My Weekend: Running De Barras is music to my ears

Ray Blackwell manages De Barras of Clonakilty, a third-generation, family-run business that is enjoying a busy summer
My Weekend: Running De Barras is music to my ears

Ray Blackwell of De Barras in Clonakilty, West Cork. Picture: Brid O Donovan

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Ray, I’m from Clonakilty, in West Cork. I like long walks on the beach and listening to Death Grips. I’m happily married, with two little boys. All my immediate family live in Clonakilty, so that’s amazing.
I manage De Barras in Clonakilty, a third-generation, family-run business. Statistically, most family businesses, whether they’re a farm or whatever, they tend to not make it past a third generation, so get down here to visit us while you can!

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

Clonakilty artist Rawney recently launched his debut EP in De Barras on a Friday night and it just ticked all the boxes. I got to meet a lot of familiar faces, I got to experience an amazing gig, I witnessed a long-time friend achieve a musical milestone…. all while being at work… What a Friday! What a lucky boy!

 De Barras based in Clonakilty in West Cork.
 De Barras based in Clonakilty in West Cork.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

I’ve always loved getting up early, since I was a kid. Whether as a teenager getting up at 6am to do my homework before I went to school, or in my 20s, trying to watch a couple of episodes of The Wire before heading in to the morning shift, I’ve always gotten a kick out of being up at the crack. It’s a quiet time, that’s truly your own. However, now, at this stage of my life, early starts over the last few years entail waiting hand and foot on two little boys. It isn’t exactly my own time anymore, but I still love it and being an early bird has definitely stood to me with the pair of messers I have to contend with currently!

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Yes. Even now, as I try to factor in more family time at the weekend, work is always on my mind, but, fortunately, I’m never too far away if I’m needed. It’s just part of the job and I’ve come to accept that now; I didn’t always, but as my dad has often said to me, ‘If you enlist, you must soldier’.

If money were no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

London, with my wife. She lived there early in our courtship and I would try to visit as often as I could. We fell even more deeply in love with each other during that period of our life and London was central to so many of the amazing adventures and experiences we shared. Oh, and I loves me-self an old kebab, too...

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

We’re spoiled down here in West Cork with beautiful scenery, so there’s really no shortage of spaces to go to. Recently, I’ve enjoyed walking around Clon with my boys and re-engaging with our town. I felt very disconnected from it after lockdowns, etc, so it’s nice to commune with my little ones around our local squares and parks. My dad has joined us on occasion and that’s been very special to me.

Ray Blackwell of De Barras in Clonakilty, West Cork. Picture: Eimear Blackwell
Ray Blackwell of De Barras in Clonakilty, West Cork. Picture: Eimear Blackwell

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

I’m a greedy pig and I want to do it all! I want to see all my pals, see all my family, go to all the gigs, read all the books, play all the computer games, drink all the drink, and watch all the movies! But if I can get even one of those in I’m doing well.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish?

I love both, to be honest, but I guess I really do love cooking food for other people. I’ve added many signature dishes to my culinary arsenal since lockdown, in particular some killer brunch dishes, but I just haven’t had the opportunity to play host yet.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork. Where are your go-to spots for coffee/lunch/special meal?

There’s only one place for me: Monks’ Lane in Timoleague. The décor, the ambiance, the food, the staff… superb. It’s so good even Luka Bloom wrote a song about it. I don’t think there can be a greater endorsement than that!

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

If not working, I try to spend it with my family.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

Monday mornings generally 7:30am: My alarm clock is a two-year-old and a six-year-old; if I’m lucky, maybe 8am.


De Barras is a third-generation, family-run Irish pub and independent music venue in the beautiful seaside town of Clonakilty that has, for the last 40+ years, earned a musical pedigree and reputation that has travelled far beyond the confines of its West Cork home. Longstanding associations with Noel Redding (The Jimi Hendrix Experience), Paddy Keenan (The Bothy Band), Sharon Shannon, and folk artists Christy Moore and Roy Harper, have served as the cornerstones of this little venue’s worldwide renown as one of the finest music houses in Ireland. Musicians from all genres, generations, and nationalities have fed into the folk club’s magical history, with every performance seeming to weave itself into the brickwork of its worn, familiar walls.

This month, the venue welcomes a huge line-up of artists:


Friday, August 19 - Strange Angels (Jeff ward/Jerome Rimson/Les Sampson)

Saturday, August 20 - Runaway Retros

Sunday, August 21 - Gerron

Thursday, August 25 - Luka Bloom

Friday, August 26 - Limit 60 - EP Launch

Saturday, August 27 - The Black Apple Bastards

Sunday, August 28 - Dog Tail Soup

September 1 - John Spillane

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