As the cool nights draw in, the days grow shorter and darkness falls earlier, I begin to miss The Spaniard more and more. No it is not some dark & mysterious stranger hailing from Spain, but rather the most lovely pub I have ever had the fortune to frequent.
For two weeks beginning on Halloween 2009, my husband and I returned to our beloved County Cork, Ireland. We’d stayed in Kinsale two years earlier for just two quick nights and had felt an instant connection to the area and the people.
We took a cottage in Scilly, just a two-minute drive up the road on a hill beside the sea and crawling distance from the pub. It was supper time and we were famished after our day-long journey from Italy. We decided to wander across the street to The Spaniard to see what was on the menu.
Leaving the cold behind we stepped back in time as we entered the cozy 350+ year old, low-beamed little pub finding a table around the corner next to the glowing embers of a wood/coal fire. We sipped our pints of Murphy’s stout while we perused the little menu. My eyes zeroed into it almost immediately, “The Spaniard Fish Pie”.
While we waited, we observed two older gentlemen at the bar, one at the end the other two stools down from him. As they chatted intermittently with the barman and each other, it was evident that they knew and were known by, the pub well. In the coming weeks we would come to know these two a little, listening to their stories of one life spent at sea, the other on land working for the neighboring town of Kinsale. Good craic and a few laughs shared in “our corner” of the pub.
Our meals came and I knew before even tasting it that I’d made the right choice. My fish pie came in a little oval dish and when I delved beneath the mashed potato topping my fork found many seafood delights. Large chunks of salmon, plump mussels, juicy scallops, and sweet prawns all delighted my taste buds and comforted me on this cold night.
The next night we became regulars, The Spaniard now our “local” and we would henceforth be known as “The Canadians”. Sitting at the bar between the same two men all of us happily supped our chosen beverages before moving to the same table as we’d had the previous night. Following dinner, I went home, but my husband stayed not returning until a little after 1 a.m., more than a little inebriated. It seemed that after I’d left more locals came in, each one ordering him a pint.
I turned up to dine alone the next night, my husband still nearly comatose in the bed where he’d lain all day. “Where’s your young man tonight?” the man at the end of the bar inquired with a glint in his eye. I told them they’d done a number on him the night before, was sick in bed and that he usually doesn’t drink much beer but mostly wine as he’s Italian. The man’s face clouded, his brow furrowing, suddenly serious and very concerned as though they may all be guilty of attempted murder or something. “Oh no! Italian you say? Oh no. His blood won’t be used to the beer, not at all, only to wine. Oh no!” the man fretted. I told them not to worry, that he’d be fine in the morning, but I could tell our new friend wouldn’t be convinced until he set eyes on my husband the following evening.
Things went along merrily after that with my hubby on soft drinks for the next few days despite numerous offers of drinks by way of an apology. The following week he was invited to and went to a wake, the first to be held in the village in 20 some odd years. We enjoyed music nearly every night from our place by the fire and on our final night we went fancy and ate in the attached restaurant before retiring to the pub for a final pint.
We are grateful to have experienced some of what is written in resident poet Desmond O’Grady’s “The Spaniard Inn” from his collection “The Road Taken Poems: 1956-1996. You can read it on The Spaniard’s website http://www.thespaniard.ie . Though the years have passed, and we are thousands of kilometers away, in our heart The Spaniard is and shall always remain our local.