Columbus Irish: A Beer in the Bush

By Andrew Shuman

“Down at the Pub, I suppose…”

Nothing represents my Irish experience better than an evening at The Old Bag of Nails Pub in Westerville, northeast of Columbus (2 o’clock as you round the outer belt). For more than a score of years, a group Shamrock Club members met around 4:00 p.m. to take advantage of open seats, cheap beers, and a picture window facing the street.

The likes of Haggard (the Horrible), O’Connor (Squire), Bolton (Master of the Irish Goodbye), and Brady (Himself), would sit in that window and tell stories, crack jokes, and discuss current events, seemingly unaware that they repeated the same stories and jokes they told last week. I called them my Irish Grandfathers.

They were aware of the repetition. I don’t think they wanted to disappoint anyone who had not heard the stories before.

The craic started before I hit the door. From across the street, you could see them waving and motioning to a helpless motorist trying to parallel park in front of the pub. Like the hard to please Russian judges, they would hold up handmade paper signs to score the motorists on their parking skills.

Then, someone would spot me as I crossed the street. My smile would broaden, and I would struggle to have something witty to say as I arrived. Too late.

As I walked through the door, O’Connor would have me by the arm directing me to the nearest bar stool. “Have a seat, that’s what chairs are for!” And off he went to get me a cold Guinness. When things settled, and the creamy pint reached my hand, I would doff my cap and announce loudly, “God bless all in this house.” To which O’Connor would respond, “wipe your muddy boots.”

Quiet Man
These lines may seem familiar. It is because they are all lines from “The Quiet Man.” Selected verses became the outline for our banter for the rest of the evenings. Threats of being put in someone’s book with a line through one’s name, offers of butter milk to those with empty glasses., and in between, pun after pun after pun.

Around the circle we would go with stories. Many we knew by heart. “Did you know Brady caddied for Ducky Medwick,” we would ask newcomers? This prompted several stories, including how St. Louis baseball player Joe “Ducky” Medwick was the only man to be thrown out of a World Series game before it started.

Then Brady, Morey Joseph Brady to be precise, would tell us how the nuns at the Christian Brothers school would only use his full name because “Morey” was not a Christian name (it was his mother’s family name). This led to more stories about how Brady joined the Hibernians in St. Louis because they sponsored his soccer team, and he has been a member ever since (close to 70 years).

At some point, once all the regulars arrived, O’Connor would stand and raise his glass. It was time for a toast. He began, “Down at the pub, I suppose…” And the group joined in, “…in front of all those big ears. With pints in their fists, and pipes in their mouths. You may have the land, Mr. Thornton, for six hundred pounds.”

Again, not very original, but it was followed by a blessing upon those who had left the group for their heavenly home. “God bless, Dick Bolton, John Murphy, and Judge O’Connor.”

As the years have rolled, the list has grown to include Squire O’Connor. One day hopefully there will be others telling the same stories and toasting the rest of us, down at the pub.

Road Bowling

Around Columbus

  • Rich Finn, member of the Shamrock Club and Ancient Order of Hibernians, retired as Director of Diocesan Cemeteries after 42 years of service to many grateful families.
  • Bruce McPherson, President of the Patrick Pearse Division, was elected State Vice-President of the AOH, and Greg Brown the State Treasurer.
  • The Greater Columbus Irish Cultural Foundation hosted the first Midwest Irish Road Bowling Championship. The event featured team events (4 bowlers) and singles competitions. The event was put on with the assistance of our friends from the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association. If you have not seen Irish Road Bowling, look it up on YouTube and join us for the October 28th event at Deer Creek State Park, south of Columbus.
  • The Shamrock Club hosted their annual golf outing on July 28 at Westchester Golf Course. Members belonging to the same clan competed for the most coveted award in all of golf, The Beer in the Bush Award. The trophy was created after doing beautification of the club grounds, when a bush had grown around a discarded beer bottle, which created a one-of-a-kind prize.
    It has become the most coveted award in all of golf ever since.  As of this writing, the winning family was yet to be crowned.

Beer in the Bush Award

If you are in town for the Dublin Irish Festival, or just passing through Central Ohio, look up one of our organizations. There is always something going on, and there are no strangers. I hope to see you (down at the pub, I suppose!).

*Andrew is a Columbus transplant after graduating from The Ohio State University with a Major in History and Minor in Political Science and Folklore. He is a past president of the Shamrock Club and a lover of a good story and a pint. You can contact him at [email protected].

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