year she was born Bock, but a certain friend (well known to yourself) recalls her speaking about her ” trips to the Barracks for the annual ball Mister”
    And the soldiers(Tans) “all dressed in their finery Mister. It was a sight to behold Mister” He does a great impression of her, you have to hear.
    My own Father told me that she was the only public house( or a least one of the few) in Limerick that served the Black and Tans during the war of independence.

  10. I loved this pub.
    Then it was vandalised(legally I suppose).
    Now its restored and great again!

  11. She showed me snaps of herself as a young child on holidays in Kilkee and I remember the attire as being very 1920 ish. Not sure about the tans being served there. However, it was a pub frequented by the RIC, it appears, though many pubs around there were frequented by the police at that time, particularly as the barracks was in William Street, I think.

  12. Bock I have tried to find information regarding Mary’s birth date, but have had no luck to date. Although the mandolin man swears on his life that he has heard her personally recounting her stories of attending the Soldiers ball in the Army barracks during the time of the War of Independence.

  13. Sorry to say I just can’t take to the new place. Don’t know why. Loved it whan it was Ma Hogans, then as someone said it was vandalised. Reconstruction is not too bad but the atmosphere has changed.

  14. Was looking around and came across the web site. I used to drink there in the old days (1982 to 1988. Spent lots of money there as well as in the old Ted’s on O’Connell Avenue, the Old Souths before they refurbished it.
    Anybody remember Ruby’s night club on a Sunday night ?

    Happy days

  15. I used to drink in Ma Ryans 1967 – 1968, when I was sailing on the Point Law. She always welcomed us and even baked me a cake for my birthday. I loved Limerick and its people.

  16. Absolutely, I might add the cake weighed a ton and wasn’t very edible. It was for my 18th birthday, although I told her I was 19.

  17. You’re mixing up 2 places. Ma Hogan’s which this blog post is about is on Catherine Street, Ma Ryan’s is beside Dolan’s on the Dock Road.

  18. Enjoyed all these comments.
    Bock, Mary-Josephine Ryan nee Hogan was born in 1899. Not quite 2 years after my own grand-mother.
    Their elder brother died in France in WWI. Fascinated to hear that John Hogan, Mary Jo’S father, may have been an RIC sergeant at William Street barracks. I’d love to have information on that.
    Philip, Mary-Jos son, died in 2018. He told me he was gutted when Mary-Jo died she didn’t leave the pub to him and his brothers sold it.

  19. I remember this Pub, great for pint at lunchtimes. I used to go with jackie Glynn in the 1973-6 era. It was always quite and as musicians we ned the quiet pint! I think I remember the son of Ma Ryan, but cant recall his name, but I remember he was a keen cyclist. Memory lane for a 74 year old living now in Inverness, Scotland.

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