McNeill’s Pub, Athlone
This is another one of the those old, authentic bars that seem to be on the verge of dying out here in Ireland. This pub has been owned and run by the same family for at least the last 100 years. McNeill’s used to be the first pub that farmers and traders would come across on the way into town. Nowadays, it’s one of the quietest pubs in town. The larger bars across the street beckon the modern clientelle, despite McNeill’s excellent location at the corner of Connaught Street.
I can personally vouch for the quality of their pints. Just look at the beauty there to the left.
Inside, the cavernous parlour is given over to two large pool tables. Just past that, the high-ceilinged bar is tended expertly by the current McNeill descendant. The lounge area looks very much like someone’s living room, an open-beamed architecture with a humble fireplace at its centre that exudes comfort in an old-world kind of way. The few patrons at the bar nowadays play quiet games of pool in the parlour or carry on friendly coversations in low tones sitting at the bar or over by the fireplace.
I was let in on a little secret by one of the long-time residents of the area: the back room of the pub serves a storehouse for the local mortician. The stacks of coffins once provided for gloriously morbid games of hide and seek when he was a child.
It’s a real shame to see such a pub with such character sinking into obscurity. Looking around at the friendly, but mostly older, faces of McNeill’s patrons I felt a bit of nostalgia for past times I’d never experienced myself.