stories worth a thousand words #20


Written : November 3, 2004

Frank Glennon wasn’t a man to wait around for an reply to anything he had said, much less listen to it if and when it came. However, on my last day working at his landmark pub in southern Dublin, I managed to made him think for a minute. After he placed IR£200 into my hand and thanked me for all my work there, I said to him; “Thank YOU very much Mr Glennon – I can tell you, I’ve learned a hell of a lot more working here than I ever did in college!” It was clear by the look in his eyes that he had to be sure it was in fact a compliment, which of course it was.

I started around September 1987, at the same time as I took up a job in Dunnes Stores in Stillorgan Shopping Centre. For two weeks before I started college, I kept the two jobs going, being a lounge boy at night, and a floor cleaner and shelf stacker by day. I could not hack the retail job at all; I should have seen that as a sign!!! And so I was left with the bar job.

I took to the lounge boy work like a duck to water. I could manage my float, remember multiple orders in my head AND merge them in such a way that the barman could get the drinks in optimum time. By the six month mark I was given the optimum shifts with all the best tips, and eventually I was asked to come in behind the counter as a part-time barman.

Glennons is a fascinating institution with a long history, one that must by now be coming up on 50 years. When I first went behind the bar the place was managed by a Mr Paddy Laroche, with his assistants Dave Kelly and Gerry Reynolds. Paddy was very “old school” and did not really gel with the staff at all. Dave and Gerry were younger and each had their own style of humour which would keep us entertained. Eventually Paddy was to leave to open his own pub, with Dave and Gerry taking over joint control between them along with son of the family John Glennon, who would be in charge of the “Willow bar”, which had a reputation for attracting the local 18-25 glitterati from the area each weekend. Most weekend nights I would work in the Willow with John.

It wasn’t long before I was able to run the Willow bar on my own for the majority of the time, with John arriving about an hour before closing to pull a few pints and rub shoulders with his peers. I was very happy working there, and made a lot of good friends along the way, many of whom I still keep in touch with.

Alphonse “Alfie” Hennessy was quite a character. Easily into his 70s, he was the head lounge boy. About 5’5” in height and wafer thin, he got sick of everyone asking if he had been a jockey! In fact by day he was chief dogsbody for no less than the Chief of the High Court, a Justice Harney. Whenever “Harry” was in the news you always saw stock RTE library footage of Alfie opening the door of a limo for him. He had the classic Dublin mentality and wit, and obviously enjoyed sharing the “craic” with all of us. He finally retired a couple of years ago to his home in Monskstown with his wife Mary, who was a classic “’er indoors” character we would never see!

I worked part-time through college, then agreed to do full-time hours for the year leading up to my wedding. To my amazement, they kept me on my hourly wage even when I was doing 40+ hours. Some weeks I’m sure I was bringing home more money that the managers, who had been joined by another son Ciaran. The four-man team still runs the pub today, over twelve years later. For two glorious hours one day when holidays and such left them short, I was actually left in charge of the whole place while Dave went for his dinner!!!

My five years working there taught me about the day-to-day running of a business, how to get on with different types of co-workers (there was the bar staff, lounge staff, kitchen staff, plus the assorted family members who would constantly turn up). Frank Glennon was the first dominant male role model I guess I ever worked with, and I afforded him much respect, even if I was prone to mimic him once or twice!!!

I also learned about the lives of the many regulars, of whom I could probably write a book in itself, and perhaps one day will. One anecdote to explain how many frequent customers the pub had : It was World Cup 90 and The Willow Lounge was the place to watch the Ireland games on the Big Screen, which John and Ciaran had spent months persuading Frank he should invest in. We would have fliers advertizing that we would open the doors at 6pm precisely for the games, and often I was the one to let what was usually quite a large queue filter in. However, so many regulars did deals with the various managers to sneak in through the kitchen, when I would open the doors the lounge would always be full!

I was sorry when I put down the shutter to the Willow Lounge for the last time. Glennons was my first environment which was not school or home, it was one where I stood on my own and established my own identity. It could be said that perhaps I established it a bit too much with the lounge girls on occasion, but that’s another story! The night I finished my pub career I went straight down to Clonmel with a bunch of lads for my stag weekend, and so my new life was about to begin.
© JL Pagano 2004


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