The Barstool: We bought pub and found my wife had family links to it going back to 1902

CHRIS DUNNE visits The Irish Whip, based in Ballydehob, and meets with owner Barry O’Brien to find out about its charm
The Barstool: We bought pub and found my wife had family links to it going back to 1902

Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.

WHEN Barry O’Brien and his wife Caureen bought the Irish Whip in 1990, the couple discovered that it was steeped in history and had many family ties throughout the years.

“We started in this pub in 1990, and after buying it, we discovered it was built in 1902 by my wife Caureen’s grandfather and great grandfather,” says Barry.

“I made a feature of the stone they built on the inside wall. Those stone masons were Mike and Patrick Cotter, who were also the masons in charge of the world famous 12 Arch Bridge in Ballydehob.

"Coincidentally, the bar was renovated by my brothers-in-law, Mike and Martin Cotter, grandsons and great-grandsons of Mike and Patrick Cotter.”

The Irish Whip is called after one of Ballydehob local heroes - Danno O’Mahony - an Irish professional wrestler who enjoyed a brief but meteoric rise to massive popularity in the mid-1930s in the U.S.

Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.
Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.

Barry explained: “Danno’s signature move was the Irish Whip, and this grip is still being used to this day on WWE events all over the world.”

“ His home-coming was the biggest ever seen in the town and in West Cork.

“I was approached by the late John Levis (who was a lifetime fan of Dannos) in February, 2000, to organise a monument to Danno with a small committee of John Levis, RIP, John Hickey, RIP, Pat Joe O’Connell, Tim Cronin, and myself.”

Danno made a fine figure in the town.

“We had Danno standing in Ballydehob in October, 2000, to commemorate the millennium,” says Barry.

Running the Irish Whip bar is a real family affair.

Barry said: “Our bar is a family-run bar by sons Tom, Denis, Finbarr, and our daughter Kate.

“I am involved in all committees to promote Ballydehob, we as a small village can boast of four music festivals - trad, jazz, country, folk and shanty.

“Finbarr works the bar with me now and he is also Chairman of Gabriel Rangers GAA club.

“Our bar is a sports bar and more, so a traditional bar.

“The bar is full of characters but there is one in particular that I keep referring back to, a little man called Dinny O Sullivan, or more frequently Din Carraig Bui, and Dinny Dollar.

“Carrig Bui is the Irish for Durrus where he came from and the Dollar was as a result of a legacy he got from America!”

“We do a scoraiocht night (Rambling House) on the last Friday of each month. A great night for house musicians, singers and storytellers to get out and have fun.

“We do trad and country music in the pub at the weekends.

“We also started a club here called “Mizen Vintage Club with almost 60 members, we do vintage runs and have raised a lot of money for great causes.”

Covid affected lots of businesses, including the Irish Whip.

“We were closed for 20 months,” says Barry.

Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.
Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.

“Which seemed like a long time. We cleaned the place up and took down a lot of old pictures and photographs.

“This caused some concern to some of our customers and people home on holidays, who were looking for their cousin or grandfather on the walls of the bar!”

“For the 20 months that we were closed, I really missed the characters in the bar,” admits Barry.

But things soon resumed as normal and business continued as usual.

“I forgot to mention our summer festival in August, incorporating The Old Boat Fest.

Barry recalls: “On September 3. 2019, we got on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for our World Championship Turnip Races. I started the vintage and old time threshing in 1991 and since then we have raised and given over €200,000 to charities.

“All these festivals are very well supported by our committees and the general public. The social life is good in Ballydehob.

“We are the envy of West Cork with all our festivals,” adds Barry.

“The jazz festival in May and the Country Music Festival in June were a massive success.”

Bright times lie ahead.

“So we are looking forward to a bumper summer and an enjoyable one here at the Irish Whip.

“We open in the evening after 4pm and the locals that come in after work, you couldn’t beat the banter you’d have with them.”

The Irish Whip is in a great spot.

Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.
Barry O'Brien, proprietor, the Irish Whip Bar, Ballydehob. Picture Denis Minihane.

“Situated between a hairdressing salon and a beautician’s salon - the girls are great neighbours,” says Barry.

“On the last Friday of each month, we have a schriocht night (Rambling House) and visitors during the summer love it.

“Christy Moore, the famous singer, sang with us in the pub. We had a great trad group, Toss The Feathers, who played for years with us, and Paddy Keenan the famous illen pipe player from the X-Bothy band used to join them. He lived for a few years near Skibbereen.

“I like to tell a joke for the cráic, but sometimes when you tell one to Americans, they think it is the truth! That can turn into an even bigger joke. It’s hard to describe all the fun you’d have while running a bar. It’s all good and we love it.”

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