Cork woman returns home to run family pub which is 120 years old

A Cork woman has returned home to Youghal to take over the family business, a bar which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Cork woman returns home to run family pub which is 120 years old

Anne Barry with her father at the reopening of The Nook and Treacy's

ANNE Barry, née Tracy, grew up in the The Nook bar on Main Street, Youghal, which is celebrating 120 years this year.

Now Anne has moved back from London with her husband Emmet and their twin boys, Sean and Eoin, aged eight, to the town she loves so well — to help run the family business.

“It was always a part of my life,” says Anne, who worked in finance in London before relocating home. She is now looking forward to working behind the counter at the family pub close to Youghal’s Raleigh quarter, suggesting The Nook dates beyond the 1560s.

“I have great memories of my childhood growing up in Youghal, and of my grandmother Maureen, who was a popular figure in the town and who had a great relationship with her regular customers. I remember the lads coming in for a pint and walking across the strand to Redbarn to the dance afterwards.”

The Nook was a lively spot back in the day. The bar was bought by Youghal farmer Michael Tracy, who then purchased four adjoining cottages, and when Michael died in the 1940s his son Joe took over.

“Joe installed a lounge and dance floor,” says Anne.

The Nook was a place where you got goods from a needle to an anchor.

“Joe changed the grocery to an off-licence in the 1980s and his wife Maureen managed the bar when Joe passed away in the ’70s.

“She really was amazing,” says Anne, speaking of her late grandmother during the halcyon days of the ballroom of romance in the ’80s booming with economic hope and vibrancy.

“The dance area in the bar was christened the ballroom of romance.”

Granny Maureen and her four sons (Mark, Barry, Richard and Michael "Mick") taken a few years ago
Granny Maureen and her four sons (Mark, Barry, Richard and Michael "Mick") taken a few years ago

Lots of love flourished on the dance floor in The Nook on 20, Main Street. Marriages were made there.

“Some of the children and grandchildren of those couples worked here!” says Anne laughing.

Maureen, who had four sons, was a huge presence behind the bar and in the town until her death four years ago at the age of 89.

“My dad, Michael, was raised here in the Nook,” says Anne.

“Soon after Maureen passed away, we decided to come home with the boys and make our home here. I went to the Gaelscoil in Youghal and now Eoin and Sean are pupils at the same school!”

Have they a cockney accent or the cúpla focal?

“A bit of both!” says Anne, who has a sister, Julie. “They have Irish/English accents. The boys love meeting up with their Irish cousins and having the family support is wonderful.”

Anne decided to trade a banking career in London for a bar career working with her dad in the town they loved so well.

“There was always a great buzz in the town from the ’60s to the ’80s,” says Anne.

“Youghal was thriving in those years, offering local employment. In its heyday it was fantastic. It was sad seeing the factories closing.”

But new buildings opened up.

“The Regal Cinema in Youghal is amazing,” says Anne.

“And there is a great variety of shops in the town for customers.”

Michael served his customers with the same dedication as his mother did. And he is still involved in the business.

Anne says: “He never stops! He loves the pub. It is hard sometimes to imagine that the Tracey family are here 120 years.”

Good times will roll again in hostelries across Ireland when the time is right.

“Hopefully, our bar doors won’t be closed to customers too long more!”

Anne, working with her dad, wants to bring back the buzz and the bit of cráic that The Nook was always famous for.

“I’m loving the thought of opening up the bar for business again. The pub is vital for social interaction.”

She had a happy time in England.

“I loved living in London,” says Anne, who studied Commerce and German in UCC and who worked in a high-powered job.

“It was a very different scene. Emmet and I were both studying in Cork and we went to London together. There were great opportunities in finance. I was dealing in loans in the region of hundreds of millions. Living and working in London was very different to the life I left behind.”

She left a close-knit family network behind.

“We lived in a flat in central London,” says Anne. 

“It could be a lonely lifestyle at times. When the kids were small we had a child-minder for 10 hours a day, four days a week. That was the norm in London.”

Property is expensive in London too.

“Houses with any space were not within commuting distance to London; we’d have to move three quarters of an hour away. Property in London is expensive.”

Anne spotted a beautiful house for sale on the front strand in Youghal, near her old stomping ground, when she was home for Christmas.

“I used to swim in the front strand every day as a child,” she recalls.

The tide turned when the couple knew the house on the front strand could be theirs.

“We could afford to buy the house and still have a good lifestyle,” says Anne.

“I thought about the boys starting Gaelscoil and the seed was planted. Moving home to mum and dad, taking over the business, seemed like a good idea.”

Emmet is a home-grown Cork native too.

“He’s from Ballyhooley!” says Anne. “And he was happy to relocate back home. He works as a locksmith. and used to work as an under-cover policeman. Emmet loved his career. Coming home, we realised it didn’t have to be forever but we were happy to give it a go.”

Anne, a people person like her grandmother and mother before her, did some more training for the job.

“I took some time out and did the 12 week cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The plan was to get up to speed myself and a plan for expanding the pub to a premises next door is on the cards. For now, it’s on the long finger.”

Team Tracy are raring to go.

“I’ve an incredible team working with me,” says Anne.

“May McDermot is a mainstay who is with us 60 years. May is an incredible woman.”

Will Anne find it different taking money behind the bar instead of managing it?

“I always loved helping behind the bar at home,” says Anne.

“It will be very different now I’d say.”

Anne is optimistic.

“I think there will be less paper-work to deal with! And less administration.

“The camaraderie and the company in the pub was always great. Having chats with people; you’re never short of company. So many of our customers are larger than life.”

Now that Anne and Emmet have their place on the front strand overlooking Youghal Bay, life is sweet.

“It’s good to be back,” says Anne, who loves home sweet home.

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