End of an era tonight as Brennan's in Bundoran, one of Ireland's most famous pubs, closes its doors

Michael Daly


Michael Daly


End of an era tonight as Brennans in Bundoran, one of Ireland's most famous pubs closes its doors

Patricia and the late Nan Brennan in the Criterion bar PICTURE: MATT BRITTON

Brennan's Bar in Bundoran, or to give it its proper title, The Criterion Bar, will close its doors tonight for the last time, and as it does so, a very special chapter in the history of the seaside town will also end.

No ordinary pub, the late Nan and Patricia made it special, different, memorable. What endeared it to many was the lack of distraction - the no television, no singing and no swearing rule.

Famously,customers who would wish to see an important match or horse race, would be invited to go elsewhere, watch the event and return afterwards to tell the sisters and customers who won . . .

Indeed, the death of Nan last August, who at her own request was waked in the pub, gave some indication of not only her popularity but the worldwide awareness and love for both sisters and this wonderful pub. 

I'm sure our readers will join us in extending very best wishes to Patricia on her retirement from the business. 

A post on Facebook sums up the charm of the pub for many: "So sorry to hear that, visited it a few weeks ago, what a gem! Lovely to go for a quiet drink with friends where people chat and engage with each other instead of looking at ‘phones’ happy retirement Patricia."

The Irish Times, (August 19, 2017), captured the essence of the pub perfectly in Nan's obituary which they headlined; 'One half of Bundoran bar’s famous sister act': "When Bundoran publican Nan Brennan died last Sunday at the age of 81, many reminisced fondly about the no-singing, no-swearing, no-television rule she and her sister Patricia imposed rigidly in their landmark pub on the town’s main street.
"The premises, a favourite with farmers and surfers, tourists and returned emigrants, writers and local people who knew their sisters for a lifetime, was regarded by many as a time capsule where Nan and Patricia (79) presided over a genteel atmosphere where civility and good conversation were prized above all." 


The Criterion Bar was opened on St Patrick's Day 1900 by their maternal grandparents James and Catherine Ward opened the pub on St Patrick’s Day 1900. Nan’s parents James and Mary did a major refit in 1947 when they purchased bespoke bar fittings from Arnotts in Dublin, who manufactured furniture at the time. Since then, little other than the customers, has changed.  

One of the most famous stories about the pub revolves around the no-singing rule - that story was recalled in last year's Irish Times obituary: "Everyone’s favourite story about the pair is the time they sternly told singer songwriter Phil Coulter to hush when at the prompting of locals, he broke into a few bars of The Town I Loved so Well in the bar.
"Coulter’s pal Philip McGlynn, manager of the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran, had set him up. McGlynn recalled the singer protesting that he had sung in Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House, and his bemusement on being told that no one, including him, was going to sing in Brennans. “He thought it was hilarious. He went back several times and often told the story on stage about the two old ladies who wouldn’t let him sing.”

All weekend, as word has spread that the pub is due to close tonight, even larger numbers of people than usual have been calling in to the premises. Tonight will be a tear-tinged night, a night of memories, quite literally the end of an era. We have heard that there are plans to mark it in a way befitting to Brennan's,  however, we would be very surprised should one of the famous house rules "no singing" is broken.