A big debt of gratitude is owed to the Brennan sisters for their preservation of not just a precious and unique Irish pub building but also values of decency and respect.
On Sunday 30th December, as 2018 comes to a close, two of this country’s much-loved iconic institutions come together with a tribute on RTÉ's Sunday Miscellany programme to Brennan’s Criterion Bar, Bundoran.
As Sunday Miscellany goes from strength to strength with its celebration this winter of 50 years on air the 118-year-old Brennan’s Bar has closed its doors.
The bar has been run by three successive generations of the same family since James and Patrick Ward opened it on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1900. It became Brennan’s in 1933, when the young James Brennan, home from America, married the daughter of the house, Mary Ward. The couple ran the business while living on the premises and rearing their four children there. Two of those children, Patricia and the much-missed, recently deceased Nan, have been the guardians of Brennan’s for all of their lives, also working and living on the premises.
They faithfully preserved what their grandparents had created, unlike so many Irish pubs, which jettisoned beautiful fittings in favour of what was fleetingly considered in vogue. In Brennan’s the retention of all the original furniture and fittings created an oasis of calm and timeless beauty right in the heart of Bundoran’s bustling main street.
However, the bar, while a time capsule, was also a vibrant living piece of history. While Sunday Miscellany has for half a century provided a gentle, reflective start to Sunday mornings with its mixture of music and musings in Brennans the strictly enforced rules of no TV, WIFI or music gave the art of conversation pride of place. The bar received accolades and charmed loyal fans from all around the world, including the Boston Globe. In 2017, Nan and Patricia and their gorgeous mirrored Bar featured in the Guinness Hop House 13 ad, and in the RTÉ documentary The Irish Pub.
Sunday Miscellany contributor Olive Travers has first-hand experience of the legendary hospitality of Nan and Patricia as for sixteen years, the Brennan sisters hosted the local writing group which met every fortnight in the back room of the Bar This Sunday, she reflects that while the closure of Brennan’s bar is a huge loss to the country, a big debt of gratitude is owed to the Brennan sisters for their preservation of not just a precious and unique Irish pub building but also values of decency and respect.
Readers can tune in to the last Sunday Miscellany of 2018 on RTE1 at 9.10am this Sunday morning to hear more.