Publican known for hospitality and generosity
OWEN CAMPBELL, who has died within days of his 75th birthday, was probably one of the country's best known publicans, renowned for his culture, grace, gentleness and wide span of knowledge.
For more than 60 years, he ran The Croagh Patrick Tavern in Murrisk, Co Mayo. His quaint pub was an oasis which catered for more than thirsty, weary pilgrims. It was also a meeting place for traditional musicians and those who, like Owen himself, were interested in the old ways and traditions.
Owen, or "Oweneen" as he was known colloquially, took over the family pub aged just 15 following the death of his father, who was also named Owen.
For the thousands of pilgrims who climb Croagh Patrick every year, Owen was a friend and a fountain of knowledge, always willing to proffer advice on routes and weather. Many a pilgrim would have a free bottle of water pressed into their hands in the bar at Campbell's just before beginning their climb and then Campbell would advise: "Take it nice and easy."
At the funeral Mass in Lecanvey Church last Monday, the chief celebrant priest Fr Paddy Gill recalled Campbell's peaceful and gentle disposition. "For him the Celtic Tiger was neither real nor important," Fr Gill said, recalling an approach to life that wasn't in the slightest bit mercenary.
Although he didn't get any formal second-level education, Campbell was well read and could talk on any topic - from ancient Irish history to global warming. He was particularly interested in archaeology and photography and the various artefacts and photographs sitting on shelves and pinned to the cluttered walls of his homely hostelry attested to this.
One frequent visitor from Co Cork was so taken by Campbell's, and the friendliness of the owner, that he posted a web message stating that the pub was "lost in time" and he had "never came across so warm a publican".
When Croagh Patrick was the subject of a major archaeological dig some years ago, Campbell was in his element. He looked forward to the regular evening visits of "dig" personnel and gleaning new titbits of information about times past on his beloved mountain.
He was a dedicated environmentalist and in the 1990s was so outraged by plans to mine Croagh Patrick for gold that he became involved in the successful campaign to halt the proposal.
Owen Campbell's remains were brought down a fuschia fringed laneway to their last resting place in the old Augustinian Abbey by the sea in Murrisk.
The stillness was broken when local singer Nancy Gibbons, leaning on a tombstone, sang a haunting song about the sadness of friends parting.
Another friend of Campbell's, Charlie Keating, followed up with a rendition of Lovely Murrisk Shore and, in a final graveside musical tribute, Pat Eade (guitar) and Ultan Masterson (whistle) performed a haunting melody.
He is survived by his brothers, Michael and Patrick; sisters, Ann (Nano) and Mary, as well as brothers in law, nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.
Owen Campbell: born, September 7th, 1934; died September 3rd, 2009