How Flying Enterprise pub in Cork city got its name in ’53

This week in our Throwback Thursday, JO KERRIGAN tracks down a Cork city landlady whose hospitality was legendary, plus more of your memories of phones and office work
How Flying Enterprise pub in Cork city got its name in ’53

MEMORY LANE: A view up Barrack Street in Cork city in 1953 — the year Michael and Teresa Brazil began running the Flying Enterprise pub here, which was previously McCarthy’s

REMEMBER that great story in Throwback Thursday from Tom Harding a couple of weeks back, about flooding in The Pav cinema, and he and his pals receiving comfort and sustenance at the Flying Enterprise at the bottom of Barrack Street? And we wondered who owned the pub at the time?

Well, we have now heard from Pat Brazil, who sheds more light on the subject.

“Just a little background information on Tom Harding’s memoirs of being soaked wet, passing the Enterprise Bar and meeting an ‘old lady’ who invited them inside to dry off after their Pav experience,” writes Pat.

“Well, all I can say is my mother, Teresa Brazil, proprietor of the Enterprise in the 1960s, would be absolutely appalled to be referred to as an ‘old lady’ at the time, were she still alive.

“In fact, she was a very glamorous woman in her late thirties in the early 1960s, having been born in 1926.

“It was nice to read Tom Harding’s memoirs but I feel I have to put the term ‘old lady’ in context, to appease her memory.

“But then, Tom may have been a young little ‘whippersnapper’ and all adults seemed ‘old’ to the young and carefree.”

Nevertheless, says Pat, Teresa would have been very pleased to hear her hospitality and generosity were greatly appreciated, she having supplied free pints and sambos to Tom and his friends.

She and Pat’s father, Michael — who passed away in 1969 — owned the Enterprise from 1953. In 1982, Teresa sold it to Finbarr O’Shea who runs it today.

Prior to that, Pat notes, the premises was run by a Mr and Mrs McCarthy for many years, and their name was over the door up to 1953.

That’s great local history detail, Pat — thank you!

PROUD TRADITION: Finbarr O’Shea at The Flying Enterprise in 2004. He has run it since 1979
PROUD TRADITION: Finbarr O’Shea at The Flying Enterprise in 2004. He has run it since 1979

So how did ‘McCarthy’s’ become The Flying Enterprise.

“Actually,” explains Pat, “it was my parents who gave the pub its well-known name, after the sinking of a ship of that name in 1952.”

Ah yes, this is the famous story of the captain who refused to leave his sinking ship because it carried a valuable cargo, and to leave it unmanned would be to allow anyone else to board it and claim salvage.

After suffering severe damage in a storm on Christmas night, 1951, the passengers and crew were taken off, but Captain Carlsen determinedly stayed on board, in the greatest danger, until January 10, 1952, when the Flying Enterprise finally sank while being towed into Falmouth in Cornwall.

The event garnered huge media interest, and questions were asked as to why it had not been brought safely into Cork, since that was far closer than Falmouth to its wreck location.

PROUD TRADITION: Finbarr O’Shea at The Flying Enterprise in 2004. He has run it since 1979
PROUD TRADITION: Finbarr O’Shea at The Flying Enterprise in 2004. He has run it since 1979

Pat’s parents saw the publicity as a great marketing opportunity and named the pub accordingly.

“It was a great idea by my parents that has endured to this day and Finbarr’s tenure,” Pat observes.

“As an aside, later in the same article you had a piece about telephones,” adds Pat. “It just reminded me that the public telephone number of the ‘Enterprise’ for many years was 222231.

“It was a number that was simple and easy to remember, and attracted many offers to sell from businesses and taxi companies alike.”

I can match that one, Pat: the Kerrigan family phone back in the 1950s was 22481. Really easy to memorise too. Has anybody else got good old telephone numbers they can remember? We have seen that a surprising number of you recall the license plates of old cars, so perhaps it’s the same with phone numbers back then?

Fintan Bloss was also spurred on by that article on telephones to look out some family photographs. He sent us one of his late mother, Mary Bloss, sitting in the hall of 15, North Mall, by one of those great coin box phones, enjoying a cuppa while talking.

“I think we got the phone (tel number 23524) because my late dad, Don, was a welfare officer in Civil Defence and the phone was important for Civil Defence duties,” explains Fintan.

“The Watermans’ (still in business) 1984 calendar, seen on the wall there by the phone, was a regular feature in our house as their factory was on the site of the Franciscan Well Brewery near to us, and a bunch of calendars would be handed in each year by the late Ted Lambe, who worked in Watermans printers.

“If there was ever a problem with phones over the years, Derry Knowles (who has already featured in Throwback Thursday) was the man to sort out any technical hitches.

“Lee Cabs (sticker on wall over phone) still operates at the bottom of Shandon Street (where O’Keeffes used to sell the ice cream cones and a great assortment of sweets),” adds Fintan.

The coin box phone was because they ran a guest house at the time. The cry would go up “Can anybody let me have change of sixpence for the phone, please?”

Hey, Fintan, wait. That looks like a picture of a ship on the Lee up there on the wall too. Is it the Innisfallen? Can you remember? Do let us know!

Our feature last week on women’s jobs in the 1950s and ’60s in offices and as typists brought in some memories too.

“Don’t forget the huge social distance between typists, secretaries, and personal secretaries,” urges Margaret.

“The personal secretary was really at the top of the tree, with the others well down the branches.”

Was there nothing lower than a typist, then?

“Well, probably the filing clerk. She would not have any of the shorthand or typing skills, so was stuck with putting thousands of pieces of paper into hundreds of files in dozens of gloomy green cabinets, all day long, every day.”

The tea ladies, maintains Margaret, were a completely different department, quite independent of this office social scale. Does anybody else remember those elderly ladies who pushed rattling trolleys along corridors from office to office, dispensing tea from a huge urn into industrial-green cups?

“It’s hard to believe today, with machines offering everything from decaff skinny latte to hot chocolate, but back then you lived for the sound of that rattling trolley as a break in the humdrum routine,” laughs Mary.

The days of friendly girls coming in with big baskets of fresh rolls and wraps were very far in the future.

Beryl has one memory she would prefer to forget, but she can’t.

“Our very modern office had just got in one of the first computer systems. Of course it was huge back then, took up half the special room. All the big guns in the company were standing around it, rather like men do around the engine of somebody’s new car, and I was the very nervous girl told off to bring in a tray of tea. I was shaking with nerves.”

Oh no, Beryl, you didn’t!

“Oh yes, I did. I caught my heel in a carpet, tipped the tray, and the whole bang shoot went flying out over the vast complex of shiny metal and cables that was The New Computer.

“I just ran. I ran out of the office and all the way home, and never went back. Couldn’t face it. Found another job. That incident still comes back sometimes to haunt me at night.”

Moira remembers typing official minutes of meetings as the worst office task.

“I was given the job because I was the most accurate, but they were terrifying. They were typed up on special numbered pages so there could be no interfering with the information, and you had to get it exactly right, no mis-types, no errors.

“I was exhausted by the time I had got through one of those and it took me the week to recover before the next meeting came up!”

Eventually, the sit-up-and-beg old iron typewriter gave way to the lighter electric model, and tapping instead of hitting became the norm. You still had to re-do letters all too often though, either because the boss had changed his mind or you had mis-read your scrawled shorthand.

“There was nothing more aggravating than getting these beautifully-typed letters in triplicate sent back out to your desk with red lines all through them,” remembers Rose. “You felt like throwing them on the ground and jumping on them, but that was definitely not allowed. Typists Don’t Talk Back!”

“When a newer kind of electronic typewriter came out, that showed a line of text above the keyboard as you typed, it was slightly better, as you could retrieve most of the body of the offending letter from the machine’s ‘brain’, but it still meant another three sheets of paper, more rubbish in the waste paper basket.

“I really used to wonder why men couldn’t type up their own letters,” says Clare. “It exasperated me so much that they could sit there throwing off their ideas, and we had to use our hard-learned skills to turn those ideas into neat understandable letters. I was never so delighted as when email came in. Now let them do their own correspondence, I exulted, and I can move to working in the same field instead of following meekly ten paces behind.”

Of course, there was still the same small matter of a glass ceiling below which women in business had always been kept, but that was changing too, if slowly.

Let’s hear your memories of days gone by. Boys, girls, men, women, what was your first job? A part-time one at evenings, on Saturdays, during holidays? Did you work on a farm pulling cabbages and picking fruit, or help out in the local shop? And where did you get that first ‘real’ job, for which you actually got a pay packet?

Tell us all your stories. We’d love to hear them. Email

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