WHEN comedian and actor Pat Shortt and his brother Chris were handed the keys of McGraths pub in Castlemartyr in 2006, the town was buzzing with delight.
Its traditional music sessions became legendary and people came from far and wide for its food.
Pat sold the pub in 2014, but the Shortt name remained over the door when the new owners bought it. Now the iconic landmark on the N25 is known as The Hunted Hog and on the market for €475,000, ready for a new chapter in its colourful story.
“The Wednesday evening music sessions featuring local musicians, were great,” says Orla McGovern owner of Castlemartyr House Gallery and Gifts on the main street, of the days when it was Shortts.
“It was lovely to walk down the street after work on a Wednesday evening or at the weekend for a bite to eat and a chat.
"The trad sessions were really popular and there was always a great, warm, friendly atmosphere in the pub. If Pat was in the venue, it was always a bonus.”
Pat’s dad, Christy, played traditional music and Orla adds: “Pat started the Guinness Kiltha traditional music festival in the village. It was a great success, with fabulous musicians and singers taking part. Everyone in the village enjoyed the entertainment over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It drew great crowds.”
Head chef Mike Hanrahan of Stockton’s Wing was often on the musical menu.
The pub served many famous customers. The boys in Westlife, Michael Flatley, Tommy Tiernan, Sinead O’Connor, Brad Pitt, Beyonze, Jay Z, and the E street band, are some of the celebrities who stopped off for a tipple.
Pat, who often played a tune on the flute beside the roaring fire of a winter’s evening, also extended an invitation to President Bill Clinton to drink at his pub when he visited Castlemartyr in 2012. When Pat was appearing on Broadway in New York, he got wind the Kardashians were honey-mooning in Castlemartyr.
“I nearly came back from New York to see for myself,” he quipped at the time.
Pat spoke to me after his successful tour in London and New York with the Cripple Of Inishmaan. He said of his pub: “This is the place where I get all my inspiration for my characters. I don’t model a character on one person. I pick various habits, gestures and idiosyncrasies from many of the people I come across here every day.”
Was Johnnypatteenmickey, Pat’s character in The Cripple of Inishmaan, a mix of the pub’s well-loved patrons?
“A good mix of a few of them!” said Pat, laughing, who left a legacy of community spirit in the landmark pub in Castlemartyr.
“I firmly believe in community spirit and making everything go round,” he said.
Pat, well-known writer of, and actor in, the long-running TV series Killinaskully, could get inspiration for another script from the history behind the Hunted Hog.
Local legend has it that the Hog was a wild, frightening, colossal, 600 pounds of flesh and grist, terrorising the rolling pastures and dappled woods of Castlemartyr in the 15th century. It was feared by man and beast, and the village chief offered a princely price to anyone who could kill it or capture it alive. But folk hid in their houses, afraid to come out.
Legend has it that on a crystal clear night, Fitzgerald of the Geraldines left home without a sound. Over field and stream his wet feet trod until he reached a place known as’ Cnoc na Chollag’.
From a thicket, he heard a terrible roar and out of the shadows came the great boar. Fitzgerald raised his sword high over his head and in one fell swoop, the beast was dead. Peace was restored to Castlemartyr.
Today, in the old church yard at Ballyyoughtera, you can find a stone marked by a boar and cross etching.
“Having The Hunted Hog and Clifford’s pub, which are two great pubs on the main street, is a real bonus,” says Orla McGovern.
“We are all looking forward to later in the summer when we can go and meet each other in our local again.”
And as the former owner Pat Shortt says: “Community spirit is what life is all about.”
The seller at Sherry Fitzgerald described The Hogs Head, formerly Shortts, as a ‘great opportunity’ and noted its prominent position on the Cork-Waterford road as well as its popularity among locals and potential future development.
Ronan Murphy part owner of the Europium Company who own Hunted Hog, said: “This has being a very exciting project for us and the welcome we have received in Castlemartyr since we took over has been superb.
"It’s a super village with very active groups constantly driving positive developments in the community.
“There has been plenty of interest, however we are fully committed to getting the premises back up and running and improving our offering until a suitable buyer comes along.”