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12 Pages Of Christmas

The Abbey Tavern

The Abbey Tavern

While reminiscing on the Abbey Tavern I found the above video, Brought back memories.

The Abbey Tavern in Howth was a famous restaurant and singing establishment, which provided music and Irish ballad entertainment for the many tourists visiting Dublin in the sixties.

Like O’Donoghue’s, it was the place to be for every musician and ballad singer at the time. I remember Mick Crotty and myself making our way by bus from Eden Quay to Howth on beautiful summer evenings, or indeed cold winter nights, to the tavern where we sang from 1964 to 1966.

There were musicians and singers I still remember after all these years; fiddlers Joe O’Leary and Seamus Gallagher, Bill Power on banjo-mandolin, P.J. Downes from Miltown Malbay on spoons, Paddy Roche, Sean Loughran and Margaret O’Brien of the Ludlow’s, Jessie Owens and Anne Byrne who sang duets together, and of course, myself and Mick Crotty of The Ramblers.

The Ludlow’s went on to have a top ten hit with ‘The Sea Around Us’, the first ballad group to do so. Jessie, a great singer and song collector, eventually went to America, and once sang for Robert Kennedy. Anne married Paddy Roche and gave it all up for her babies. Their gain was our loss.

My true love he lives in the mountains

Like a war eagle, fearless and free

She would sing.

We would sit on high stools behind the musicians and take turns singing, all joining in on the chorus and a right rousing time was had by all. There was great camaraderie between us all but also a fierce rivalry that made for a great show. There was no star system and we shared the door takings equally between us.

Although Minnie Scott-Lennon and her son James were the named proprietors, the place was run by Minnie, who ruled with an iron fist in a velvet glove. And a tongue so sharp it could strip the paint of a door six feet away!

On some nights she would hold court in her bedroom, reclining on her bed in her night gown and shawl, with a glass of red wine in her hand while laying down the law and remonstrating with us over some real or imagined misdemeanor. She never missed a thing and would pounce on you when least expected over the miss-pronunciation of a word of the flattening of a note.

But at the same time, she was just as quick to praise you on a good performance of a song or tune. We had a love-hate relationship with her, but deep down inside I think we all loved her.

I have never forgotten those glorious carefree nights; the singing, the music, the bottles of Harp at the end of the night, and eating prawn cocktail leftovers from the kitchen before we all made our way home, hoarse, but tired and happy.

There was always some kind soul who would drive us back to the city afterwards. We would watch the sun rise from the sea, gazing bleary-eyed across Dublin Bay towards the mountains in the distance. We were just two teenagers with not a care in the world at the beginning of our time.

Isn’t it funny how your youth always seems better when seen from a distance.

What did we sing? See if you remember some of them.

The Leaving of Liverpool

The Merry Ploughboy

Whiskey In The Jar

Castle of Dromore

The Mermaid

The West Awake

The Jug of Punch

Farewell to Nova Scotia

The Sea Around Us

The Last Thing On My Mind

Mingulay Boat song

The Nightingale

Matt Hyland

These are but a few of the songs that made us happy.

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