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Leinster Leader 29 August 1981
Almost the last of the traditional pub-cum grocery shops in Naas has gone into history. Phil Kennedy’s in South Main Street, has succumbed to modern trends.
The writing was on the wall from last November when Mr Kennedy, who in his early nineties was the oldest working publican in the country, died suddenly. The business remains in the Kennedy family, but the premises is being transformed from what it had been for perhaps over 100 years.
However, Mr. Andy Kennedy, licencee of the premises, told this writer that many old facets of the premises will be retained when it is refurbished. The bar is already open for business and the new lounge is to open shortly in what was formely the grocery section of the premises.
In Phil Kennedy’s day the bar was known “the dispensary”. The grocery opened about 9.00 a.m. Many’s the man with “a sore head” nipped through the double doors into the bar for a “cure” at this time before carrying on to work on a Monday morning. Sometimes the company was so enjoyable that some followed Brendan Behan’s dictum: “Hold your hour and have another”. Never was early morning business so brisk than during Punchestown week.
The tradition of the early morning availability of drink is thought to have stemmed from an early morning licence which could be availed of on market days when the market was in the nearby Town Hall yard. Changes of attitude among the local law enforcers brought an end to it some years ago when Kennedy’s had the distinction of being raided “before hours” on two occasions.
Another facet of Kennedy’s was its quizzes, conducted in his own inimitable manner by manager John O’Brien. From being a house quiz, it became more widespread, drawing teams from the town and farther afield. The eccentricity of some of the questions, plus the often ingenious (but totally wrong) answers assured Kennedy’s quiz of a fame of its own.
But it is the grocery that will be sorely missed. One was still served by white-coated curates in courteous manner of an age long gone. As often as not, one dealt by account, “fixing up” at the end of the week. There was always an opportunity for a chat, to exchange news local and national, and of course to hear of the latest bit of local gossip. Kennedy’s was justifiably famous for its bacon which hung in great sides in one corner of the grocery. Happily, in defiance of EEC regulations, one could get loose free-range eggs – and often turkey eggs at that!
Not changed
A curious factor about the shop was that none of the cash registers was converted to decimalisation. One paid for one’s drink or groceries in “new” coinage which was rung up in good old pounds, shilling and pence on the old fashioned registers. One suspected that Mr. Kennedy, who had copperplate handwriting and meticulously wrote up his books nightly until a late hour, still made entries in the former monetary style. For he was on of the old school. In the early 1900s he became apprenticed to the bar trade in Dublin and before coming to Naas was manager of a pub in Dun Laoghaire. He was involved in the War of Independence but seldom if ever spoke about that. He owned his premises in Naas from 1925 when bought it from Doran’s (it was formerly Masterson’s) The décor of the shop was totally traditional. Gone for ever are the wooden sugar and tea bins; the drawers which once held the literal needle to an anchor; the massive and forbidding looking bacon slicing machine, the snug, and much more.
But Mr. Andy Kennedy, a nephew (the family bought the pub when it was put up for public auction) says that many mementos of the past have been rescued and will be preserved. These include the “wag-o-the wall” clock which always caused consternation at closing time – when that time came at 11 p.m. in the winter. When the minute hand reached the hour it suddenly dropped three minutes at the next stroke. The unwary, hoping to get the last drink, suddenly found that in a very short space of time, ten past eleven had been reached. Still one’s own time-piece showed that only a couple of minutes had elapsed.
In vain, did one protest – an unshakeable John O’Brien pointed to the clock. “Time gentlemen, please” rang out in the strident tones, and the “one for the road” (or the Bed) had to be forgotten about. Still the pub never lost a customer over the eccentricities of the clock which, as the hands laboured uphill past the half hour, managed to be remarkably accurate as they reached the hour. Happily the clock has been restored to the bar where I’m told it is performing with its usual callousness towards the wishes of the patrons.
Old Mirrors
Many of the genuine old pub mirrors advertising spirits and cigarettes have been rescued and are being restored to the bar and lounge. Also on display will be the oak carving of intricate shamrockery, harps, and sunbursts which was in the closed off area between the old grocery and bar – jocularly referred to in the past as “the lounge” – although it could scarcely accommodate four people, and had to be abandoned in winter when arctic draughts blew in under the door from the yard.
Mr. Kennedy says that much of the woodwork was in so bad a condition that it could not be renewed but that he has retained as much as was feasible. The counters are topped by the original material for example.
What this writer would like to see restored – if possible- is the mahogany partition which once served in the bar. It had a metal plate inserted for striking matches. Redundant for that use, it served as an attraction for those who had never known the days when matches were carried loose by some so impoverished as not able to afford to buy a box of matches.
Time up!
The glass in the partition perversely served as the most effective call for “time” that the writer has ever encountered. The scraping of a coin clutched by an exasperated John O’Brien or Jim McDonnell on the glass along it surface brought forth a noise so unbearable that only the deaf or the very drunk could endure it. It cleared the pub in “jig time” needless to say.
Ah well, a new generation has to be catered for and, like pints of plain, housed-bottled stout, pot-still whiskey, Kerry Blue cigarettes, and many another thing, the old Kennedy’s belongs to the past.

The death of Phil Kennedy,who was the oldest working publican in the country, results in changes to the business.

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