Raising the bar in O’Dwyers – An Irishman’s Diary on Eamon Huff

Eamon Huff: sense of loyalty to his locality

Eamon Huff: sense of loyalty to his locality

 

Things will never be the same at O’Dwyer’s pub in Kilmacud when Eamon Huff retires as a barman next Friday after 43 years serving the customers in the south Dublin watering hole.

Eamon, who grew up just down the road in Stillorgan, did more than serve drinks and food at the suburban pub. He kept customers up to date with all the important news in the area.

He didn’t bother about trivial matters like political gossip but regaled customers with the really important stuff such as who had just died in the parish, who had been knocked down in a car accident, who was moving out and who was moving in.

Social media was irrelevant to the customers of O’Dwyers because they could rely on Eamon to supply the information about things that really mattered. What was more he dealt in facts about real human beings rather than the scurrilous commentary that is such a feature of social media.

Eamon himself doesn’t bother with Twitter or Facebook or any others of that ilk. In fact he doesn’t even have a mobile phone or a laptop. He prefers to engage with the real people he meets through his work and reads the daily newspapers to find out what is happening in the wider world outside the parish of Kilmacud.

“People come in to me for a chat. They are looking for the news but they also tell me what is going on so everybody gets to know the important things that are happening in the area,” he says.

Eamon is a noted attender of funerals not just in Kilmacud parish church but in the wider south Dublin area as he likes to pay his respects to those who have passed on to the next world, many of whom he has pulled a pint for over the years.

His sense of loyalty to his locality stems from the fact that he comes from a family that has been in the Kilmacud parish for generations.

He grew up in a house in Stillorgan that was demolished to make way for the country’s first shopping centre.

The family didn’t move far, just across the road to the newly built Patrician Villas where Eamon, a bachelor, still lives in the family home.

Coming from a family that lived in the area for generations, he is a link to a vanished, mainly rural, south Co Dublin so evocatively captured by Padraic Colum in his poem Dublin Roads.

Eamon has brought that old village sensibility to bear on the changing face of his native place.

He is not just a link to the past but a refutation of the clichéd image of suburbia as a characterless place where everybody is anonymous and people don’t know each other.

He says he has enjoyed his 43 years behind the bar in O’Dwyers.

“Most of the customers down the years were really good to me and I enjoyed looking after them,” he says.

Over the years he encountered three kinds of customers. “The first category, and by far the most numerous are the nice, decent people who come in for a drink a chat.

“Of course there were also some, a small number, who enjoyed giving you grief and then there was a third category, nearly as bad, those who thought they owned the place and treated you like a servant.”

The working life of a barman has changed dramatically over the past four decades.

“When I started we only served drink and most of the customers were men. Then after 10 years or so we began to serve coffee and sandwiches. That was a big innovation at the time but it caught on.

“After that it was real meals with food cooked on the premises, and today we have a variety of choice on the menu in the pub as well as a restaurant upstairs. Some people come in for a meal and a glass of wine but we still cater for the people who come in for a couple of pints before bedtime.”

Almost 18 months ago the pub passed out of the ownership of the O’Dwyer family, who ran it since it opened in the 1960s, and Eamon’s retirement will represent another break with the past.

There was a special celebration in the pub to mark his 50th birthday and another when he reached the milestone of 40 years working on the premises.

Eamon doesn’t know if anything is being planned to mark his departure on Friday night but, one way, or another pulling his last pint will be a bitter sweet moment for him and the pub patrons.