Fifty years ago, one woman stood inside her riverside bar and made the brave decision to move her tavern from Brogan’s Quay to Carrickmine in St Johnston.
Maggie Lynch was a woman who was courageous, who had vision, and knew that if you run a good business you will attract custom.
For years the men used to fish salmon from the river Foyle. Many people from the area built businesses on the profits they gleaned from the river.
For Maggie, the river was attracting people into her business but it was also flooding it regularly. The decision she made fifty years ago to change location, proved fruitful.
“The decision that Maggie made fifty years ago was a huge one,” her niece Alice Lynch said.
Maggie was born in 1919 and a century later her niece is following in her footsteps and has taken the decision to face change courageously.
Alice Lynch grew up in the bar and enjoyed sitting on the couch listening to the soft-pull of the pint from behind her books. Maggie left the pub to the young girl who spent her youth running around the high stools of Maggie’s Tavern.
Alice left St. Johnston, learnt a lot about life, but changes come with the same intensity that drives the salmon upstream, and Alice found herself back home behind the bar in Maggies in 1994 alongside her husband Neil Sweeney from Drumkeen.
Mammoth charity work
Over the years, Maggie’s Tavern continues to be an integral part of the community. The amount of money generated by the venue for charity is astronomical. The pub’s ‘BBQ PIG on the Spit’ has raised over €100,000 for charity and it returns on July 13. The ‘Cycle around Donegal’ has raised, to date, €125,000 for the Little Angels School in Letterkenny, Maggie’s Cycle raises money for the Diabetic Association. There have been Mass Rock walks, nature walks and coffee mornings and much funding raised for the Oncology Unit at Letterkenny University Hospital.
“You help and support local issues and everyone feels like they are giving something back to the community,” Alice said.
At Maggie’s Tavern they like to help the community, they enjoy seeing their establishment brimming with enthusiasm with everyone coming together for the common good.
“Right now my mind is focused on events and bringing the community together. Maggie’s is changing again. It’s a big decision, it’s a leap of faith. When I made the decision to change Maggie’s I felt that it was the right thing to do,” Alice says.
The inside of the popular tavern has changed. Over the last number of weeks, walls have been painted, the bar has been upgraded and new curtains hang from the windows. Customers can look forward to a fresh and appealing new look.
Alice wants to give something back to customers, she wants them to enjoy their birthday parties, anniversaries, Communions and their most precious moments in Maggie’s Tavern.
“At Maggie’s Tavern we say, ‘where a warm welcome always awaits you,’ and that’s what we want - good, friendly customer service, bring it back to the basics,” she said.
Alice believes in Maggie’s Tavern and testament to this belief, the mother-of-two undertook to study culinary arts at the LYIT School of Tourism and completed her studies.
People can now enjoy a lovely Sunday lunch in Maggie’s Tavern: “We want to expand on that, we need good numbers to cater for people but my next challenge will be to have bar food on a Friday and Saturday.”
Alice hopes that her business will evolve with the times and become more event driven.
She has a wonderful voluntary committee on hand whom she greatly values: “I would like to thank all my loyal customers and my hard-working voluntary committee. They are the people whom you can rely on, they are the people that help you out. I would also like to thank my hardworking staff, they really are dedicated,” she said.
These current changes are about food, about good service, local needs and entertainment,” she said.
This year Maggie, who passed away on May 25, 1990, would have celebrated her 100th birthday. Much has changed over the last 100 years; there aren’t as many salmon anymore, the pub industry has faced into difficult times but Alice, like her aunt before her, continues to focus, to change and to evolve with positive intent.
This Sunday David Craig will appear in Maggie’s Tavern. So, why don’t you come along and experience the wonderful traditional warm welcome at the newly refurbished Maggie’s Tavern?