Old drinking haunt of Harris calls last orders

‘LAST orders’ were called for the final time last night in the private club bar in Limerick where Richard Harris supped his first pint of Guinness.

Limerick Boat Club, which dates back to 1870, did not renew its drinks licence at the city district licensing court yesterday.

The club’s membership down the years included Richard Harris, Burl Ives, Brendan Bowyer and political figures including legendary ex-education minister Donogh O’Malley.

Terry Wogan’s father was also a club member when he managed the Leverett and Fry grocery shop in Limerick.

Solicitor Roisín O’Connell told Judge Tom O’Donnell yesterday that the club wished to withdraw an application for the renewal of it’s alcohol licence.

She said there were garda objections, among other matters at issue.

Judge O’Donnell, whose father TE O’Donnell was a member of the all-conquering eights’ crew of 1927, expressed his surprise that the club bar — a famous Limerick sporting landmark — was ceasing to trade.

The club was formerly famous as a late night retreat when pubs in the city centre closed.

Ex-city mayor Clem Casey said the public often played a game of cat-and-mouse, when gardaí were sent out on public house raids.

Mr Casey, aged 84, said: “One night the guards called at around 11.30pm but the place was empty as it was too early for the bar to open.”

He recalled that the late Sgt Mick Browne “raided” the bar on a Good Friday when the bar was packed with illegal drinkers.

Mr Casey said: “Nobody took any notice of Mick so I took a few names for him and gave them to him. He went off happy and the club was fined £10 in court. But all the names I gave to Mick Browne were not fined as he told Judge Gleeson they were behaving like true gentlemen.”

Richard Harris downed his first pint in the club when he attended a Christmas party there.

The international singer, Burl Ives, who lived in Kilcornan, Co Limerick in the 1960s. was a club member.

Mr Casey said: “Burl Ives sang his hit A Little Bit of Tear Let me Down many a time for us late into the night. I remember one night when Burl Ives and Brendan Bowyer were singing in the bar together. Burl Ives came in every night as he liked a late drink.”

Showband star Brendan Bowyer was a regular when the Royal Showband played in Limerick. He met with misfortune during a visit in 1968. Close friend and journalist Cormac Liddy recalled: “We were all inside drinking when we went to leave, the gate leading on to Sarsfield Bridge was pad-locked to prevent the guards coming in to raid. Brendan tried to get out by going over a railing and he tore the suit he wore on stage that night. He had to go up to Todd’s the following day and buy a new suit. It was the most expensive pint he ever had.”

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