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'We had one particular guy called Paul O’Connell who used to work the door': Nancy Blake's in Limerick

The long-standing pub on the secret of its success… and a certain former Munster player.

WHEN ASKED TO describe Nancy Blake’s, one word comes into owner Donal Mulcahy’s mind: institution. Mulcahy’s parents opened the pub on Limerick’s Upper Denmark Street in 1956 with his mother’s name put above the door. 

“Nancy Blake was my mother’s maiden name before she married my Dad,” explains Mulcahy. “They were going to change it to Mulcahy’s after they got married but the name proved so popular in the first few years that they said, ‘No, no. It’s got to stay Nancy Blake’s.’”

For the next few decades, the family ran the pub with great success. It was even the first pub in Limerick to have carpet put in it. When his father passed away in 1991, Donal Mulcahy took over where he left off.

That year, he opened The Outback, a late-night bar and music venue at the back of the pub. With that, he was forced to institute some changes.

“My mother wouldn’t serve pints to ladies, only half pints. In 1991 when I opened up The Outback, I told her in order to be successful we had to serve pints to ladies and the rest is history.”

  

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Merry Xmas!! Xxx

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Mulcahy describes Nancy Blake’s as a traditional pub filled with character. It’s the kind of pub where you have sawdust on the floor and bartenders with decades of service under their belts.

It also boasts a strong musical heritage.

“We’ve always said music is our soul in Nancy’s,” says Mulcahy. The pub hosts live music three to four nights a week with a traditional session held in the front bar and blues and rock and roll gigs taking place in The Outback. 

“It’s hard to keep playing the old classic tracks to new generations but for some reason it still works after all these years,” he says.

This being Limerick, the pub is also steeped in sport, with the focus being primarily on hurling and Munster rugby.

“We’ve had a lot of the Munster players work here when they were younger,” he says. “We had one particular guy called Paul O’Connell who used to work the door for us. There are a lot of great stories to tell, but I’m not going to tell them!”

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Beagánaín cultúir

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There is no one type of customer who frequents Nancy Blake’s, says Mulcahy. 

“We get anybody and everybody. Young, old, rockers, solicitors. You get all walks of life coming into Nancy’s and that’s the way I like it. It’s a pub for everybody. Maybe that’s why it’s been so successful for the last fifty, sixty years.”

Indeed he will often hear from customers who were regulars in the pub during his parents’ time. 

“Every so often I hear somebody say they were there when I was born and that’s fifty odd years ago. There’s some people who are going in who have been going in fifty, sixty years.”

It also serves as a meeting place of sorts for people returning home for Christmas.

“We find that we see heads that we haven’t seen in years. You ask them where they’re back from and it’s San Francisco, Australia… One particular family come into us every Christmas. They meet in Nancy’s and they come from all over the world. That’s the kind of pub it is.”

It holds a special place in the hearts of Limerick people and Mulcahy believes this is why it has lasted so long. It’s an institution, you see.

Or as he puts it, “It comes, it goes, but it’s always there.” 

More: ‘It takes a month to put them up’: The story of the Hole in the Wall’s legendary Christmas decorations>

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Amy O'Connor

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