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'We never knew it'd be such a big deal': How O'Connell's in Meath ended up in an iconic Christmas ad

‘Don’t forget to turn the lights off…’

Image: Facebook/O'Connell's Skryne

“WE GET A LOT of people around Christmas up to have a look and hoping for snow,” says Rachael O’Connell, who runs O’Connell’s pub in Skryne, Co Meath with the help of her partner Tom and daughters Molly and Grace.

O’Connell’s appears in Guinness’s now-annual Christmas ad blanketed in snow and looking nothing short of magical. 

“They just rang and asked my granny if they could come up,” recalls O’Connell. “We didn’t realise what a big deal it was going to be.”

It was only supposed to go for three years but it’s going for fifteen years now. I love seeing it actually. 

The pub has been in the O’Connell family since at least the 1850s with six generations of the family being involved with it.

O’Connell’s great-grandparents had moved to America when they were summoned back to Ireland to take over the running of the pub. They took with them their young son, Jim, who would go on to run the pub and inspire its unofficial moniker. 

It was called Yankee Connell’s because of my Grandad,” says Rachael. “He lived in America until maybe he was eleven or twelve so it was always known as Yankee’s then. And then when he passed away, Granny obviously ran it and she was the famous Mrs O. She ran it all her life from when she married to Grandad. She died in 2012.

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The pub has scarcely changed over the years, says O’Connell. It’s small with wooden ceilings, wonky floors, and old antiques. 

“There’s a clock on the wall and I remember when I was small there was a little poem under it and it said, ‘I have been there since 1829/Spelling out the time/I have looked at many faces/And many have looked at mine,’” she says.

You won’t find craft beers here. Instead, it’s pints of plain all the way. Does it serve food? Depends on who you ask. 

I remember one time somebody rang my Granny and they said, ‘Do you do food?’ and she said, ‘Yes, we do food.’ And I was looking at her thinking, ‘We don’t do food, Granny.’ They said, ‘Oh brilliant because we’re going to be hungry. What’s on the menu?’ And she said, ‘Well there’s cheese and onion Tayto, there’s salt and vinegar Tayto…’

“So we don’t really do food,” laughs O’Connell.  

The iconic J O'Connell's Pub from 'that' #Guinness Christmas ad #Meath #Ireland

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The pub is renowned for its excellent views situated as it is on the Hill of Skryne. It’s right across the road from an old monastery from which you can see the Hill of Tara, Dublin Airport and parts of Co. Louth. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the rollercoaster in Tayto Park.

“On a clear day,” laughs O’Connell.

Her very favourite thing about the pub, though, is how lively and welcoming it is – particularly to newcomers.

“I just like the way everyone talks to everybody there. You could just come for a quiet pint, but you could end up talking to fifteen people. Just the craic, getting all the local news.”

“People come in and it can be a little intimidating if you come into such a small pub, but it’s so welcoming and you can see them starting to relax after a while and chatting to all the people there. There’s a really lovely atmosphere in it.  Everybody is so welcoming and everybody loves to see people coming in.”

More: ‘We have the old bits and pieces exactly as they were’: Bringing a 107-year-old Cavan pub back to life>

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Amy O'Connor

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