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'People think it's a gimmick until I show them the coffins': The Tipp pub that's also an undertaker

Oh, and where Andrew Lloyd Webber is a regular.

Source: Irish Fireside

MCCARTHY’S IN FETHARD, Co Tipperary, is not your average pub.

The sign outside reads, “Pub, Restaurant, Undertaker”. That swift detour at the end often catches visitors by surprise.

“Some people think it’s a gimmick until I bring them down the back and show them the hearse and the coffins,” laughs Jasper McCarthy, who runs the pub.

Established in 1840, the pub has been in the McCarthy family for five generations. It started out life as a hotel, but ceased operating as such when McCarthy’s grand-aunts and uncles retired. It was also a grocery and ran a hackney service. McCarthy recalls there being five stable yards at the back of the pub when he was growing up.

McCarthy describes it as a Victorian-style pub and likens it to pubs like The Gravediggers.

“The interior hasn’t been changed since my ancestors owned it,” he explains. “It’s cosy, it’s dark, it has a smoke-stained timber bar.”

Dinner time.

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McCarthy says it’s a stroke of luck that the pub never underwent any major refurbishments.

“We were lucky enough because back in the 1970s, all the pubs were changing over to lounge bars. My grand aunts and parents didn’t want to change and didn’t have the money to change. After that, the old bars became fashionable again.”

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McCarthy's #ultimatepubtour2015

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It attracts locals and tourists alike. The proximity of the pub to Coolmore Stud, the largest stud farm in the world, means that they benefit from equine tourism.

“Everywhere you go around the area, you could throw a stone and hit a horse,” he jokes.

As a result, the pub finds itself quite busy during what would typically be regarded in the hospitality industry as the off season.

“We’d have a lot of students coming in because there are a lot of students in the horse trade,” he explains. “They start at the end of January and it goes on until the end of May. For a lot of places, that’s their really quiet period but it’s actually quite busy for us.”

The pub has garnered a great deal of coverage in the media over the years. A few years ago, it was featured on an episode of At Your Service with Francis Brennan. Ardal O’Hanlon filmed the programme Guess Who’s Dead there. News programmes from as  far afield as the United States and Australia have visited.

More recently, it was featured in an ad for Hop House 13.

Source: GuinnessEurope/YouTube

Such attention doesn’t faze McCarthy. After all, this is a place that the likes of Alex Ferguson, George Foreman and the Presleys have visited. Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who owns a castle nearby, is a regular.

He shares two particularly excellent stories.

A few weeks ago, McCarthy was preparing for a session in the pub to mark his 50th birthday. “We play music here every week, a gang of us,” he explains.

As he was setting up, Liam Ó Maonlaoi of Hothouse Flowers walked in “looking for something or someone”.

“He said he’d only stay a few minutes but sure then it was a bit longer and a bit longer. And then we started playing. He liked what he heard and he joined us.”

It was a treat for McCarthy, who was a longtime Hothouse Flowers fan.

“I was at the launch of Don’t Go when I was at UCD thirty years ago. We were in college one day and someone said, ‘The Hothouse Flowers are launching a single on Grafton Street,’ so we all shot in. I was saying it to him that day. Literally an hour and a half later, he was singing it.”

More impressive was the time that Eddie Jordan stopped it, a day that happened to coincide with McCarthy’s first ever date with the woman who would become his wife.

Jordan had a chopper waiting down the road and McCarthy instructed him to bring it to the field out the back of the pub.

“Eddie said, ‘The boys would have a few extra pints so if you fly the helicopter in, they’ll stay a bit longer.’”

No bother to McCarthy who just so happened to have a pilot’s license.

“So I said to my now wife, ‘I’ve a surprise for you, come on.’ We drove down around the corner and there’s this big chopper and I said, ‘We’re going for a spin in that now in a minute.’”

Publican, undertaker, pilot – it’s never a dull day for Jasper McCarthy.

More: Double Take – The Irish Hollywood in the Wicklow Gap>

More: 38 of the best casual dining places around Ireland… according to top chefs>

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Amy O'Connor

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