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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 23 June 2021

'There's no sign above the door that says pub': The legendary Tipp house that hosts a once-a-week session

Jim of the Mills opens every Thursday, for a session that has become famous.

EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT, cars flood into the village of Upperchurch, Co Tipperary. They’re all after one thing: a pint and session in the legendary Jim O’ The Mills. One by one, they park outside the red and white farmhouse and the merriment inside begins. If you didn’t know what it was, you could well drive past thinking you had stumbled upon a family gathering or a wake.

“There’s a funny story that the first night the priest moved into the parish, he saw the house and he hadn’t really heard about the pub,” says Aine Ryan, whose family run the pub. “He just presumed, ‘Oh I bet I’ll get a phone call tomorrow, somebody must be dead,’ because he could just see all of these cars outside this house.”

You could forgive him for being confused. Six nights a week, Jim O’ The Mills is a private family home. Only on Thursday nights does it operate as a pub.

“The building itself is over two hundred years old and was originally used as a mill,” explains Ryan. In the early 1900s, it was a pub and grocers. “Those stores they had long ago where they used to sell a bit of everything.”

Up there with smyths

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Ryan’s grand uncle owned the building and her father Jim Ryan inherited it in 1982. At that point, the whole place had been closed for twenty years, but it still had a 7-day licence. Ryan says the government was encouraging people to sell their pub licences at the time if they weren’t using them.

“My Dad wanted to keep the licence so he started opening it one night a week on a Thursday night and that’s how it became just on a Thursday night,” she says.


Last night was true perfection. My last night at @bluebellcottagetipperary ,Gordon and Mary took me to Jim of the Mills - a pub, run out of the owners home. Every Thursday night the community comes together, fills Jim's living room and plays music. Fiddle, guitar, harmonica, accordion and so many more - everyone takes turns playing and singing traditional Irish music. I sincerely cannot find the words to describe the experience. Guinness on tap, it was the oddest mix of young university students, locals, even an Irish @whitecapsfc fan who was delighted to talk football with me and it was PACKED! When we left at midnight the music was still going and drinks were still being poured at an alarmingly Irish rate. Incredible. I wish I could be here every Thursday night.

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The pub is stretched across three rooms in the family home.

“We don’t normally use those three rooms,” says Ryan. “They’re rooms that are dedicated to the pub. It’s all in the same building as our house.”

There’s a bar, a middle room for people to chat in and a room known as The Old Kitchen.

“That’s where most of the music takes place,” says Ryan.

Music is always a part of Jim O’ The Mills. The Ryan family are avid musicians and Thursday nights typically turn into a session that can often resemble a house party.

“My Dad and my sisters and I, we all play music anyway. Then there’s a core group of musicians that are locals. Nobody gets paid or anything. They usually come just for themselves. Anyone can show up with an instrument. Every week, the musicians and the singers could be completely different.”

We never know who is going to show up or if there’s anybody going to be coming or not. But every week, it just kind of happens itself and there’s always someone to play music or sing no matter what.

The pub itself only has one tap: Guinness. There are other bottles of beer and spirits available, but anyone wanting a pint must settle for the black stuff. Never ones to scrimp on hospitality, the Ryan family also offer their guests a feed midway through the night.

“Usually there’s also brown bread and black pudding that comes out,” she says. “Everyone just takes a slice of bread and a pudding and that keeps them going for a bit.”

As for who usually comes in, Ryan says it varies from locals to people from other counties to people visiting from abroad.

“Usually it’s word of mouth. There’s no sign over the door that says ‘pub’. People have just heard about the place and obviously everyone knows it’s just open on a Thursday.”

A lot of people that have people over visiting might come because it’s such a unique experience and they would bring people from abroad to show them a part of traditional culture that’s kind of absent. It’s so unique now to have that.

The pub occasionally hosts private events, but is otherwise content to only open one night a week. For the rest of the week, it’s home – just the way they like it.

“It’s nice to have a personal bar in your house when we want a drink,” laughs Ryan.

More: ‘A country pub in the city’: How the Royal Oak in Kilmainham became a pub for everyone>

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Amy O'Connor

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