Muzz Hodgkins kicks off The Faa Side’s new Pub Spy section by disregarding conventional wisdom and sinking a couple in the pub everyone knows of but has never been in, The Hole in the Wall…
The Enlightenment ideals of reason and empiricism, which both propelled and steered the development of modern science as we know it, have led mankind to believe that the existence of ghosts, spectres and other heavenly phantoms to be either a consequence of faulty activity in the brain or a comfort invented by humans unable to cope with the uncaring randomness of the cosmos. While such assertions may seem entirely reasonable and deductible from the evidence presented to us, they fall some way short of dislodging the innate belief amongst the townsfolk of Drogheda that the Bogeyman both drinks in and has rooms above The Hole in the Wall Pub on Peter Street.
Local lore has it that the Bogeyman took up residence there in 1998 after being run out of Laytown by vigilantes. Whether he actually does live there is by the by. That we believe He lives there is enough.
Since the disappearance of the winos at the Tholsel, parents have pointed to the smokers huddled in the doorway of The Hole in the Wall as a warning as to what might befall the student who doesn’t do their homework. Be it the men in 1970s costumes or the women you don’t want to mess with drinking multi-coloured liquids and weeing like men in the urinals, The Hole has a bad rap. But does it deserve it? Are people too quick to judge?
After all, this was the only pub in town that didn’t close her doors on the night of the traveller funeral, indeed, it stuck two fingers up to the town’s publicans by staging a wonderful impromptu piece of performance art by posting a bouncer on the door.
With this in mind I spoke to Christie Keiransis, emeritus professor of Anthropology, Ethnography and Drinking Rituals at DIFE, to give me a greater understanding of things before I went in.
“That place performs a public service as important as the binmen, the teachers, the Gardaí, the man what turns on the town’s electricity every morning, the councillors, the doctors, the foreign lads who wash your car at Tesco, I could go on. Vital.
“Common sense tells us that a town the size of Drogheda needs at least three pubs everyone else is afraid to go into. They act as a sponge for what tax payers call scroungers, go-boys and jailbirds.
“Thanks to austerity, there is only one such pub in the town though I have heard The Widow Murphys has been taking up some of the slack.”
Prof. Keiransis cites the closure of sister pubs The Marsh House and Dolan’s Corner as having a catastrophic effect on the town’s own ability to keep her swollen underbelly tucked away from polite society.
So with an ethnographer’s eye and a snob’s nose, TFS went in for a pint.
20.37 No sign of the Bogeyman, though maybe he takes Friday night’s off. I decide to suss things out before enquiring after him.
20.38 Eyes have definitely narrowed. I get the feeling I’m being clocked for weapons. A glance around tells me that Budweiser is what I should be ordering. While I wait I try to nail the gait of a man who could effortlessly weave into his conversation his thoughts on racing pigeons, knife fighting techniques and unnervingly, what makes a man love a woman. But as I sit down I realize that the only things successfully nailed around here are the tables and chairs to the floor.
20.45 The Faa Side’s drinking companion Lampost Jimmy enquires whether the man sitting at the bar was following the rugby game on the giant TVs that took up the vast majority of his frontal and peripheral vision. “Do I fucken look like I’m watching the rugby?…Fucks sake,” grunts the man. We are unsure of the correct answer.
20.50 The barman, a pleasant individual with alluring eyes, apologises that tonight’s live music has been cancelled. Has the Bogeyman has been spooked by the appearance of strangers?
20.58 Paper beats rock and I have to go alone to the toilets.
20.59 The toilet is up some steps and visible to voyeuristic eyes from the street. The room itself is an evil cradling, somewhere you would keep a red headed hostage while the actual toilet looks like it has been mercilessly tortured with cigarette burns until it flushed. I now understand why the women choose to leave the door open and smoke while using it.
21.05 To take our minds off things, we flick through Dregs – The Heyday of Drogheda’s Drinking Dens 1194 – 2008, local raconteur Pats Crosby’s authoritative family history of heavy drinking in Drogheda. It has some interesting titbits on this very establishment. A Mags Slattery swears that she heard the story of woman who “brought her baby in there and it came out three hours later as a forty year old man with throat cancer, a gambling addiction and a charge of shoplifting.” However, Crosby warns us to take this particular woman’s story with a pinch of salt.
21.15 We start to take in our surroundings. You wouldn’t really class it as a lounge – it is deceptively large. Perhaps it’s the décor. It has that wonderful McGregor kitsch look; faux-menace with that ironic twinkly wink of a place that makes you wonder about what happens here after hours; an unhealthy mix of über violence and über love?
21.22 The decorations are a post-hipster mix of Christmas and Valentine’s fused with the romantic trappings of a cinema date at a sex theatre showing androgynous East German shot putters joylessly and methodically pleasuring each other in an underfunded and drafty Soviet industrial estate for the pleasure of a sadistic commissar against the background of a nuclear winter. Perhaps this explains my ponderings on the nature of love earlier.
21.31 Fists becoming unclenched, buttocks too. Relaxing. Locals include us in something called ‘banter’, if being called a D4 fairy counts as inclusive.
21.40 With no sign of Bogeyman and eager not to outstay our welcome we drain our pints and bid farewell to bar staff and bar flies.
While the clientele may scare the tax payer, the bar staff couldn’t have been any more pleasant. Quick on the tap and on the ball with the banter, the customer service was top notch. The hour we spent there was just the right side of edgy and interesting enough to warrant a revisit, perhaps on a Tuesday before the sun hits the yardarm. We give it seven out of ten though even a mornings painting and a visit to the bathroom section of Homebase could get that up to 7.5.